Everything you need to know about fibromyalgia
In a nutshell, fibromyalgia results from changes in your central nervous system that amplify pain messages.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a complex condition that involves widespread musculoskeletal pain and other symptoms, even when there may not be actual damage to your tissues. Researchers believe fibromyalgia may be caused by an overactive pain system, though there’s still a lot to learn about this disorder.
Fibromyalgia most commonly affects middle-aged women but men and adolescents may also be diagnosed with the condition.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia but, with the help of a good treatment team, you can learn how to manage its symptoms.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
Each person with fibromyalgia experiences a different mix of symptoms, which may include:
- A persistent dull, painful ache on both sides of the body, both above and below the waist which has been present for at least 3 months
- Deep fatigue even if you’re getting plenty of rest – though your sleep may be disturbed by pain or other conditions like sleep apnea
- Brain fog that makes it hard to concentrate
- Increased sensitivity to heat, cold, sounds, smells and light.
As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, fibromyalgia often affects people who are already living with conditions like:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Interstitial cystitis
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
- Anxiety and depression
- Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
What causes fibromyalgia?
Unfortunately, we don’t really know yet – though researchers are getting closer to answering that question.
Fibromyalgia may start for no obvious reason or it may be linked to a trigger like a serious illness or serious emotional stress. It may be linked to your genetics and family history or to environmental factors like exposure to a virus.
We do know that fibromyalgia is more common if you have:
- Conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or another pain syndrome
- A family history of fibromyalgia
- Experienced a recent illness
- Have had pain from an injury
- Experienced emotional stress
- Live with depression or anxiety
- Have a history of substance abuse.
Fibromyalgia symptoms can fluctuate. Sometimes it’s not too bad and sometimes it’s awful. Intense episodes are known as flares.
The triggers for a flare vary from person to person but may include:
- Being physically or mentally worn out
- Illness or injury
- Travel or other changes
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Changes to your treatment.
Over time, you tend to learn your own triggers and can then reduce their occurrence or plan around them to some extent.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
It’s not easy to diagnose fibromyalgia as there are no blood tests or scans to detect it and your body will appear normal when a doctor examines you.
Your doctor may order various tests to rule out other conditions. If those tests are all negative, then your doctor or arthritis specialist (rheumatologist) may start looking for a number of typical fibromyalgia features to diagnose the condition.
Fibromyalgia is really an exclusion diagnosis, made when your doctor has ruled out other conditions that could explain your symptoms.
What’s the treatment for fibromyalgia?
There is no cure for fibromyalgia but there are various ways to make it easier to live with. That can involve some trial and error but it’s worth persisting until you find what works for you.
The healthcare professionals involved in your care may include a:
- Occupational therapist
Fibromyalgia treatment options may include:
- Managing pain by using psychological techniques or medications (if recommended by your doctor) and doing your best to improve sleep and overall well being
- Managing fatigue by listening to your body and balancing activity and rest, changing your plans if you need to and talking to your doctor about medications that may help you sleep without being disturbed by pain
- Staying active as exercise has been shown to help manage a range of symptoms including pain
- Managing weight and nutrition
- Acknowledging any feelings of frustration, sadness, anger or stress about living with fibromyalgia and getting help if you need it.
How can The Brisbane Spine Clinic help?
Your GP may refer you to a physiotherapist as part of a well-rounded approach to managing your fibromyalgia.
The Brisbane Spine Clinic offers holistic treatment for fibromyalgia that involves:
- Helping you manage pain
- Prescribing exercises to help you improve symptoms
- Joint mobilisation, stretches and deep tissue therapy.
Please book an appointment today. We’d love to help you.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.