What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that results in widespread all over body pain. There is usually no other identifiable cause found. Patients usually have pain in specific “pain points” and must have at least 11 out of 18 to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. There are a number of theories about why Fibromyalgia happens, but as of writing there is no prevailing theory and little is known about its aetiology.
How do I know I have fibromyalgia?
There are a number of signs and symptoms commonly associated with fibromyalgia. These include:
- The most important symptoms with fibromyalgia is a chronic, widespread body pain. This is the key symptoms and if this is present then the diagnosis has already been made.
- On examination, patients have many tender points all over their body
- Almost all patients (more than 90%) will report significant tiredness that does not improve despite rest. Usually, patients will also have sleep disturbances, mood disturbances and cognitive dysfunction (feeling “foggy” is often reported by patients).
- Almost all patients will also suffer from headaches
- Many have a pins and needles type numbness sensation, associated with stiff joints.
There are a number of things that significantly increased the chance of developing fibromyalgia. These include:
- Being female
- Having a past history of rheumatological conditions like rheumatoid arthritis
- Having a family history of fibromyalgia
How can I treat fibromyalgia?
Fortunately for sufferers of fibromyalgia, there are a number of established and evidence-based treatments available to help them manage the condition. These treatments are best discussed with a specialist pain clinician. They may recommend a number of things including:
- There are a number of medications you can try. These won’t fix fibromyalgia, neither will they improve the pain completely but they can help manage the condition. Typically drugs known as tricyclic antidepressants are prescribed first such as amitriptyline. These drugs work well at blocking neuropathic pain (pain that is originating in nerves) and are good for helping you sleep (which many patients with fibromyalgia struggle with). If these don’t work there are a number of other drugs that can be effective such as SNRIs, SSRIs, and gabapentin.
- Once drugs have been trialed and the pain is better managed, doctors will usually recommend an exercise therapy. There is significant evidence to suggest exercise can help with the pain.
- There are a number of other injections etc that can help. These are usually performed by a specialist.
Will I ever be pain-free?
This is a difficult question for many patients. Many patients do well with pain management treatment and are able to go about their day to day lives with little pain. However, these patients usually engage very well with therapy and are regimented in their exercise therapies. Whilst you may not be completely pain-free most patients are able to get to a much better position. If you or somebody you know is suffering from chronic pain, contact a specialist today