Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a complex and often misunderstood condition characterised by widespread pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and heightened sensitivity to touch. While the exact cause of fibromyalgia is not fully understood, it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors. Several conditions and factors can contribute to the development or exacerbation of fibromyalgia symptoms. Some of these include:

  • Genetics: There appears to be a genetic predisposition to fibromyalgia, meaning that if a close family member has the condition, you might be at a higher risk of developing it as well.
  • Physical Trauma: Physical injuries, accidents, or trauma can trigger the onset of fibromyalgia symptoms. This might be due to the way the nervous system responds to such events.
  • Infections: Certain infections, such as viral or bacterial infections, can lead to the development of fibromyalgia or exacerbate existing symptoms. For example, conditions like Lyme disease have been associated with fibromyalgia-like symptoms.
  • Stress and Psychological Factors: Emotional and psychological stress can contribute to the development and worsening of fibromyalgia symptoms. Chronic stress, anxiety, depression, and traumatic experiences can all play a role.
  • Sleep Disorders: Sleep disturbances are common in fibromyalgia patients. Conditions like sleep apnea or insomnia can both contribute to fibromyalgia symptoms and be worsened by them.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: While fibromyalgia itself is not considered an autoimmune disorder, some people with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus might develop fibromyalgia-like symptoms as a result of the autoimmune process.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during menopause, can influence fibromyalgia symptoms. Changes in hormone levels may contribute to increased pain sensitivity and fatigue.
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) share some overlapping symptoms, and many people with fibromyalgia also experience symptoms of CFS.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): There is a higher prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome among individuals with fibromyalgia, suggesting a potential connection between the two conditions.
  • Sensory Sensitivities: People with fibromyalgia often experience heightened sensitivity to stimuli, including light, noise, and certain textures. This sensitivity can contribute to the overall symptom profile of the condition.

It’s important to note that fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that other potential underlying conditions need to be ruled out before a fibromyalgia diagnosis is made. Additionally, the experience of fibromyalgia can vary widely from person to person, and not everyone with the condition will have the same set of contributing factors or associated conditions. If you suspect you have fibromyalgia or are experiencing chronic pain and other symptoms, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

Fibromyalgia is a complex condition with a range of symptoms that can vary from person to person. The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread pain, often accompanied by other physical and cognitive symptoms. The symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Widespread Pain: This is the hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia. The pain is typically described as a dull ache that affects multiple areas of the body. It can vary in intensity and may be constant or intermittent.
  • Fatigue: Many people with fibromyalgia experience profound fatigue and a lack of energy, even after getting enough sleep. This fatigue can interfere with daily activities and lead to a decreased quality of life.
  • Sleep Disturbances: People with fibromyalgia often have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. They may also wake up feeling unrefreshed, even after a full night’s sleep.
  • Cognitive Difficulties (Fibro Fog): Cognitive symptoms commonly referred to as “fibro fog” can include memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and mental confusion. This can impact daily tasks and work performance.
  • Sensitivity to Touch and Pressure: Individuals with fibromyalgia often have heightened sensitivity to touch and pressure, leading to discomfort even from light touches.
  • Stiffness: Morning stiffness, similar to that experienced by people with arthritis, is a common symptom of fibromyalgia. This stiffness can improve as the day goes on.
  • Headaches: Migraines or tension headaches can be more frequent in individuals with fibromyalgia.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Symptoms: Abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, or constipation are commonly seen in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Depression and Anxiety: Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are more prevalent among individuals with fibromyalgia. These conditions can exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms and vice versa.
  • Numbness and Tingling: Some people with fibromyalgia may experience sensations of numbness, tingling, or burning in various parts of their bodies.
  • Temperature Sensitivity: Individuals with fibromyalgia might be more sensitive to temperature changes, experiencing discomfort in response to cold or heat.
  • Jaw Pain (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMJD): TMJD symptoms, such as jaw pain and difficulty with jaw movement, can coexist with fibromyalgia.

It’s important to note that fibromyalgia symptoms can come and go, and their severity can vary over time. The symptoms can overlap with those of other conditions, making accurate diagnosis a challenge. If you suspect you may have fibromyalgia or are experiencing persistent pain and other symptoms, it’s recommended to consult a healthcare professional who can provide an accurate diagnosis and help manage your symptoms effectively.

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not fully understood, and it’s likely that a combination of factors contributes to its development. Some of the potential factors that are thought to play a role in the onset of fibromyalgia include:

  • Genetics: There appears to be a genetic component to fibromyalgia. Some studies have shown that individuals with a family history of fibromyalgia are more likely to develop the condition themselves. Certain genetic variations might affect how the nervous system processes pain and how the body responds to various stimuli.
  • Central Nervous System Abnormalities: Fibromyalgia is often characterised by an amplified pain response, suggesting that there may be abnormalities in how the central nervous system processes pain signals. This could involve changes in neurotransmitters and how pain signals are transmitted and interpreted.
  • Neurochemical Imbalances: Alterations in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which play a role in pain perception and mood regulation, have been observed in individuals with fibromyalgia.
  • Abnormal Pain Processing: People with fibromyalgia have been found to have an altered perception of pain, which means they might experience pain more intensely and for longer periods of time than individuals without the condition.
  • Physical or Emotional Trauma: Physical trauma, injuries, infections, or emotional stressors could potentially trigger the onset of fibromyalgia in susceptible individuals. Trauma or stress might contribute to changes in the nervous system that lead to the development of widespread pain and other symptoms.
  • Infections: Some infections, such as viral infections, have been associated with the onset of fibromyalgia-like symptoms in some individuals. However, the link between infections and fibromyalgia is still being studied and isn’t fully understood.
  • Autoimmune Factors: While fibromyalgia is not considered an autoimmune disorder, there is some evidence to suggest that immune system dysfunction might contribute to the development of fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal imbalances, such as those that occur during menopause, can influence pain perception and may contribute to the development or worsening of fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia and disruptions in the sleep cycle, are common in individuals with fibromyalgia. It’s unclear whether these disturbances are a cause or a consequence of the condition, but they can certainly exacerbate symptoms.
  • Sensitization of Nervous System: Some theories propose that individuals with fibromyalgia have a heightened sensitivity of their nervous system to stimuli, leading to increased pain perception and other symptoms.

It’s important to note that while these factors might contribute to the development of fibromyalgia, the condition is still not fully understood and there may be other factors at play as well. Researchers are continuing to study fibromyalgia to gain a better understanding of its underlying causes and to develop more effective treatments. If you suspect you have fibromyalgia, consult a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and management.

Fibromyalgia is a complex and individualized condition, and the most effective treatment approach can vary from person to person. Treatment for fibromyalgia typically focuses on managing symptoms, improving quality of life, and helping individuals function better. A comprehensive and multimodal approach that combines different strategies is often recommended. Here are some common treatment options:

  • Medications:
    • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may provide some relief for mild pain.
    • Prescription Medications: Certain medications, such as certain antidepressants (e.g., duloxetine, amitriptyline) and anticonvulsants (e.g., pregabalin), can help manage pain and improve sleep in some individuals with fibromyalgia.
    • Muscle Relaxants: These can help alleviate muscle spasms and improve sleep quality.
    • Pain Modifiers: Medications that affect the way the brain perceives pain, such as gabapentin, can sometimes be used.
  • Lifestyle Changes:
    • Regular Exercise: Engaging in low-impact aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises can help improve pain, fatigue, and overall well-being.
    • Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can contribute to better energy levels and overall health.
    • Sleep Hygiene: Establishing good sleep habits and creating a conducive sleep environment can help improve sleep quality.
    • Stress Management: Practicing relaxation techniques, meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness can help manage stress and anxiety, which can exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Physical Therapy: Physical therapists can develop tailored exercise programs, provide manual therapies, and teach pain management techniques to improve physical function and reduce pain.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT can help individuals manage the emotional and psychological aspects of fibromyalgia, such as coping with pain, reducing anxiety, and improving sleep.
  • Complementary and Alternative Therapies:
    • Massage Therapy: This can help reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and promote relaxation.
    • Acupuncture: Some people find relief from fibromyalgia symptoms through acupuncture.
    • Chiropractic Care: Spinal adjustments and other treatments offered by chiropractors may provide symptom relief for some individuals.
  • Medication Management: Working closely with a healthcare provider to find the right medications and dosages to manage pain, sleep disturbances, and mood symptoms is important.
  • Support Groups: Joining support groups or connecting with others who have fibromyalgia can provide emotional support and a platform for sharing strategies for managing the condition.
  • Alternative Therapies: Some individuals find relief from symptoms through therapies like yoga, tai chi, hydrotherapy, and meditation.

It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for fibromyalgia, and what works for one person may not work for another. A personalized treatment plan that addresses the specific needs and preferences of the individual is crucial. Consulting with a healthcare provider, such as a rheumatologist or pain specialist, is essential for accurate diagnosis and the development of an effective treatment strategy tailored to your situation.

To address fibromyalgia and develop an effective treatment plan, it’s important to seek care from a healthcare team that can provide comprehensive and coordinated support. Here are some professionals you might consider consulting:

  • Primary Care Physician (PCP): Your first step should be to consult your primary care physician, who can assess your symptoms, provide an initial diagnosis, and help coordinate your care. They can also rule out other potential medical conditions that might mimic fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Rheumatologist: Rheumatologists are specialists who often diagnose and manage conditions that affect the muscles, joints, and soft tissues. They have expertise in diagnosing and treating conditions like fibromyalgia, as well as other rheumatic conditions.
  • Pain Specialist: A pain management specialist can help you manage the pain associated with fibromyalgia. They can offer various treatment options, including medications, injections, and therapies to alleviate pain and improve your quality of life.
  • Neurologist: Some neurologists specialize in pain management and can provide insights into how the nervous system might be contributing to your fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Physical Therapist: Physical therapists can design exercise programs and physical therapies tailored to your specific needs. They can help you improve your physical function, alleviate pain, and manage stiffness.
  • Psychologist or Psychiatrist: Since fibromyalgia often has emotional and psychological components, mental health professionals can help you cope with stress, anxiety, and depression that may accompany the condition.
  • Occupational Therapist: An occupational therapist can help you adapt your daily activities to manage your symptoms and improve your overall function.
  • Nutritionist or Dietitian: A nutritionist can offer guidance on dietary changes that may support your overall health and energy levels.
  • Sleep Specialist: If sleep disturbances are a major concern, a sleep specialist can help diagnose and treat sleep disorders, which can significantly impact fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Alternative and Complementary Practitioners: Depending on your preferences and beliefs, you might also consider consulting practitioners who specialize in alternative and complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage therapy.

Remember that fibromyalgia is a complex condition that often requires a multidisciplinary approach for effective management. Your healthcare team should work together to create a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses your individual needs and symptoms. Open communication with your providers and an active role in your own care are essential for achieving the best outcomes.

Yes, exercise can be beneficial for individuals with fibromyalgia. While it might seem counterintuitive to engage in physical activity when experiencing pain and fatigue, regular and appropriate exercise can actually help manage fibromyalgia symptoms and improve overall well-being. Here’s why exercise is recommended for fibromyalgia:

  • Pain Management: Regular exercise can help reduce pain by increasing blood flow, promoting the release of endorphins (natural painkillers), and improving the flexibility and strength of muscles and joints.
  • Improved Sleep: Engaging in regular physical activity can help regulate sleep patterns and improve the quality of sleep, which is often disrupted in individuals with fibromyalgia.
  • Mood Enhancement: Exercise has been shown to have positive effects on mood and mental well-being. It can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression that are commonly associated with fibromyalgia.
  • Increased Energy Levels: Although fatigue is a common symptom of fibromyalgia, regular exercise can actually boost energy levels over time.
  • Enhanced Physical Function: Engaging in regular exercise can improve muscle strength, joint flexibility, and overall physical function. This can help individuals with fibromyalgia perform daily activities with greater ease.
  • Weight Management: Maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and proper diet can help alleviate stress on the joints and reduce pain.

When considering exercise for fibromyalgia, it’s important to approach it with caution and choose activities that are appropriate for your individual condition and fitness level. Here are some tips for incorporating exercise into your fibromyalgia management plan:

  • Start Slowly: Begin with gentle, low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, or biking. Gradually increase the intensity and duration as your body adapts.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience increased pain or fatigue, scale back the intensity or duration of your exercise session.
  • Consistency: Consistency is key. Aim for regular, moderate exercise rather than sporadic intense workouts.
  • Warm Up and Cool Down: Always start your exercise session with a gentle warm-up and end with a cool-down period that includes stretching.
  • Variety: Incorporate a mix of cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises to achieve balanced fitness.
  • Seek Professional Guidance: Consult a healthcare professional or physical therapist who has experience working with fibromyalgia patients. They can help design a personalised exercise program that suits your needs and limitations.
  • Set Realistic Goals: Focus on achievable goals and celebrate small victories along the way.
  • Pacing: Practice pacing yourself by gradually increasing your activity levels without overexertion.

Remember that every individual is unique, and what works for one person might not work for another. Finding the right type and amount of exercise that suits your condition and preferences may require some experimentation. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise regimen, especially if you have any medical concerns or limitations.

Surgery is not typically considered a primary or standard treatment for fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a complex condition characterised by widespread pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. It is not caused by a structural issue that can be addressed through surgical intervention. Instead, fibromyalgia is thought to involve neurological, genetic, and environmental factors that influence the way the nervous system processes pain signals.

The focus of fibromyalgia treatment is usually on managing symptoms and improving overall quality of life. This often involves a combination of lifestyle changes, exercise, medications, physical therapy, and various forms of psychological support.

However, there might be situations where surgery is considered as an option for individuals with fibromyalgia, but these situations would typically involve other underlying conditions that require surgical intervention, rather than fibromyalgia itself. For example:

  • Orthopaedic Conditions: If you have a separate orthopaedic condition, such as a herniated disc or joint issue, that is contributing to your pain and symptoms alongside fibromyalgia, surgery might be recommended to address that specific condition.
  • Other Health Issues: If you have other health problems that require surgical treatment, such as gallbladder disease or certain types of tumors, surgery might be necessary regardless of your fibromyalgia diagnosis.

It’s important to have open and honest discussions with your healthcare provider(s) about your condition, symptoms, and treatment options. If you have concerns about the possibility of surgery, make sure to address them with your medical team. They can help you understand the risks and benefits of different interventions and guide you toward the best approach for managing your individual situation.

Chews Health Top Tip for fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is best understood as a heightened sensitivity to pressure, movement and positions therefore a thorough, personalised assessment and a tailored functional rehabilitation programme can ‘recalibrate’ said sensitivity and lead to significant improvements in quality of life.

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Melanie Clarke
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2023-02-22
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2023-02-21
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2023-02-06
I have had a chronic back condition to varying degrees for many years which more recently has forced me to have weeks off work at a time. I was recommended Chews Health by a colleague having tried other physios in the past. However, I always felt that something was missing from the plan. My back muscles would on occasion go into spasm, or my disk to impinge on my nerve, affecting my mobility and effectively setting me back to square one. I came to Chews health a bit wary and was considering surgery due to how much my back was affecting my quality of life and mental health. It has not been a straight forward recovery, but i have made significant progress through having a thorough history taken, my ongoing concerns listened to, and being provided with a clear explanation of not only the exercise plan but additionally explaining why my body was responding in varying ways. This has educated about my condition and provided me with the tools to self manage my condition more effectively should it deteriorate again.. It has not been plain sailing, but I have absolute faith in Jack and his team.
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2023-01-09
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2023-01-05
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2022-12-21
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feralie Bennett
feralie Bennett
2022-11-23
I saw Richard Saxton for a chronic pain in my achillies. 2 visits, with massage and exercises: clear concise instruction, both written and verbal to do at home were realistic & adapted for my ability - I now no longer require pain relief & can walk the dogs pain free & even manage a few hills. A follow up call to review my progress was also appreciated. The clinic was clean & well equipped. Would highly recommend.
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2022-11-16
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2022-10-31
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