This post is purely going to be an awareness post about Fybromalgia, which is also referred to as soft-tissue rheumatism, which is the condition I have.
What is Fibromyalgia (FM)?
Characterising FM is an ongoing difficult task for patients and practitioners alike. The definition of FM is described as a chronic non-inflammatory widespread pain of the musculoskeletal system, fatigue, and moreover, there are heightened pain responses to pressure.
Posts of others with FM diagnosis describe their pain as a throbbing, stabbing or burning diffusing sensation, that never hosts the same location. But it is always important when reading posts like this to understand although we all share the same condition, it will affect us all differently.
Personally, I’ve never listened to the online medical journals that state it affects particular “genders or ages”. I have come across a wide variety of people who claim to share this condition with me, to outweigh those statistics.
What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia (FM)?
If the definition of FM wasn’t enough, you’re going to love the symptoms. In theory, the list is essentially endless, especially when a person shares their Fibromyalgia diagnosis with another chronic pain condition, such as;
- Chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Inflammatory bowel disease.
- Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMI).
Medically speaking, I have taken to the NHS website to share the symptoms of FM.
- Widespread pain, as described previously this can be in a form of a burning, ache, stabbing pain.
- Extreme sensitivity, even the slightest touch (something that shouldn’t be painful) can present itself in the form of pain, the medical terms for these are hyperalgesia and allodynia. Furthermore, a person with FM diagnosis can be sensitive to certain foods or bright lights, thus causing their FM to flare up.
- Stiffness, this is mostly presented in the morning (after sleeping) or after staying in the same position for a period of time. Stiffness is also a huge factor towards muscle spasms.
- Fatigue is a huge factor to FM, funnily the two essentially come hand in hand, and cause one another to flare up. Due to the extreme tiredness and exhaustion fatigue can cause some FM suffers find themselves taking to their beds to catch up on sleep, thus causing stiffness and pain, thus making it difficult to get a full nights rest, annnd we’re back to fatigue. (Vicious circle, tell me about it!)
- Poor sleep quality, I believe is pretty self-explanatory.
- Cognitive problems (‘fibro-fog’), this can deeply affect mental processes, in the terms of thinking and learning; it can present itself when FM sufferers find it difficult to remember or learn new things, or when their attention span (concentration) is interfered with, lastly it can be shown in slowed or confused speech (i.e. stutter, or using randomised word use in a stringed sentence).
- Headaches, this can vary from being a mild headache to severe migraines, in some cases, it can lead to nausea.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), very common condition related to people who can have pain and be bloating in their stomachs, along with unpleasant constipation or diarrhoea.
- dizziness and clumsiness
- random changes in feeling too hot or too cold suddenly
- restless legs syndrome (the overwhelming urge to move your legs)
- tingling, numbness, prickling or burning sensations in your hands and feet, also referred to as paresthesia.
- painful periods
Causes of Fibromyalgia (FM)
To this day it is medically recorded that there is no exact cause for FM, it’s more likely that a number of factors can cause FM. Again I have taken to the NHS website to write this part.
- Abnormal pain messages, only theorised, that people with FM have developed changes in the way the central nervous system processes pain messages that are carried around the body. Maybe due to changes to chemicals in the nervous system.
- Chemical imbalances, various researchers have found FM sufferers having abnormally low levels of the hormones serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine in their brains.
- Disturbed sleeping patterns is considered a cause for FM.
- Genetics, not vastly supported, but it has been suggested by research that genetics play a small part in the development to FM.
Fibromyalgia has a strange pattern to forming after stressful events, including physical stress or emotional psychological stress, such as;
- viral infection
- giving birth
- having or aftermath of an operation
- breakdowns of relationships
- involved in abusive relationships
- death of loved ones
How Fybromalgia (FM) is diagnosed
I feel this may be the most difficult part to FM, is the initial diagnosis. It can be a tedious back and forth trips to the GP constantly describing inexplainable pains, definitely, the worst part is when you’re advised to take over the counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. But it is the GPS job to rule out any other possible conditions first, routinely checked;
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (ME)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Along with various X-rays, ultrasounds, blood tests.
Although if results show something in theses tests, people can still suffer from FM as a side effect.
Treatment of Fibromyalgia (FM)
Treatment for FM is normally down to patients preference and or GPS suggestion, due to FM showing so many different symptoms a combination of treatment is normally advised.
The first go to for treatment is normally medication, including painkillers and antidepressants.
Painkillers can vary from over the counter painkillers such as paracetamol, but personally, I’ve never spoken to an FM sufferer that finds these helpful when in pain. When these become ineffective GPs can prescribe stronger painkillers such as codeine or tramadol, but there is a lot of reluctance as they can be very addictive.
Antidepressants are used to relieve pain to FM sufferers as they boost levels of certain chemicals that carry messages to and from the brain (neurotransmitters). Antidepressants used to treat fibromyalgia include:
- tricyclic antidepressants – such as amitriptyline or nortriptyline.
- serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) – such as duloxetine and venlafaxine
- selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) – such as fluoxetine and paroxetine
Diazepam can also be prescribed to people with muscle stiffness or spasms, it also has been known to help with suffers from a disturbed sleep pattern.
Anticonvulsants (anti-seizure) medication, which is normally prescribed for epilepsy suffers has shown it can improve the symptoms associated with FM, these include gabapentin and pregabalin.
Recent studies have been looking into antipsychotic medicines, also called neuroleptics, to help with long-term pain that’s also associated with FM, it has been known to help relieve long-term pain, but its help towards FM would need further research to confirm it.
Other treatment options
This is normally when the combination of treatment comes in, some GPs can suggest extracurricular activities to help relieve pain, including;
- hydrotherapy (balneotherapy), this involves either swimming, sitting or exercising in heated / warm pools.
- tailored exercise programmes, or relaxation techniques, a good combo for this is yoga.
- sporting massages, Osteotheraphy and physiotherapy, is a professional practice that can help relieve stiffness (thus spasms) in joints and muscles.
Also seeking therapeutic help can always be rewarding for an FM sufferer, counselling isn’t always everyone’s cup of tea. But for some Fibromyalgia suffers who have had their condition brought on by trauma, psychological support can be a recommended route.
My reasoning for making such a direct information post like this is for when I start talking about my personal spoonie talks, I hope that if any confusion came to the reader in my posts it can be referred back to this.
Small disclaimer here for my header photo, this isn’t my photo, the photo along with its post can be found at @brittneyzelasco’s Instagram in the post she talks about her struggle with fibromyalgia.
Thankyou for reading.