Fibromyalgia is chronic widespread pain which is defined as pain for more than three months, above and below the waist on both sides with no associated inflammation. Doctors usually run various tests before diagnosing fibromyalgia, in order to rule out other causes of your pain. In fibromyalgia all of these investigations are normal. The pain is typically unremitting and widespread across your body and it is best described as an ‘aching’.
This condition is fairly common and can affect anyone at any age although it is much more prevalent in females. Patients may have other conditions which make fibromyalgia more likely, such as IBS and tension headaches. It is manageable through education and therapy as well as some medications that your rheumatologist can prescribe.
Doctors commonly diagnose fibromyalgia by palpating 18 points on your body; if more than 11 of these points are tender or elicit pain, this is the likely diagnosis depending on your other symptoms and exclusion of other causes. This condition is strongly associated with sleep disturbances and patients often complain of feeling fatigued, un‐refreshed from sleep, having a low mood and difficulty concentrating. Morning stiffness is another common symptoms that the vast majority of patients suffer from.
Knowledge regarding the cause of fibromyalgia is limited, however the chronic pain is believed to originate from abnormalities in the amount of certain substances in your body, which are responsible for you pain response. Sleep disturbance is one of the possible cause this imbalance and results in this ‘pain amplification syndrome’.
Fibromyalgia can be managed in several ways, through a multidisciplinary approach. Your rheumatologist may recommend a form of therapy called cognitive‐behavioural therapy, which has been shown to be effective by providing education about the condition, coping strategies and by setting achievable goals. Management of other commonly associated conditions, such as IBS and depression is important for symptom control. Rheumatologists can also organise aerobic exercise regimes which can improve your outcome in just a few months.
Your rheumatologist can prescribe certain medications called low‐dose tricyclic antidepressants which can improve pain, sleep, morning stiffness, fatigue and low mood over time. Some analgesics (e.g. paracetamol) can also offer symptomatic relief.
The course of fibromyalgia can often ‘come and go’ and there is usually no immediate cure. Your rheumatologist will help devise a long term management plan to manage the condition and will closely follow you up throughout the entire process.
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Doctify Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. In the event of an emergency, please call 999 for immediate assistance.