Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body, often associated with other symptoms such as hypersensitivity (gentle touch causes pain), fatigue (extreme tiredness), poor sleep, and change in mood (depression and anxiety). Fibromyalgia is managed in the primary care setting, such as with your GP, and doesn’t specifically need to be referred to the rheumatology team.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
As well as widespread pain and the symptoms mentioned above, people with fibromyalgia may also have:
- muscle stiffness
- problems with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog”) – such as problems with memory and concentration
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating
WHO IS AFFECTED?
Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although it affects around 7 times as many women as men. The condition typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but can occur in people of any age, including children and the elderly. Research has suggested it could be a relatively common condition, with some estimates suggesting that nearly 1 in 20 people may be affected by fibromyalgia to some degree.
Fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose as there is no specific test for the condition, and the symptoms can be similar to a number of other conditions.
WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it’s thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes pain messages carried around the body. It’s also suggested that some people are more likely to develop fibromyalgia because of genes inherited from their parents. Often there is a by a trigger, or a set of triggers, such as infection, trauma, and stress, that can contribute to someone developing Fibromyalgia.
HAVE I GOT FIBROMYLAGIA?
If you are experiencing a combination of the above symptoms, and think you have fibromyalgia, visit your GP. Treatment is available to ease some of its symptoms, although they’re unlikely to disappear completely.
HOW FIBROMYALGIA IS TREATED?
Although there’s currently no cure for fibromyalgia, there are treatments to help relieve some of the symptoms and make the condition easier to live with.
Treatment tends to be a combination of:
- medication – such as antidepressants and painkillers
- talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling
- lifestyle changes – such as exercise programmes and relaxation techniques
Exercise in particular has been found to have a number of important benefits for people with fibromyalgia, including helping to reduce pain. The following link shows Pilates that may be useful for people with fibromyalgia:
Many people with fibromyalgia find that support groups provide an important network where they can talk to others living with the condition.
For information on support groups in Cornwall go to: https://ukfibromyalgia.com/southwest-support-groups
For more general information on fibromyalgia you may find these sites helpful: