Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread muscular pain accompanied by fatigue, weakness and disturbed sleep.
It is not life-threatening or progressive but it can still have a major impact on your quality of life. People with fibromyalgia often look well even when they are in a lot of pain. As a result, other people may not understand the pain and tiredness you are experiencing.
Even though fibromyalgia is frequently referred to as an arthritis-related condition, it does not cause joint damage or inflammation as arthritis does. However, it is similar to arthritis in that it causes severe pain and tiredness, and can undermine your ability to go about your daily activities.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
- Widespread pain
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Irritability, feeling weepy and low
- Poor concentration or forgetfulness
- Sleep disorders
- Increased sensitivity to heat or cold, sound, knocks and bumps
- Restless leg syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
What causes fibromyalgia?
The exact causes are not known but anxiety, physical and/or mental trauma, and sleep disturbance are thought to play a part. Possible causal factors currently include:
- A stressful, traumatic physical or emotional event
- Repetitive injuries
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Problems with the central nervous system
- The way our genes regulate how we process painful stimuli
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
A patient may visit their GP a number of times before a proper diagnosis is made and the doctor will need to rule out a number of other conditions. The fact that there are no diagnostic laboratory tests for the condition can be frustrating for doctors and patients. The general criteria used to make the diagnosis include:
- A history of widespread pain which has lasted over three months.
- The presence of tender points in 18 sites of the body. These sites are located at the back and front of the neck, between the neck and chest, just below the neck on the back, the knees, the inside of the elbows, above and below the buttocks and the top of the thighs.
What is the treatment for fibromyalgia?
Each patient is different and will require individualized treatment which may include some or all of the following:
- An active exercise programme
- Low dose anti-depressants
- Painkillers such as paracetamol, ibubrofen or gabapentin
- Cognitive behaviour therapy
Self-help and daily living for fibromyalgia
You could try the following to help ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia:
- Take regular exercise such as swimming, walking or cycling
- Pace your daily activities
- Talk to other sufferers to share your experiences – follow the links below for more help and advice
- Try to resolve any stressful situations at home or at work
- Eat a balanced diet and keep to a healthy weight
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime
Try to find which of these treatments and self help strategies help to ease your symptoms and improve the daily quality of your life. You will have good days and bad days so it’s vitally important that you listen to your body and slow down when you are feeling low.
Pace yourself on the good days and try not to overdo things. Take a rest regularly and do something relaxing which you enjoy. Never feel guilty if all you feel up to, is sitting down with a good book or catching up on a TV series or film.
Follow this link to Fibromyalgia Action UK for more help and advice.
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