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 a number of “tender points” on the body and an increased sensitivity to various things that are not normally 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 tends to occur in women much more than men. The difficult thing about fibromyalgia is that there is no known cause, it isn’t an inflammatory disease, it isn’t a degenerative disease and it isn’t an auto-immune disease. This makes it difficult to diagnose and treat.
The onset of fibromyalgia has been linked to:
The symptoms of Fibromyalgia vary for each individual but the most common symptoms are:
What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can be associated with many conditions or diseases, making it difficult to diagnose. Diagnosis is usually made by your doctor or rheumatologist after ruling out other diagnoses. As well as palpating a number of 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 the features of fibromyalgia include an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), vitamin D deficiency, rheumatoid arthritis and even sleep apnoea.
The management of fibromyalgia is complex but can be broken down into a number of 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
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.
In some cases, your GP may prescribe medications such as an antidepressant to help normalise chemical imbalances and also improve pain.
Relief of muscle and joint stiffness, tenderness and pain
Managing activity levels and fatigue
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.
Understanding sleep and its influence on health is vital in helping people who suffer from Fibromyalgia. Poor sleep health can affect:
Surgery is not used to treat fibromyalgia. However, if a doctor or specialist felt there was a problem that needed surgery, and this was influencing 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 the symptoms of fibromyalgia can ease and reduce the levels of pain experienced,
If you have any concerns or have some specific questions regarding your condition, please ask your physiotherapist.
More Advice about Fibromyalgia
If you have any concerns or have some specific questions regarding your condition, please ask your physiotherapist or health practitioner.
FAQs about Fibromyalgia
Helpful Products for Fibromyalgia
Whilst exercise is very important to help manage your symptoms, sometimes your body can feel quite fatigued. At times like this you may benefit from short term use of a supportive brace, such as a low back or upper back support.
It is important that your brace is used as a training tool. Too much use can lead to over-reliance on the brace and de-conditioning or your muscles. Please consult your physiotherapist about how best to utilise a brace for fibromyalgia.
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