What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that is characterized by widespread pain in the muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, and nerves of your body.
Researchers believe that your brain plays an important role in this experience of widespread pain.  When you have fibromyalgia, you may have an abnormal increase in certain chemicals in your brain called neurotransmitters. The presence of more of these chemicals in your brain can change how your brain functions, and make it more sensitive to pain signals from other parts of your body.
Who is affected?
Anyone can be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. But women are twice as likely to have the condition as men.  The condition generally starts in middle age or older.  Among those who have fibromyalgia, black women and people with lower socio-economic status tend to experience more widespread pain.  
Doctors aren’t sure about what causes fibromyalgia, but it tends to run in families, so it may be passed down genetically. Other factors which are thought to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia are infections, physical trauma (such as deep cuts or broken bones), and emotional trauma (involving psychological stress). 
What happens in your body?
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Dull, widespread pain (occurs on both sides of your body, and above and below your waist) that has lasted for at least three months 
- Tender points (small, sensitive spots around the body, which are painful when pressure is applied)
- Stiffness that is usually worse in the morning
- Fatigue, disrupted sleep, and waking up tired
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating on mental tasks
How do I know if I have fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other conditions, such as hypothyroidism, so it can take some time to diagnose it. But it is important to get an accurate diagnosis as quickly as possible to make sure that the condition does not worsen. The best way to do this is by visiting your doctor and, if possible, getting a referral to visit a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in treating fibromyalgia.
Some ways that your doctor can assess whether you have the condition is through reviewing your medical history and possibly conducting blood tests.
How is it treated?
There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, but integrative interventions have shown to reduce pain and discomfort and improve quality of life by slowing the condition’s progression and easing the severity of symptoms. 
Integrative interventions offer a holistic approach to treatment. Instead of just conventional medicine, integrative treatments combine conventional medicine with nutritional tools, mind-body medicine, and manual medicine for a holistic approach to treating fibromyalgia.
For those new to integrative medicine, learn more here
Many people with fibromyalgia find that certain medications work for them and others do not. So, in order to find an effective conventional treatment, people with fibromyalgia often work with their doctors to determine which medication works best with their body and needs.
With the right medication, it is possible to manage symptoms like pain and inflammation and prevent the rapid worsening of the condition. Before starting to take any medication, be sure to ask your doctor about possible side effects. And if you notice any of the side effects once you start your treatment, let your doctor know as soon as possible. 
Examples of conventional treatments:
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (common name: ibuprofen), or NSAIDs, are the most commonly used treatments for inflammation and pain.
Analgesics (common name: aspirin) are intended to relieve pain, and are often recommended for patients who have previously experienced negative side effects when taking NSAIDs.
Research shows that gentle, low-intensity mind-body treatments can help Fibromyalgia patients with mobility, mood, decreased pain, and more. There are a wide variety of mind-body treatments for fibromyalgia, ranging from deep breathing to aqua-therapy.
When living with chronic pain, engaging in regular movement and exercise may feel difficult and unnecessary. But doing so can actually improve your symptoms.
Before starting a physical exercise regimen, consult with your doctor about what might be the best activities for you and your body.
Examples of mind-body medicine:
Yoga comes in many different styles, often engaging both the body and the mind through controlled breathing and stretching. A study conducted at the Oregon Health & Science University found that patients with fibromyalgia that practiced yoga therapy had improved symptoms and functioning, including pain, fatigue, and mood, and in pain catastrophizing, acceptance, and other coping strategies.
Aqua-therapy and warm water exercise can help you stay active without aggravating your joints, and is particularly useful for individuals who have difficulty with other forms of physical exercise. Research shows aquatic exercises can relieve pain and improve physical functioning in fibromyalgia patients.
Relaxation therapies like deep breathing techniques, meditation, and biofeedback can help fibromyalgia patients ease anxiety and better manage their pain. Researchers have shown that meditation can significantly reduce the symptomatology of fibromyalgia.
Manual treatments are administered by certified clinicians, using physical pressure and stimulation on the body to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms. Treatments can vary in intensity and incorporate other elements such as heat and aromatherapy to enhance relief.
Examples of manual medicine:
Licensed massage therapists use different techniques, like shiatsu, hot stone, and Swedish massage, to provide temporary pain relief. Studies suggest that massage therapy may have beneficial immediate effects on improving pain, anxiety, and depression in patients with fibromyalgia.
Physical therapy can help with physical strengthening, mobility, and overall functionality. Licensed therapists provide one-on-one treatment and teach patients self-management techniques so that they can improve their condition on their own too.
Osteopathic manipulative treatment, or OMT, is a form of manual therapy used by osteopathic physicians (DOs) which has been shown to relieve muscle pain and increase range of motion in the joints. Osteopathic physicians perform this treatment by moving muscles and joints through techniques like stretching, gentle pressure and resistance.
Nutrition plays a crucial role in your overall health, and is a tool you can use to combat joint damage, reduce inflammation, and manage other fibromyalgia symptoms.
Just like with conventional, mind-body, and manual medicines, there is not one ideal treatment for every fibromyalgia patient. When selecting nutritional tools to treat your condition, it is best to consult with your doctor or work with a dietitian, naturopath, or nutritionist to find out the best diet for you.
Examples of nutritional tools:
While some foods can help reduce symptoms, other foods may trigger them. An elimination diet, which is an eating plan that eliminates certain foods or food groups believed to be causing negative bodily reactions, can help you figure out which foods are triggering those symptoms and bring you closer to your ideal diet. Some research has shown that an elimination diet that consisted of nutrient rich foods was able to curb the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Research suggests that eating fish reduces overall inflammation in adults.
Recommendation: Eat three to four ounces of fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, or other cold-water fish) twice a week.
Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables have antioxidants, which support your immune system and may fight inflammation.
Recommendation: Eat one and a half to two cups of fruit (like blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and strawberries) and two to three cups of vegetables (like spinach, kale, and broccoli) per meal.
Nuts are rich in healthy fat, protein, and fiber, and help fight inflammation.
Recommendation: Eat one and a half ounces–about a handful–of nuts (like walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds) per day.
Beans (like red, pinto, navy, and black beans) are rich in fiber and protein, and are full of both antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Recommendation: Eat at least one cup of beans per week.
This heart-healthy ingredient contains healthy fat, antioxidants, and oleocanthal, an anti-inflammatory compound.
Recommendation: Consume two to three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day by using it in your cooking or salad dressings.
These simple, flavor-rich vegetables are packed with antioxidants and may help reduce inflammation, improve heart health, and help control cholesterol levels.
Fiber is found in foods like beans, whole grain breads, and fresh vegetables. It makes you feel fuller for longer and boosts digestive health. It also may help reduce inflammation.
Recommendation: Incorporate a good mix of insoluble fiber (from vegetables, wheat, and seeds) and soluble fiber (from fruits and oats) in your diet or try fiber supplements.
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The information on this page is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice from your physician or health provider for your specific needs.