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Fibromyalgia Treatment

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

Fibromyalgia is hard to diagnose because many of the symptoms are like those of other disorders. There is no lab test for FM. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) has developed criteria for FM. According to ACR criteria, a person is considered to have FM if he or she has:

  • widespread pain for at least 3 months, and
  • tenderness in at least 1 of 18 specific tender point sites in the neck, spine, shoulders, hips, and knees.

There is some controversy about the criteria for diagnosing FM. Some experts believe that it is not necessary to have at least 11 tender points for diagnosis, or pain that affects all segments of the body at the same time.

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How is fibromyalgia treated?

If you have FM, you may need to work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that helps you. FM patients may benefit from a combination of exercise, medicine, physical therapy, and relaxation. There are medicines that may help elevate mood, improve quality of sleep, reduce pain, and relax muscles.

Drug therapies used in fibromyalgia include:

  • Drugs for pain. These include aspirin, ibuprofen, and other pain relievers.
  • Antidepressants. These drugs can help relieve depression and may also help with sleep. Low doses of certain tricyclic antidepressants and the newer serotonin boosters (SSRIs) are often used.
  • Drugs for anxiety (anxiolytics). These medicines can help with anxiety and with sleep.
  • Muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine.

Exercise, including low-impact aerobic exercise (such as walking and swimming) and strength training have been found to be helpful in FM patients. But it is important to pace yourself and not overdo it. Exercise may help you increase your flexibility and strength, help with pain and sleep, and make you feel better in general. Heat and massage may also give short-term relief from pain and stiffness.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (focuses on helping you develop ways to manage your illness) is another form of treatment that can be helpful. Stress reduction and a healthy lifestyle are also important.
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This information is not designed to replace a physician's independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient.
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