What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a long-term condition which causes widespread pain and tenderness over your body.

It is thought to be caused by over sensitivity within your nervous system (brain and nerves) which results in increased pain messages to your body.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Poor sleep
  • Poor concentration or mental processing – also known as “fibro fog”
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Sensitivity to light or touch
  • Fatigue

Fibromyalgia symptoms can vary, some days your symptoms may be better than others.

There are things you can do to help you manage your fibromyalgia.

We are still unsure what causes Fibromyalgia.

It has been linked to:

  • A trauma which can be physical or emotional
  • Poor sleep
  • High levels of stress
  • Auto-immune link – there is emerging evidence which could support an autoimmune link but this is still in the early phases and further research is being conducted.

Your GP or Advanced Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Practitioner (AMP) can diagnose Fibromyalgia.

They will ask you about your symptoms.  They may talk to you about any other health conditions you have. They will do a physical examination if needed. Some people need blood tests, X rays or scans to help with diagnosis.  If you need tests your GP or Advanced Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Practitioner will explain why. Some people don’t need all of these tests to have a diagnosis. The clinician assessing you can explain what is needed for you.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia can be improved with the correct management.

Current evidence supports:

  • Keeping Active – It is common for people to avoid exercise when in pain, but in fact exercise has been shown to improve pain and fatigue levels. Exercise should be something you find enjoyable, start off gently and gradually increase as your muscle strength and flexibility improves. If you need help with this, please contact your Physiotherapist or GP.
  • Pacing - Many people with Fibromyalgia do as much as they can on good days. This can cause an increase in pain, so that they need to reduce their activity for a few days after. This is known as a ‘boom and bust’ pattern and can lead to reduced activity over time. Pacing is a skill; it involves taking a break before you need to, so you have a consistent pattern of activity and rest. Over time, this is associated with being able to do more. 
  • Medicines- can play a role in helping with pain management but shouldn’t be used as a standalone treatment. They do not take away the pain completely but can help you increase your activity levels or improve your sleep.
  • Managing Thoughts and feelings – Coming to terms with your fibromyalgia diagnosis can be upsetting and stressful. It can have an impact on your work, hobbies, and relationships. Over time this can lead to feelings of frustration and low mood. These feelings are normal but can make the nervous system more sensitive. It has been shown that people who find ways to manage their thoughts and feelings often feel more confident to manage their pain.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation - Stress exacerbates and maintains pain; high levels of stress have been found to be linked with fibromyalgia flare ups. Mindfulness and relaxation are strategies for coping with the pain. Relaxation is very helpful in calming down your nervous system.
  • Sleep  – Pain can interfere with your ability to get a good night's sleep. This can make pain and other symptoms worse as well as making it harder to cope. Improving sleep hygiene can help improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Flare Ups - People with Fibromyalgia often have times when their pain increases significantly, and they can do less. These are known as flare-ups and usually last for a few hours to a few days. They are often difficult but are a normal part of living with this condition, but there are strategies that can help.
  • Healthy lifestyle - ​Looking after your general health can help you live well. It has been shown that the fitter you are, generally the better you manage your pain and continue to function and perform hobbies that are important to you.