Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS or fibromyalgia) is the term used to describe a cluster of symptoms that may include widespread pain and tenderness in ‘trigger points’ on the body, which are unusually sore to touch.
Fibromyalgia affects two to four per cent of the population, mainly women, although men and adolescents can also develop the condition. It tends to develop during early and middle adulthood or in a woman’s childbearing years.
SYMPTOMS OF FIBROMYALGIA
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary from mild to severe. The most common symptoms are:
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Increased sensitivity to sensory stimuli such as heat, cold and smell
- Extreme fatigue (tiredness)
- Problems with memory and concentration
- Problems with sleep.
It is important to remember that each person with fibromyalgia will have their own unique set of symptoms.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can worsen and recede. Many people find the symptoms are worst first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Fibromyalgia symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe. Symptoms may disappear for extended periods of time, perhaps even years. Other people have pain every day, or experience variations between these two extremes.
Some people with fibromyalgia have other symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, irritable or overactive bladder, headaches, and swelling and numbness or tingling in the arms and legs. Living with ongoing pain and fatigue often leads to secondary problems such as anxiety and depression.
CAUSES OF FIBROMYALGIA
The cause or causes of fibromyalgia are not known. It is more common in people with:
- Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis
- An illness such as a virus (or a recent illness or infection)
- Pain from an injury or trauma
- Emotional stress and depression.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but treatment can help some symptoms.
TRIGGERS FOR FIBROMYALGIA SYMPTOMS
Fibromyalgia symptoms can be triggered or made worse by several factors, including:
- Weather changes
- Hard physical labour
- Mental stress
- Other musculoskeletal disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis.
DIAGNOSIS OF FIBROMYALGIA
Fibromyalgia can be very difficult to diagnose as it does not cause any inflammation or damage. There are no blood tests, x-rays or scans that can test for fibromyalgia, but these tests may be used to exclude other conditions.
Signs that suggest a diagnosis of fibromyalgia are:
- Widespread pain for three months or longer
- Abnormal tenderness at particular points around the neck, shoulder, chest, hip, knee and elbow
- Disturbed sleep patterns.
TREATMENT OF FIBROMYALGIA
There is no cure for fibromyalgia. Effective management starts with a correct diagnosis. A management program should then be designed to meet each person’s needs.
Generally, management of fibromyalgia will involve a combination of:
- - BOWEN THERAPY is a gentle therapy on the body which helps relax the muscles and rebalance the body. By keeping your body aligned you will restore energy, experience less stress and better quality sleep.
- Education – people with fibromyalgia need to understand the condition in order to decide which management approach will help them. Self-management courses can teach new skills to help people with fibromyalgia manage their condition.
- Exercise – a gentle exercise program, such as tai chi or water-based exercise, can help to manage symptoms such as pain, fatigue and sleep disturbance.
- Stress management and relaxation – stress may aggravate symptoms. Skills that can help manage stress include planning, relaxation, assertiveness and emotional management.
- Balancing rest and activity – plan your activities to make the most of your energy by alternating periods of activity with rest. Break large jobs down into small achievable tasks so that you do not overdo things.
- Massage – this can aid muscle relaxation and stress management.
- Nutrition – eating a balanced diet can help provide you with better energy levels, help to maintain your weight, and give you a greater sense of wellbeing.
- Support from others – contact Arthritis Victoria for information about support group locations and contact details.