The word fibromyalgia is derived from three words: fibro, which is Latin for fibrous tissue; myo, which is Greek for muscle; and algia, also Greek and meaning pain.

It is a chronic syndrome which covers symptoms including muscle pain, fatigue, and multiple tender points, and it affects 3 to 6 million people in the United States, over 90% of whom are women. It is not known exactly why there is such a preponderance of female sufferers.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia is not easy, and may take many years to properly identify. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) defines fibromyalgia as a history of pain lasting more than 3 months in all four quadrants of the body; that is, on both your right and left sides, and above and below the waist.

The ACR further details 18 tender points around the body that are characteristic of fibromyalgia, and diagnosis requires a person to have 11 or more. As well as pain and fatigue, fibromyalgia may also produce:

• Disturbed sleep
• Morning stiffness
• Headaches
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Painful menstrual periods
• Numbness/tingling in the extremities
• Restless legs syndrome
• Sensitivity to temperature
• Cognitive and memory problems (“fibro fog”)

To make diagnosis even more difficult, fibromyalgia can easily be mistaken for “myofascial pain syndrome” or “myofascitis”, as both can cause pain all over the body. However, the two conditions are very different.

Myofascitis is the result of inflammation caused by overuse or injury to the muscles, is usually related to a specific activity or injury, and manifests quite suddenly.

Fibromyalgia is the result of stress-induced changes to the metabolism and healing process, and appears in a slow, creeping fashion, most often starting in early adulthood. Correctly differentiating between the two is crucial as the relative treatments are nothing like the same.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that may never go away your entire life, although on the plus side, it does not cause any damage to your joints, muscles, or internal organs.

The most up-to-date research suggests that fibromyalgia is a stress-induced condition related to Systemic Lupus Erythematosis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

All of these conditions target women far more than men, and are marked by similar symptoms such as chronic fatigue, disturbed sleep, and IBS. The main difference is with lupus, which is an autoimmune reaction that attacks the healthy tissues of the body.

With fibromyalgia, metabolic abnormalities are the primary issue, causing decreased blood flow to the pituitary gland in the brain.

This then lowers certain important hormones, such as those responsible for releasing growth hormone and stimulating the thyroid. Muscle healing is adversely affected, memory and cognition are damaged, and full-blown hypothyroidism may even result.