Fibromyalgia is a condition which causes ongoing tiredness and pain in many areas of your body.
Symptoms can be very severe and also can be very difficult to diagnose.
No one is certain as to the cause of fibromyalgia - it is thought that patients have an increased sensitisation to pain signals in the brain, perhaps due to minor changes in brain chemicals.
Fibromyalgia is 7 times more common in females. About 1 in 50 people in the UK develop fibromyalgia at some stage in their life. Patients are usually aged 25 to 55 years.
Widespread muscle pain is the most prevalent symptom
, associated with morning stiffness. The pain is not within joints and therefore is NOT arthritis
. The severity of pain can vary from day to day and can be worsened by cold weather or emotional stress
Common sites where you might experience pain which is illustrated by the diagram below:
- The back of your head (sub-occipital area)
- The sides of your neck
- Trapezius (upper back muscles)
- The front of your chest at the level of your second ribs
- The back of your shoulders (over the supraspinatus muscles)
- Your elbows
- The upper outer aspect of your buttocks
- Your hips (over the greater trochanters)
- Your knees
Feeling tired is very common and can be more severe than the pain you are experiencing. Tiredness
is usually worse in the morning, and may even be exacerbated by small amounts of activity. Poor sleep and concentration can also occur.
You could also experience other symptoms including:
Your GP or specialist usually makes the diagnosis of fibromyalgia from the typical symptoms and examination. To make a diagnosis, symptoms should be present for at least 3 months and include pain involving both sides of your body. Blood tests
done to rule out arthritis and thyroid
problems are usually normal.
There is no single cure for fibromyalgia.
The aim is to control and reduce your symptoms as much as possible with both lifestyle measures and medication, within a multidisciplinary team.
Exercise and Physiotherapy
Exercise can be beneficial for some, especially cardiovascular exercise.
- Graded exercise where you constantly gradually increase the amount of exercise you do.
- Aim to build up to 30minutes of exercise 4 - 5 times a week if possible - however, this may take you months to achieve.
- Physiotherapy or stretching exercises can also be of benefit.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
CBT can help physical and psychological symptoms. CBT enables you to talk through any issues and thoughts, and help you to overcome pain, tiredness or any other symptoms.
Analgesia or painkillers given to ease tenderness may help but do not usually work very well. Very strong opiates such as morphine as not recommended as they can become addictive if used long-term. Your GP or specialist may refer you to a specialised pain clinic in hospital for further management.
Antidepressants have a significant role in the treatment of fibromyalgia to help with pain, insomnia
, and general well being. They are not necessarily given for low mood and your doctor may start you on a lower dose than used in depression.
Other treatments and medication
or massage could also help, as there are reports that these are helpful to relax, reduce stress and improve well-being.
Further help and support
You can find more information and advice regarding fibromyalgia at:
Fibromyalgia Association UK http://www.fibromyalgia-associationuk.org