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Fibromyalgia is a long-term, chronic disorder that is characterised by the following symptoms:
• Musculoskeletal pain, or pain in the muscles and bones
• Sleep disturbances
• Memory issues
• Mood issues
It is often a difficult condition to diagnose and share similar symptoms to other conditions and there are no tests that can definitively diagnose fibromyalgia.
Symptoms often develop following a specific traumatic incident, surgery, or infection or if a person is under undue and significant stress. In other cases, however, symptoms can occur gradually with no specific trigger.
Anyone can get fibromyalgia, including children. Women are twice as likely as men, and symptoms often appear during middle age.
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What causes fibromyalgia?
There’s no known cause or cure for fibromyalgia. Most people see improvements when they take steps to manage stress, improve sleep, exercise, and eat healthier. Certain medications can also ease symptoms.
While the causes of fibromyalgia are not known, research suggests that there could be genetic links as fibromyalgia often runs in families.
Past infections can also be a cause of fibromyalgia or make symptoms worse. Some of the infections that can lead to fibromyalgia include flu, pneumonia and gastrointestinal infections.
Trauma and stress can also lead to the onset of fibromyalgia. Stress can have long-lasting effects on your body and changes to your body could contribute to fibromyalgia.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
Symptoms can be wide-ranging, however, there are some common symptoms that can be early indications of fibromyalgia.
Musculoskeletal pain is one of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia and this can be found in the muscles or bones. The pain tends to feel like a consistent dull ache and there are five regions of pain that have been identified in the 2016 fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria.
There can be an overlap between the five regions of pain and there can be tenderness in these regions. These are known as tender points or trigger points.
People with fibromyalgia often wake up tired, even when they report sleeping for long periods of time. Sleep can often be disrupted by pain, and many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnoea, or insomnia.
Fibro fog or brain fog is a term some people use to describe the fuzzy feeling they get. Signs of fibro fog include memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, and trouble staying alert.
How can fibromyalgia be treated?
There are a number of ways to treat patients with fibromyalgia to help to improve their overall quality of life and to reduce the pain they experience.
There are two main strategies for treating fibromyalgia – medication and self-care strategies. Both of these approaches are designed to minimise the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and improve overall health.
Typically, it is necessary to use a variety of treatment strategies to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Pain relievers, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs are all medications that can help to reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and improve sleep. A variety of therapies can also help to reduce the effect that fibromyalgia has on your body and your day-to-day life. These can include physical therapy, occupational therapy, neurofeedback therapy and counselling.
Natural remedies can also be used to lower stress and reduce pain. These can help you feel better, both mentally and physically and these might include acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, yoga, tai chi, and regular exercise.
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