Fibromyalgia is a long-term (chronic) condition that causes pain all over the body. In addition to widespread pain, people can experience several additional symptoms that are listed below.
There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are treatments to help relieve some of the symptoms and make the condition easier to live with.
Fibromyalgia affects around seven times as many women as men and the condition can occur at any age, but typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50.
Some estimates suggest that as many as one in 20 people may be affected by fibromyalgia, but it is unclear how many are affected as it can be a difficult condition to diagnose.
Symptoms and signs of fibromyalgia can vary from person to person, but can include:
- Widespread pain all over the body
- Continuous pain (although this may be severe and less severe at different times)
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Hyperalgesia (extreme sensitivity to pain)
- Allodynia (feeling pain from something that should cause no pain, such as lightly touching something)
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Stiff muscles (even muscle spasms – where the muscles contract tightly and painfully)
- Problems sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating, problems with memory, and other mental processes (known as ‘fibro-fog’)
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a digestive condition that causes bloating, irritation, and stomach pain
- Pain that comes and goes in relation to stress levels, changes in the weather, or how physically active you are
- Pain that feels like: an ache, a burning sensation, or a sharp, stabbing sensation
- Sensitivity to: smoke, bright lights, certain foods
- Feeling especially bad and experiencing more pain after you have been exposed to something you are sensitive to
- Dizziness and clumsiness
- Feeling either too cold or too hot (due to not being able to regulate your body temperature)
- An overwhelming urge to move your legs (restless legs syndrome)
- Tingling, numbness, burning, or prickling sensations in your hands and feet (pins and needles)
- Unusually painful periods in women
- People with fibromyalgia can also sometimes experience anxiety and depression
When to see an expert at Ahmeys
If you are experiencing the symptoms above and think that you may have fibromyalgia, call Ahmeys to book an appointment and or speak to one of our experts.
The exact cause of this condition is unknown, but it is thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (spinal cord, brain, and nerves) processes pain.
It has also been suggested that you are more likely to have fibromyalgia if you have a family history of the condition, especially if you have inherited certain genes from your parents.
In a large percentage of cases, fibromyalgia appears to be triggered by a stressful emotional or physical event, such as:
- An injury or infection
- An operation
- The breakdown of a relationship
- The death of a loved one
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary and be very similar to those of several other conditions.
To determine a diagnosis, one of our experts at Ahmeys may ask you about your symptoms and how they affect your daily life. One of our experts may also conduct a physical examination to check for visible signs of other conditions.
If one of our experts thinks that you may have this condition, further tests may have to be done in order to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as ME (chronic fatigue syndrome), rheumatoid arthritis, and MS (multiple sclerosis).
Tests to check for some of these conditions can include blood and urine tests, in addition to X-rays and other possible scans. It is quite possible that you could have fibromyalgia, even if another health problem has also been diagnosed.
The main diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia are:
- Severe pain in three to six different areas of the body or milder pain in seven or more different areas
- Symptoms that have stayed at a similar level for a minimum of three months
- A lack of other causes or diagnosable conditions causing the symptoms
- Occasionally, the extent of the pain can be assessed by applying gentle pressure to certain ‘tender points’, but this is less common nowadays
There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but an Ahmeys expert can help play an important role in your treatment and care.
They can decide what the best treatment for you might be, depending on what you prefer and the treatments that are available.
You may be referred to a rheumatologist (a specialist in conditions that affect muscles and joints), a neurologist (a specialist in conditions that affect the central nervous system), or a psychologist (a specialist in mental health).
As fibromyalgia has numerous differing symptoms, no single treatment will work for them all. Treatments are usually a combination of medication and lifestyle changes.
- Over the counter (OTC) pain relievers: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, to help control pain and reduce inflammation
- Menthol or capsaicin creams: to apply topically to the affected area and block the pain signals from your joints
- Immunosuppressants: like prednisone or cortisone to help reduce inflammation
- Opioids: can be used to relieve severe pain
- Muscle relaxants: low doses of certain types of antidepressants, particularly tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline
- Anticonvulsants: such as pregabalin and gabapentin, are used to prevent muscle spasms and have proven to be effective for those with fibromyalgia in some cases
- Antipsychotics or neuroleptics: used to help relieve long-term pain
Support and alternative therapies
- Hydrotherapy or balneotherapy: swimming, sitting, or exercising in a heated pool or warm water
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy to help change the way you think about things and to help you deal with pain and problems more positively
- Acupuncture: is a treatment derived from ancient Chinese medicine in which fine needles are inserted into certain sites in the body for preventative and therapeutic purposes
- Chiropractic: is a treatment where a practitioner (Chiropractor) uses their hands to help relieve problems with the muscles, bones, and joints
- Massage: physical manipulation, stretching, and massaging the muscles and joints to prevent and relieve health problems and pain
Additional alternative therapies include: psychotherapy and psychological support, individually tailored exercise programs, and relaxation techniques
How to manage your symptoms
- Follow the advice of your Ahmeys expert with regards to treatment and pain management
- Join one of the UK’s many support groups across the country that share tips on how to relieve symptoms and live with chronic pain
- If possible, perform moderate, but non-extremely weight-bearing aerobic activities, such as cycling, walking, or swimming. This will help your endurance, maintain your overall fitness and has been shown to possibly improve quality of life and relieve pain
- Consider gentle forms of exercise, such as tai chi, yoga, and pilates which can help strengthen and stretch your muscles and potentially aid stiffness and pain
- Complete strengthening exercises, such as lifting weights, to increase the strength of your muscles and feel less fatigued
- Balance periods of activity with periods of rest and try not to overexert yourself
- Try to find time to relax and practice relaxation techniques. This is important as stress can make your symptoms worse and cause a flare-up
- If you have trouble sleeping (insomnia) due to fibromyalgia, it may help to:
- Have a routine, getting up and going to bed at the same time every morning and night
- Try to relax before going to bed
- Create and try to stick to a bedtime routine, such as taking a bath and drinking a warm, milky drink every night
- Avoid nicotine, caffeine, alcohol, and any stimulant before going to bed
- Avoid eating heavy meals late at night
- Avoid looking at any blue screened technology, such as phones or computers, late at night
- Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature for you and is dark and quiet
- Avoid checking the time throughout the night, even if you can’t sleep