In the Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, music icon and actress Lady Gaga admits that it has been difficult dealing with the widespread muscular pain of fibromyalgia for the past few years.
But what exactly is fibromyalgia? It is a condition in which people feel chronic pain in their muscles and tendons, often along with other symptoms like sleep problems, headaches or mood disorders.
This affects other systems like the brain, impacting a person’s ability to concentrate and remember things. “It is a disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals,” says Dr Praveen Mereddy, senior orthopedic & joint replacement surgeon, Yashoda Hospitals.
“There are 18 tender points we use to help with a diagnosis of this condition. We will apply pressure on these points to see if it causes pain for the patients. People with this issue can feel like their muscles are sore a lot. Think about a time when one overdid it with exercise routine and felt stiff and painful muscles the next day. That’s what some sufferers say it feels like,” explains Dr Karthik.
Fibromyalgia affects people physically, mentally and socially. “Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression,” says Dr Praveen.
“The lack of sleep is one reason for the overwhelming sense of flu-like fatigue many have with this condition. It can be hard to fall asleep or stay asleep,” adds Dr Karthik.
While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help control symptoms — exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures may also help.