Article by Shane Armfield

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain in the muscles of the body and fatigue. People with fibromyalgia have many “tender points” on the body and increased sensitivity to various things that are not ordinarily painful or unpleasant. They can also experience high levels of fatigue that are disproportionate to their activity levels and sleep.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect about 5% of the population and occurs in women much more than men. The problematic thing about fibromyalgia is that there is no known cause. It isn’t an inflammatory disease. It isn’t a degenerative disease and isn’t an auto-immune disease. This makes it difficult to diagnose and treat.

The onset of fibromyalgia has been linked to:

  • a traumatic event that caused a physical injury
  • stressful/ traumatic life event such as a car accident or bereavement
  • disease/ illness – sudden onset illness or chronic illness (i.e. IBS, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • sleep disturbance.

The symptoms of Fibromyalgia vary for each individual, but the most common symptoms are:

  • Widespread muscle pain, stiffness and tenderness in the muscles and joints (see picture above)
  • Fatigue – often disproportionate to the person’s level of activity or amount of sleep
  • Restless sleep or awakening after a long sleep and feeling tired for the rest of the day
  • Anxiety, depression, disturbances in bowel function
  • Poor memory or a feeling of brain “fogginess.”

What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

  • Pain, stiffness, tiredness and tenderness of the muscles, tendons, and joints.
  • Restless sleep, awakening feeling tired, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression, and disturbances in bowel function.

How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?

The symptoms of fibromyalgia can be associated with many conditions or diseases, making it difficult to diagnose. Your doctor or rheumatologist usually makes the diagnosis after ruling out other diagnoses. As well as palpating several sensitive points around your body, your doctor may perform blood tests, scans and x-rays to rule out other causes of pain.

Conditions that can mimic fibromyalgia features include an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), vitamin D deficiency, rheumatoid arthritis, and even sleep apnoea.

Fibromyalgia Treatment

The management of fibromyalgia is complex but can be broken down into several parts. Treatment tries to help you slowly break the fibromyalgia cycle by addressing each of the points shown in the diagram above.

Understanding your pain and symptoms through education

  • Having a good understanding of your symptoms and how your life has been affected by fibromyalgia. Also, having a good assessment of your painful areas can help reduce anxiety or concerns about an injury.
  • Understanding the complex nature and cycles of pain can also help you address fibromyalgia’s impact on your life.
  • Physiotherapy can help with both these aspects of understanding Fibromyalgia.

Exercise in moderation

Exercise is an excellent way to help deal with stress and depression. Regular exercise also helps to improve eating and sleeping habits, which will lead to better general health, better mental health and less sleep deprivation.

  • activities such as hydrotherapy, tai chi, pilates, yoga, walking, swimming or cycling can benefit people with fibromyalgia
  • stretching and mobility exercises can help reduce pain and tightness
  • specific exercises to help build strength and endurance in the ‘posture’ muscles of the body and take the load off achy muscles


In some cases, your GP may prescribe medications such as an antidepressant to help normalise chemical imbalances and improve pain.

Relief of muscle and joint stiffness, tenderness and pain

  • Massage – can assist pain relief and help muscle relaxation
  • Acupuncture – can be helpful for the comfort of your pain
  • Joint mobilisation – can improve muscle tightness, tenderness and joint stiffness

Managing activity levels and fatigue

  • Fibromyalgia symptoms can fluctuate, meaning that you can have good and bad days. Sometimes overdoing it one day can lead to increased symptoms the next day, so being able to manage your effort is essential.
  • Pacing activities and doing activity/ fatigue diaries can help manage the fluctuations in activity and assist a person in achieving their goals.

Improve ability to cope with daily stress and depression

Daily stresses from work or home can increase your fibromyalgia symptoms. You and your physiotherapist can work with your GP to help you develop strategies to manage these stresses.

Referral to a psychologist can also help in developing strategies to cope with stressful situations.

Sleep health

Understanding sleep and its influence on health are vital in helping people who have Fibromyalgia. Poor sleep health can affect:

  • Mood – Sleep benefits our mood, memory and concentration
  • Brain function – Sleep helps to organise memories and improve concentration.
  • Emotion – Lack of sleep can make you irritable, affecting your emotions, social interaction, and decision making.
  • Immune system – Without adequate sleep, the immune system becomes weak, and the body becomes more vulnerable to infection and disease.
  • Nervous system – Sleep is a time of rest and repair to neurons. During Sleep, neurons rest, replenish and grow.
  • Hormones – substances produced to trigger or regulate particular body functions are timed to release during sleep or right before sleep.


Surgery is not used to treat fibromyalgia. However, if a doctor or specialist felt a problem needed surgery, which influenced your fibromyalgia, then surgery for that specific problem may be an option.

What Results Can You Expect?

Over time, with good advice and commitment to a patient-centred management programme, fibromyalgia symptoms can ease and reduce the levels of pain experienced.

Please seek the opinion of your physiotherapist or doctor for your specific needs.

John Miller Physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

Understanding Arthritis-Related Conditions

An Overview

Arthritis is a prevalent and diverse group of conditions affecting millions worldwide. It encompasses many disorders characterised by inflammation and joint pain, often leading to stiffness, swelling, and reduced mobility. Arthritis can significantly impact a person's quality of life, affecting their ability to perform daily tasks and engage in physical activities.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of arthritis-related conditions, focusing on both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. By understanding these conditions' causes, symptoms, and treatment options, individuals can make informed decisions about managing their joint health and seek appropriate medical guidance.

Arthritis Overview

In this article, we will explore the fundamental aspects of arthritis, including its definition, common symptoms, and risk factors. By establishing a clear understanding of what arthritis entails, readers can grasp the broader context before diving into specific subtypes.

Rheumatoid Conditions

This article delves into rheumatoid conditions, encompassing autoimmune disorders primarily affecting the joints. We will provide an overview of each condition, highlighting key characteristics, diagnostic approaches, and available treatment modalities. The rheumatoid conditions covered in this article include:

Osteoarthritis Conditions

Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is the focus of this section. We will delve into its definition, underlying causes, risk factors, and prevalence. Additionally, we will explore specific osteoarthritis conditions.

Spinal Arthritic Conditions

Peripheral Joint Arthritis

By dividing the information into these sections, we aim to provide readers with a well-structured and informative resource. Each section will delve into the specificities of the respective conditions, including their impact on different parts of the body, available treatment options, and strategies for managing symptoms. Whether you seek general knowledge or are personally affected by arthritis-related conditions, this article is a valuable guide to navigating this complex field.

Please note that while this article provides a comprehensive overview, it is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Individuals experiencing symptoms or seeking specific treatment recommendations should consult with qualified healthcare professionals for personalised care.

John Miller Physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

Understanding Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, commonly referred to as degenerative arthritis, stands as one of the most prevalent forms of arthritis.

Joints, over time, exhibit signs of wear and tear: the joint cartilage thins out, extra bony spurs develop in response to stress, and joint mobility diminishes. In advanced stages, osteoarthritis can become not only painful but also limiting in function and mood.

Exploring Osteoarthritis Management

Regrettably, a cure for osteoarthritis remains elusive. Nevertheless, there are more effective methods to manage the condition and slow down the degenerative process. By embracing these improvements, you can make your life smoother and more comfortable. A crucial component of this approach is physiotherapy, which plays a pivotal role in reducing osteoarthritis-related discomfort, enhancing comfort, and maintaining your activity levels.

Validating with Research

Numerous studies underscore the benefits of physiotherapy in alleviating pain and mitigating the disability linked to arthritis, especially in cases of knee osteoarthritis. (Source:

Empowering through Expert Guidance

To rediscover the joy of life, seek the insightful counsel of your physiotherapist today!

Navigating Osteoarthritis Diagnosis

The most straightforward test to confirm osteoarthritis remains an X-ray. A skilled practitioner can often make a reliable assessment of your condition upon examination.

Impact on Ageing Individuals

As we age, most of us inevitably encounter some degree of osteoarthritis. The wear and tear on our joints can result from various factors, including aging, injury, prolonged microtrauma, joint overuse, or excessive weight. This can lead to lasting changes in the bones, even in the absence of painful symptoms.

The extent of suffering varies, ranging from mild or occasional pain triggered by increased use or minor injury, to those who remain symptom-free and others who experience constant debilitating pain.

Weight-bearing joints like the hips, knees, ankles, feet, and spine are commonly affected. However, osteoarthritis can target any joint in the body, with hands and shoulders also being frequently affected. While severe cases might necessitate surgery, the majority respond positively to the combination of physician-prescribed physiotherapy and medication.

Recognising Osteoarthritis Signs

Osteoarthritis might be suspected if you encounter any of the following:

  • Intermittent joint pain or tenderness
  • Morning stiffness, particularly pronounced
  • Swelling or distortion of the joint
  • Detectable warmth and redness in the joint
  • Challenging joint movement

Holistic Osteoarthritis Care

For guidance on your osteoarthritis diagnosis, self-help strategies, or the most suitable treatment, reach out promptly to your physiotherapist or a trusted healthcare professional.

More Arthritis Info

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