Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain throughout the body. Alongside the pain, it is common for sufferers to also have one or more of the following complaints; restless legs, poor sleep, extreme tiredness, headaches, irritable bowel, reduced memory/concentration (fibro-fog), muscle stiffness and increased sensitivity to pain and other stimuli like noise and light.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is still under debate, but there is thought to be some chemical cause and a change in the way the brain and spinal cord process pain messages. There may be some genetic tendency to developing the condition. Some sufferers have linked the onset of their symptoms to physical or emotional traumas and these will often tend to also heighten flare-ups of the condition. The condition is certainly more common in women and tends to develop between the ages of 30-50. Due to the difficulty in diagnosing the condition, it is hard to estimate the actual number of people suffering from the condition, but it is predicted that as many as 1 in 20 will have it to some extent. Diagnosis is normally based on a process or ruling out other conditions, case consultation and the presence of chronic widespread pain for more than 3 months widespread precise tender points throughout the body.
Treatment approaches are many and varied, although the focus is on symptom control, as to date there is no cure. The results of treatment vary from person to person and a combined approach may give the best results. Exercise, cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling, massage, osteopathy, acupuncture and improved nutrition, may be some of the ways sufferers can obtain symptomatic relief. Medications can help to deal with pain, poor sleep and restlessness. Often by combining approaches and trying new combinations, suffers will get the greatest benefits.
Self-help is vital to recovery of fibromyalgia symptoms. There are 5 main categories to consider;-
- Although capacity to exercise may be limited, it is important that an exercise routine is practiced, within your limits. This should focus on improving strength and aerobic fitness. Exercise like walking or swimming and gentle weights or pilates are a good combination.
- Pace activities out and take regular breaks between activities. Again try and have a routine and achieve a few tasks a day by maintaining a steady level of activity.
- Relaxation therapies and practices which could include counselling, CBT, massage, yoga, reflexology, meditation, stress management and much more. It is important to relax and breathe correctly to assist mind and body.
- Improve sleep patterns. Try to get up at the same time and go to bed at the same time. Try and relax before bed and avoid caffeine, high sugar foods and avoid technology late at night. Try not to over sleep too, as this can also build a poor routine as your body adjusts to increased levels of sleep.
- Try and support your body in the best way possible, by eating a balanced diet, rich in omega 3 oils, with no processed foods and very little sugar. Keep the body well hydrated and if needed, supplement with vitamins B and D (speak to an advisor or your GP with regards to this). For the body to perform well, it needs to be fuelled well too.
If you need any further support, there are many nationwide groups for fibromyalgia and online support groups which some sufferers find beneficial.
At BOP we offer a range of therapies which help to support patients with fibromyalgia by looking at their physical and mental wellbeing. We can assess diet, mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing through a combined approach, working with you to achieve the optimum result. The best results tend to come from self-help and practitioner guided support. This is the role we hope to achieve as a team at BOP.