Fibromyalgia Specialist

St Michael's Neurology and Pain Medicine

Miguel Pappolla, MD, PhD

Neurology & Pain Medicine located in the Texas Medical Center, Houston, TX

Widespread pain throughout all or most of your musculoskeletal system is the key feature of fibromyalgia. If you have fibromyalgia symptoms but are struggling to get the diagnosis and treatment you need, board-certified neurologist Miguel Pappolla, MD, at St Michael's Neurology and Pain Medicine in Houston, Texas, can help. Dr. Pappolla and his team understand the many challenges people with fibromyalgia face and offer practical ways to help you cope. You can benefit from their expertise by calling the office or booking an appointment online today.

Fibromyalgia Q & A

What is fibromyalgia syndrome?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic, debilitating disorder in which you experience severe musculoskeletal pain. The cause of fibromyalgia is unclear, but it doesn't involve the obvious tissue damage that you would see in a condition like arthritis.

If you have fibromyalgia, you may find it worsens in response to certain triggers, including:

  • Overexertion
  • Cold weather
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Fibromyalgia often changes people's lives. You may feel unable to cope and have poor self-esteem due to your inability to function effectively in everyday life. Many physicians struggle with diagnosing and treating fibromyalgia as the condition offers little clinical evidence.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Pain over most or all of your body
  • Joint tenderness
  • Morning stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration
  • Memory problems

The cognitive difficulties that typically affect fibromyalgia patients are known collectively as "fibro fog."

People with fibromyalgia frequently suffer from other conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), chronic headaches, temporomandibular disorders, arthritis, depression and anxiety, and chemical sensitivity syndromes.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

Diagnosing fibromyalgia isn't a straightforward process, as there are no lab tests that can confirm you have the condition.

Dr. Pappolla first needs to rule out any other possible causes for your symptoms and perform a detailed neurological assessment. You might also need to have blood tests, diagnostic imaging scans, an electromyogram (EMG), and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) tests.

While not true of every person who has fibromyalgia, most have 18 tender points across the body, from the shoulders and spine down to the hips and knees. Mild pressure on these tender points causes intense pain that may continue for some time.

Checking these tender points can help confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, but not having them doesn't exclude a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

Are there any treatments for fibromyalgia?

Treating fibromyalgia is challenging, as it can be difficult to tolerate physical therapy and you may be sensitive to some medications. Dr. Pappolla creates a personalized treatment program for you that addresses the pain and other symptoms you're experiencing. 

Sometimes anti-seizure medications and low-dose tricyclic antidepressants can help. Pain management techniques and counseling can also be useful, and it's important to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Avoid smoking and drinking
  • Stick to a regular bedtime
  • Lose excess weight
  • Exercise gently but regularly

Fibromyalgia doesn't progress in the way a disease like multiple sclerosis would, but neither is there a cure as yet. If you're finding it hard each day to cope with your fibromyalgia symptoms, call St Michael's Neurology and Pain Medicine or book an appointment online today.