Fibromyalgia is a surprisingly common condition, even more widespread than rheumatoid arthritis, but despite this, it is not well understood even by medical professionals. Also known as Fibro, FMS or fibromyalgia syndrome, the condition affects an estimated 800,000 people in the UK and three to six percent of people worldwide.
Even with the condition being common, it’s still difficult for a sufferer to depict how they are feeling – and this can make it hard to treat – it’s also difficult for someone who isn’t suffering to understand just how bad someone with Fibro may be feeling.
Leading professional fitness training provider, Future Fit Training, have created visuals to demonstrate how it might feel for someone to have Fibro to help raise awareness for the condition and highlight how healthy living may, in some circumstances help towards alleviated symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary greatly between different people and can be more severe at some times than others in one person. Probably the most common symptom of the condition is chronic widespread pain affecting most of the body, but this is frequently combined with fatigue, stiffness, difficulty in sleeping and other symptoms.
The pain caused by fibromyalgia may affect some areas such as the neck or back more severely than other parts of the body and is often continuous, although the severity can vary. It may be a dull ache or take the form of a sharp pain or burning sensation. People with the condition may also be very sensitive to pain, even perceiving a light touch as painful. This sensitivity can also extend to being sensitive to other factors such as bright lights, certain foods or smoke.
Extreme fatigue is another common symptom and can appear very suddenly, leaving the fibromyalgia sufferer feeling absolutely drained and exhausted so that they are unable to do anything. People with FMS can also suffer from muscle stiffness; this is often worse on waking when the sleeper has not changed position for some time. The muscles may also spasm, which can be painful.
Sleep quality can be affected by the condition, with the sufferer waking up feeling tired because they have not slept deeply enough to refresh themselves properly. A person with FMS may also experience cognitive problems – sometimes referred to as “fibro-fog”. They may have difficulties related to concentration, attention, learning new things and remembering. Sometimes their speech may be confused or slow. Frequent headaches can be another symptom of fibromyalgia, varying from mild occurrences to severe migraines. Headaches may be accompanied by nausea or other symptoms.
Some people who have FMS also have irritable bowel syndrome, which can cause bloating and abdominal pain, diarrhoea or constipation. Other symptoms that may be experienced by people with FMS include restless leg syndrome, clumsiness, dizziness and problems with temperature regulation. They may also have pins and needles in hands or feet, while some women report very painful periods, and the condition often causes sufferers to feel anxious or depressed.
The severity of all these symptoms can vary according to changes in the weather, the person’s stress levels and how physically active they are. Some symptoms can be alleviated by treatment, such as physiotherapy and sports therapy, so it is worth consulting a doctor about them, particularly for people who are feeling depressed.
What are the Associated Conditions of Fibromyalgia?
Other conditions that may be associated with fibromyalgia include lupus, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and temporomandibular disorder (TMD). All these conditions affect muscles, joints or bones.
What are the Causes of Fibromyalgia?
The cause of FMS is unclear, but it is believed to be linked to abnormal levels of some chemicals in the brain and to changes in how pain messages are processed by the central nervous system. Some experts believe that there is a genetic element involved in the development of fibromyalgia.
The disturbed sleep patterns that are common in fibromyalgia may actually be a cause of the condition rather than a symptom. Sometimes the condition seems to be triggered by a stressful event such as having an operation, giving birth, sustaining an injury, having an infection, a loved one dying or a relationship breaking down. However, in other cases, there does not appear to have been any specific trigger to cause the condition to develop.
How to Manage Living with Fibromyalgia?
At present, there is no cure for FMS but there are a number of treatments that can reduce the symptoms and improve the quality of life of someone with the condition.
Medication that may be prescribed can include painkillers and antidepressants, and some people benefit from talking therapies such as counseling and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). However, perhaps the most effective treatment for many people with fibromyalgia is to make changes to their lifestyle.
Healthy eating is important, as is avoiding alcohol. Avoiding caffeine before going to bed can help towards reducing sleeping problems. Exercise has various benefits for people with FMS and should include both aerobic and strengthening exercises. Since people with the condition are frequently fatigued, it is important that any exercise programme is carefully tailored to their needs.
Aerobic exercise may reduce pain and improve quality of life because it increases endurance, and this is thought to help patients to function better. Strengthening exercises should boost muscle power and this, in turn, enables people to function better, feel less fatigued and experience improvements in their general mood.
In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising, those with fibromyalgia can also benefit from sports therapy, deep tissue massages and practicing relaxation techniques to help them manage troublesome symptoms.
If you suffer from Fibromyalgia and want to talk to a professional about a physical rehabilitation programme, get in touch today with our friendly and knowledgeable advisors.