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Fibromyalgia Facts and Statistics

In the past, fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), a disease characterized by chronic pain and fatigue ranging from mild to severe, has been poorly understood and commonly misdiagnosed. Fibromyalgia sufferers, who make up as much as 4% of the entire population, were left to doubt themselves as doctors struggled to pin down the disease, with symptoms that could change by the hour.

According to the National Foundation for Fibromyalgia, as many as 12 million Americans suffer from FM but remain undiagnosed because of its elusive nature. Fibromyalgia is most common in women between the ages of 20 and 50, although it also affects men, the elderly, and children. Children with FM are often mistakenly diagnosed with growing pains or behavioral problems, and FM is commonly mistaken for chronic fatigue syndrome since the symptoms of the two diseases are so similar.

major symptoms of fibromyalgia are: generalized musculoskeletal pain in at least 3 specfic sites persisting for at least 3 months and reproducible tenderness in at least 6 specific points throughout the bodyAlthough fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnosis because its symptoms are common to various other disorders, its primary symptoms are generalized musculoskeletal pain in at least three specific sites persisting for at least three months and reproducible tenderness in at least six specific points throughout the body. Constant interruption of the deep delta sleep needed for the rest and restoration of the body is also a common ailment for FM sufferers as well as stiff and painful muscles when a person with FM is forced to remain immobile for any amount of time.

Researchers have also found that FM patients have three times the normal amount of substance P (a chemical that tells the body how much pain it feels) in their spinal fluid, as well as lower than normal levels of serotonin (a pain moderating chemical), melatonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and other chemicals that help control pain, mood, sleep and the immune system.

Fibromyalgia causes no detectable damage to the tissues or to the organs of the body, but most people with FM have additional health problems. Fibromyalgia can be triggered by a traumatic event, such as an accident or an operation, changes in the weather, over-exertion, cold, dampness, drafty environments, stress, anxiety, depression, and hormonal fluctuations.

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Fibromyaligia Related Diseases

People suffering from FM have difficulty getting the sleep that they need.Fibromyalgia shares many of the traits common to chronic fatigue syndrome, but FM is primarily characterized by musculoskeletal pain while chronic fatigue symptom is characterized by fatigue. The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine states that a diagnosis of fibromyalgia requires that the patient be suffering from all of the major criteria and at least four of the minor criteria listed below. [Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Michael Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., "Fibromyalgia." 1998, pgs. 459-463.]


  • Generalized aches or stiffness of at least three anatomical sites for at least three months.

  • Six or more typical, reproducible tender points.

  • Exclusion of other disorders that can cause similar symptoms.


  • Generalized fatigue.

  • Chronic headache.

  • Sleep disturbance.

  • Neurological and psychological complaints.

  • Joint swelling.

  • Numbing or tingling sensations.

  • Irritable bowel syndrome.

  • Variation of symptoms in relation to activity, stress, and weather changes.

Other symptoms and related disorders include allergies, anxiety disorder and panic attacks, concentration and memory problems, depression, dry eyes and mouth, irritable bladder, mitral valve prolapse, restless legs syndrome and nocturnal myoclonus, raynaud's phenomenon, scoliosis, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, fibrocystic breast disease and endometriosis, strange sensations in the skin, premenstrual syndrome, painful periods, palpitations, skin sensitivities, a need for frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions, dizziness, and impaired coordination. [Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A Balch, C.N.C "Fibromyalgia Syndrome." pg. 274]

With this list of associated symptoms and disorders it is easy to see why fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose. What is most important is to determine how to mitigate the symptoms naturally and help the body to heal.

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Fibromyalgia Nutritional Support Strategies

Since there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia; treatment is aimed at alleviating its symptoms. There are many natural and helpful nutrients and herbs that can improve sleep (Melatonin), reduce pain, bolster memory and mood (St. John's Wort), improve immune function and fight off infections.

Moderate daily exercise is essential for FM sufferers as long as they are careful not to overexert themselves.Individualized exercise and nutrition programs can also improve many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. A moderate daily exercise program is essential for improving muscle fitness, reducing muscle pain and tenderness, increasing circulation, promoting better sleep and for stimulating the body to produce endorphins, its natural painkiller. Proper diet is also important in relieving FM symptoms. Avoid high fat foods and eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts instead. Kick the habit by eliminating caffeine, tobacco and alcohol from your diet. Choose white meats over red.

Other pain managment techniques include massage and stress management. According to a study done by the Touch Research Institute of Miami, fibromyalgia patients who received 30-minute massages twice a week for five weeks reported reduced pain and stiffness, less fatigue, decreased depression and less difficulty sleeping. Massage can be used to give short term relief from pain. Since stress can trigger FM flare-ups it is important for fibromyalgia sufferers to learn how to relax. Stress management, including counseling, biofeedback and relaxation techniques, is often benefical.

Our Fibromyalgia Self-management Program will give you additional nutrient and lifestyle information.

For information on how magnesium and malic acid can help combat fibromyalgia Click Here.

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Related Links

About.Com: Many links to varying information on fibromyalgia.

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