This blog post discusses fibromyalgia symptoms and treatment, as well as its diagnosis and potential causes. Fibromyalgia can significantly impact on a person’s life. There is a lot of unknowns about fibromyalgia and the research into understanding it is ongoing all the time. This blog outlines the most common questions someone with fibromyalgia may have and how it can be affectively treated. Book an appointment with Next Level Physiotherapy today to start your recovery journey.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain throughout the body. It impacts on a person’s sleep, mood, cognitive and physical function. This in turn impacts negatively on everyday life activities such as cooking, bathing, working, and ability to be physically active. Arthritis Ireland share further information on fibromyalgia that may help.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
- Widespread pain throughout the body upper and lower ongoing for more than three months
- Disturbed sleep
- Memory problems
- Hypersensitive joints and muscles throughout the body
- Low mood, stress, anxiety, and depression
Best treatment for Fibromyalgia
The best treatment for fibromyalgia would require a multidisciplinary approach. This means different health professionals all working together to achieve the same goal. Health professionals that can help those with fibromyalgia would be a Physiotherapist, GP, Pain Specialist, Psychologist and Occupational Therapist. The best types of treatment that can help fibromyalgia are:
- Physiotherapy exercises can be extremely beneficial on land and/or in a heated pool (hydrotherapy). The type and difficulty of exercises are specifically tailored to each person as the intensity/severity of symptoms will vary from person to person. Book online if you would like to make an appointment.
- Psychologists can help by implementing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and can assist a person if they have any anxiety or depression, for example.
- Occupational therapy can assist if the person is struggling with daily activities. They can supply different aids that can help keep a person independent
- Medication from a GP or Pain Specialist to help control the pain and allow a person to remain active
- Getting good quality sleep 7-9 hours each night
- Pacing. Breaking up activities/chores into small chunks to avoid a flare up of pain. A Physiotherapist will discuss strategies to help with this
- Eating a well-balanced diet with limited caffeine and alcohol intake.
There is no diagnostic test that exists currently that diagnoses fibromyalgia. Instead, the diagnosis is decided based on the person’s symptoms. One of the main symptoms is widespread pain in the upper and lower body that has been ongoing for at least three months. Check out the NHS website or Mayo clinic for further information on fibromyalgia diagnosis. In summary, the diagnosis is based upon symptoms rather than a specific test bloods or scans, for example.
It is not completely certain why people develop fibromyalgia, but it is thought that the Central Nervous System (CNS) is heavily involved. The CNS is responsible for sending pain signals around the body when an injury has occurred. It is a way of alerting the body to an injury or harmful stimulus.
An example of this would be tripping over step and falling on the ground. Once the danger has gone away, and the body has healed, the pain subsides. However, with fibromyalgia the pain does not go away, and it continues to send pain signals to the body. In some circumstances, pain exists in a particular area and no injury has occurred. Or there might have been an injury and the healing has taken place, but the pain remains. Even with MRI scans, x-rays, and blood tests nothing abnormal is detected.
Another contributory cause of fibromyalgia can be genetic. If someone in your family has had fibromyalgia or issues with chronic/persistent pain, this can potentially increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia.
We know from research that factors like stress, anxiety, depression, unemployment, fear of moving “normally” and constantly worrying about the pain, all contribute to making the pain worse. In simple terms if you think negatively about the pain and often worry about it then the pain experienced will be worse.
Professor Lorimer Moseley, a Pain Specialist explains how persistent pain can develop and helps people living with fibromyalgia and/or persistent pain to understand it a little better.
There are a lot of unknowns about what causes fibromyalgia and there is no specific test that diagnoses it. Instead a diagnosis is made based on the symptoms a person has. It is important to recognise fibromyalgia symptoms and treatment can then be started. Treatment is complex and needs input from a lot of different health professionals to be successful. The main aim of fibromyalgia treatment is to get the person managing the pain so it’s not controlling their lives and stopping them from working, socialising, engaging in hobbies and living independently. The pain can improve, and a person can get back to doing what they want. This is provided the person is willing to engage with physiotherapy and the other treatments mentioned above and are ready to accept the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.