The Lowdown on Fibromyalgia

Are you experiencing unexplained back pain, fatigue and other symptoms? If so, has fibromyalgia been ruled out?

Fibromyalgia, (also called fibromyalgia syndrome), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body and affects up to 1 in 20 people. As well as widespread pain, fibromyalgia sufferers may also experience:

  • an increased sensitivity to pain
  • exhaustion fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • muscle tension and stiffness
  • sleeping problems
  • difficulties with mental processing, including problems with memory and concentration
  • headaches
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

It’s important to seek medical attention if you suffer with any of the above symptoms or if you think you may have fibromyalgia. Although there is no known cure for the condition, there are many treatment options available that can help to ease the symptoms.

So what causes fibromyalgia?

Even though the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, it is thought to be related to abnormal levels of chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system transmits pain messages around the body. It’s also possible that certain people may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia because of genes inherited from their parents. In other cases, the condition is triggered by a physically or emotionally stressful event.

This may include:

  • an infection or injury
  • the birth of a child
  • having an operation
  • the breakdown of a relationship
  • the death of a loved one

It’s important to remember that despite the risk factors, anyone can develop fibromyalgia at any time. The condition usually develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but it can occur in people of any age, including children and the elderly.

How to get a diagnosis

Fibromyalgia is a difficult condition to diagnose, which may mean that many people are living with it without a diagnosis. There’s no specific test for the condition, and the symptoms can be similar to a number of other conditions. However, medical professionals can use a number of evaluations and processes to reach a diagnostic decision.

Treatment tends to be a combination of:

  • medication, such as antidepressants and painkillers
  • talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and
  • counselling lifestyle changes, such as exercise programmes, diet changes and relaxation techniques

If you are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, there are many ways that you can change your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms and make your condition easier to manage.

The healthcare professionals treating you can offer advice and support about making these changes part of your everyday life. Don’t ignore your symptoms; seeking help is the biggest step in your journey back to good health