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Dr Anna M L Smith

Tel: 077175 70805

Fibromyalgia: What is it?

08 September 2023
woman massaging muscles

Fibromyalgia is a complex and often misunderstood medical condition that affects millions of people worldwide. Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread and chronic musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and a range of other symptoms. Despite its prevalence, fibromyalgia remains a challenging condition to diagnose and manage, but there is hope.

There are a number of symptoms including:

  1. Widespread Pain: The hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread, chronic pain that affects multiple areas of the body. This pain is often described as a deep, persistent ache and can vary in intensity.
  2.  Fatigue: People with fibromyalgia often experience profound fatigue, even after a full night's sleep. This fatigue can be debilitating and significantly impact daily life.
  3. Sleep Disturbances: Sleep problems are common in fibromyalgia, with individuals frequently reporting difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. This leads to non-restorative sleep and contributes to fatigue.
  4. Cognitive Dysfunction: Known as "fibro fog," cognitive symptoms include memory problems, difficulty concentrating, and a feeling of mental fogginess.
  5. Tender Points: Specific tender points on the body, often around joints and muscles, can be sensitive to pressure. These points are used as a diagnostic criterion.

The exact cause of fibromyalgia remains unclear, but several factors are believed to contribute to its development:

  1. Genetics: fibromyalgia often runs in families.
  2. Abnormal Pain Processing: It is believed that people with fibromyalgia have altered pain processing in their central nervous systems, leading to heightened sensitivity to pain.
  3. Physical or Emotional Trauma: Physical injuries, infections, or emotional stressors may trigger the onset of fibromyalgia symptoms in some individuals.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be challenging, as there are no specific laboratory tests or imaging studies that can confirm it.

While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, various treatment approaches can help manage its symptoms and improve the quality of life:

  1. Lifestyle Modifications: Managing stress, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy sleep routine, and adopting a balanced diet can all contribute to symptom relief.
  2. A Mind - Body approach: with pain reprocessing therapy, emotional and behavioural work is very helpful to reduce and greatly improve symptoms and restore a good quality of life. (
  3. Medications: These may be prescribed to alleviate pain, improve sleep, and address mood disorders. The issue remains that people can end up on a large amount of medication which is not relieving the pain or their symptoms.
  4. Physical Therapy: Physical therapy can help improve flexibility, strength, and reduce pain through exercises and manual techniques.
  5. Complementary Therapies: Techniques like acupuncture, massage, and relaxation therapies may provide some relief for some individuals.

It is essential for both healthcare providers and society at large to better understand and support individuals living with fibromyalgia as research continues to uncover more about this condition.

By: Dr Anna Smith