“I thought my doctor was joking when she told me I should start exercising,” your new client, a young woman with fibromyalgia, explains. “I mean, my muscles and joints hurt so much; soremuscles from exercise are all I need! But she told me thatthe problem is not really in my muscles, and that exercising will help them hurt less, and may even help me sleep better.” She continues,”So she gave me your card. She said you had worked with people with fibromyalgia, and could help me get started. What do you recommend? I’ll try anything to make me feel better!”
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in muscles and joints, with tender points especially in the neck, back, shoulders and hips. A physician makes a diagnosis of fibromyalgia when a person has had pain in at least 11 of the 18 characteristic tender points for three months or longer. People with fibromyalgia often experience extreme fatigue and sleep problems, which further increase feelings of pain and reduce quality of life and functional capacity. Other symptoms that commonly accompany fibromyalgia include headache, irritable bowel disorders and depression. The majority of people whosuffer from fibromyalgia are women of childbearing age, but men, children and older people also develop this disorder. About three to six million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia was originally called “fibrositis,” which means inflamed muscles. Because muscle soreness is the primary symptom, medical professionals presumed that muscle inflammation was probably the source of pain. When researchers eventually discovered that no inflammation was present, many healthcare providers began to wonder whether the symptoms of fibromyalgia might be psychological. For years, people suffering from fibromyalgia often tried a succession of doctors before finding one who would take their complaints seriously. Diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia were not recognized until 1990, and many physicians today are still fairly unfamiliar with this disorder.
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