What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition which affects muscles, tendons and ligaments. People with fibromyalgia experience persistent pains and tenderness in many areas of the body. The condition used to be known as fibrosis – inflammation of the muscles and soft tissue.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
Pain (most commonly in the neck and back with varying levels of severity on any given day)
Pins and needles in fingers and/or toes
Irritable bowel syndrome
Note: Although pain is most commonly in the neck and back, the pain can occur in any area of the body – with many sufferers describing their symptoms as ‘an extreme aching all over’.
The precise cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Some theorists believe that people with fibromyalgia may have a genetic predisposition to developing the condition, while others suggest it develops as a result of environmental factors.
Symptoms can be exacerbated by cold, stress or activity.
If you are suffering from the aforementioned symptoms and suspect that you may have fibromyalgia, make an appointment with your GP to get a proper diagnosis. He or she will assess your condition and ask you some questions, such as: whether you have experienced chronic fatigue for at least three months, as well as pain in all four quadrants of your body (with tenderness and pain being felt in at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points in your body when pressure is applied).
Your GP may also carry out some blood tests to rule out things like early arthritis or an underactive thyroid.
Effect on your life
At first, many people with fibromyalgia assume that they have developed repetitive strain injury – due to the sharp shooting pains in their hands which then spread to the arms and legs. However, once a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is confirmed, there are things you can do to help manage your condition.
Although you may often feel too tired to exercise, committing to a light exercise programme specifically tailored to your condition may be hugely beneficial. Exercise boosts energy levels, aids regular and restful sleep, and can significantly reduce pain.
It is also a good idea to eat a balanced diet, and to practise relaxation techniques.
Although, as yet, fibromyalgia can not be cured, treatments exist which are aimed at reducing your symptoms as much as possible, such as:
Light exercise – mainly aerobic exercises such as swimming in a heated pool
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – A form of psychotherapy which can help you take control of the extent to which your symptoms impact upon your life
Drug treatments – painkillers such as Paracetamol and anti-inflammatory painkillers such as Ibuprofen or codeine can be helpful
Anti-depressants – used to relieve pain and also aid disturbed sleep
Alternative therapies – acupuncture, aromatherapy and massage
Advice & Support
Fibromyalgia Association UK
PO Box 206, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY9 8YL
Tel. 0845 345 2322
Website: www.fmauk.org , e-mail
46 The Nightingales, Newbury, RG14 7UJ
E-mail: [email protected]
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