Fibromyalgia (FM) or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a medical condition that causes widespread long term pain in your entire body.
Other common symptoms are the following: muscle stiffness, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, headaches, increased sensitivity to pain, irritable bowel syndrome and problems with mental processes like concentration and memory. It is estimated that around 5 million people are affected in the United States alone.
The cause is unknown, but most scientists believe that it is inherited genetics or a big negative life event that leads to fibromyalgia.
Examples may include an accident, infection, emotional stress, trauma or autoimmune disorders – especially when they lead to a physical and/or emotional suffering.
Studies also underline the existence of improper levels of chemicals in the brain which results in processing pain by the central nervous system differently from healthy people.
Unsure causes however can be balanced by certain helpful advice. Unfortunately, there is no cure currently available, but there is help available from various sources.
Always remember that you are not on your own and help is available from a variety of resources. You can find a summary of these below:
One of the most important and often under-estimated sources is you yourself. The list of hints and tips is endless about how you can make small adjustments in your life to make it easier for you live with fibromyalgia.
Life-style changes are recommended on a few different aspects of your life. It is highly advised that you follow these in order to get through your daily routine easier:
- Finding your limits, know and accept what you are able to do (and what you are not)
- Modify your tasks and activities to suit your needs, find alternative ways and methods
- Apply routine and schedule to your day, and plan your daily/weekly activities and commitments in advance
- Exercise is very important – simple stretches, walking, pilates, yoga, or water-based low-impact exercise, like hydro-therapy session
- Pay attention to you sleep quality and patterns – Find relaxation techniques to help you ease into sleep
Help from others
You should always remember that other people are out there to help you if you need. This include friends, family, neighbors; those that are near you and know you well. Don’t be afraid of asking them for help with your daily routine and difficulties.
Your doctor should be your first contact if you experience this condition. They will be able to consult and give advice, and also suggest the next steps available for you best suited to your circumstances. They may refer you to some specialists, as below:
Rheumatologist and physiotherapist – their specialist field is muscles and joints. As regular exercise and movements have positive effects easing stiffness and muscle pain, you could benefit from regular sessions from a physiotherapist or rheumatologist.
Psychologist – a professional who specializes in mental health and psychological treatments. They can help you with understanding your thoughts and feelings.
Neurologist – who specializes in the central nervous system
Support groups and counselling
Many fibromyalgia-suffering people find that support groups are an invaluable source of advice. What is more, this provides a network of people – with individuals who are going through the same experience as you and equally importantly, support workers who help people like you regularly.
You can ask any questions you might have from people who most likely know the answers first hand. They are likely to have regular meetings, so become a member and add the session into your planned out weekly schedule.
One of the most often recommended therapy is the so-called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). It is a talking therapy which helps you set a healthier mindset to deal with your situation.
It aims for you to find a positive response to your thoughts and feelings by approaching things more positively.
Organizations, charities and online resources
There are official membership associations and organizations established with the prime objective of helping with people suffering from symptoms of fibromyalgia. There are also charities in place to support people with this condition.
Organizations that you may like to seek out for information and resources are The National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) in the United States or the Fibromyalgia Action UK and UK Fibromyalgia in Great Britain.
There are a number of online forums and supporting resources available also for and sometimes from patients. Some examples include Livingwithfibro.org or Fibrocenter.com.
People suffering from Fibromyalgia usually find that medication is part of the mix of treatment that is prescribed for them.
There are a few different types, to be summarized below. Careful warning must be given however when considering medications.
To assess what is the best help for your needs and considering possible side effects; always consult with the doctor before starting to take any of these.
Painkillers: Over-the-counter painkillers – like paracetamol or ibuprofen – may help some patients, but may not work for everyone. You may experience that your dose gradually need to be increased to feel continued improvement, or withdrawal symptom may represent itself if you stop taking them.
Antidepressants: these may also need to be used to release pain. Antidepressants work in a way to increase the level of chemicals in the brain, those that have less of compared to healthy people.
Muscle relaxants: Other types of medication are used to help with muscle stiffness and spasms, which are one of the fundamental symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Sleeping aids: As the illness affect your sleeping ability and patterns, medication to help with your sleep is often brought to your assistance.
Anticonvulsants: these can be also effective for those with fibromyalgia.
Antipsychotics or neuroleptics: These can help relieve long-term pain.
Benefits are not scientifically proven and may not be guaranteed for long-term health improvements, but some patients try complementary and alternative treatment methods as well to make fibromyalgia more manageable for them. These include:
- massage sessions by a specialist
- aromatherapy and herbal remedies
Fibromyalgia showcases multiple symptoms in most cases; so as a result, no treatment would be able to treat all of them.
Typically, a mixture of medication, self-help and external help is required, including life-style changes; and the sources where you can find useful information about fibromyalgia are plentiful.
What works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for another patient. So keep your doctor and network close and ensure you don’t hesitate to ask for help. The support is out there, but you need to be open to take it.