Fibromyalgia

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome associated with widespread chronic muscle pain, and often accompanied by fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, and problems with memory or concentration.

Fibromyalgia affects nearly 1 in 20 people worldwide. Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although in most cases occurs between 30 and 60 years of age. Interestingly, 75-90% of people affected by fibromyalgia are women.

What causes Fibromyalgia?

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Research into people with fibromyalgia has identified a number of changes in the way that their body functions. However, what causes these changes in the first place, and how exactly these cause fibromyalgia, is still not clear.

How can it be treated?

Unfortunately, there is currently no ‘cure’ for fibromyalgia, because the cause is unknown. However, there are a number of treatments that may ease symptoms. Treatment may consist of:

  • Physiotherapy – both manual therapy and laser therapy can help reduce pain
  • Exercise – including both aerobic and strength training
  • Lifestyle changes – such as better sleeping habits and relaxation
  • Medication – such as antidepressants or painkillers

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy can help to reduce pain, relieve inflammation, and improve overall quality of life. A Physiotherapist can use a range of manual therapy techniques to relieve muscle tension and improve mobility. These treatment techniques may include massage, joint mobilisations, stretching, and acupuncture or dry needling. Your Physiotherapist can also provide a home exercise programme, and give helpful advice on managing pain.

Another treatment option available at Ratoath Physiotherapy is Class IV Laser Therapy. A number of studies have shown that laser therapy can reduce the number of tender points among fibromyalgia sufferers. Use of laser therapy has also been shown to provide significant pain relief, reduce muscle spasms, and improve mobility, thus improving overall quality of life among this population.

Exercise

Exercise may seem like a tough feat when suffering with the fatigue and tiredness associated with fibromyalgia. However, an exercise programme that is specially suited to your condition can help to manage your symptoms, as well as improve your overall health. Your Physiotherapist can work with you to design a tailored exercise programme suited to your needs.

A 2018 review of 22 studies investigated strength training as a form of treatment for those with fibromyalgia. Within the studies, sessions were generally carried out twice weekly at a low intensity initially (40% of maximum strength). Major muscle groups of the legs, back, core and arms were focused on. The main results showed a reduction in pain, fatigue, number of tender points, depression, and anxiety, with increased functional capacity and quality of life.

Aerobic exercise, including walking, cycling, and swimming has also shown similar benefits with regards pain and quality of life.  As aerobic exercises increase your endurance, these may also help you function better on a day-to-day basis. Again, these exercises do not have to be completed at a high-intensity and to start, you may find it easier doing 2-3 short walks per day instead of one long walk.

Lifestyle Changes

Fatigue is a common complaint among people with fibromyalgia. Planning your daily activities, and ensuring rest between strenuous activities can help with this. Think of your energy as a battery, and if you think your levels are low or know that you have an upcoming activity that will drain your battery then it is a good time to rest and recharge.

A vital part of managing fatigue and tiredness is ensuring a good night’s sleep. Trying to establish a routine of going to bed and getting up at the same time each day can often improve sleep. Avoid watching TV, using a phone, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake. Also try to make sure your room is a comfortable temperature, and is quiet and dark. Oftentimes, trying relaxation and breathing techniques prior to bed can help with sleep. Using meditation and mindfulness techniques can not only improve sleep but also reduce muscle tension.

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