Fibromyalgia is a syndrome characterised by widespread, persistent pain, which is accompanied by several other chronic diseases that can severely impact a person’s daily life. It is not just one condition but a complex syndrome that involves many different factors.
Statistics show that Fibromyalgia affects 2-5% of the population. It affects women more than men, and tends to develop around middle adulthood.
Many people who have Fibromyalgia describe symptoms including widespread pain and tenderness, which can be coincide with fatigue, cognitive disturbance (affecting memory and concentration) and emotional distress. It is important to note that symptoms vary from person to person.
What causes fibromyalgia is unknown and still being researched. However, there are some potential risk factors which have been found to be associated with the condition. These include;
- Family history of the condition
- Stressful and/or traumatic events
- Musculoskeletal injury
- Infection: Several infections may be associated with the onset of fibromyalgia, including, Hepatitis C and Lyme disease
- Disease: The presence of autoimmune disorders such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus.
Fibromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose as it does not cause any inflammation or damage. Therefore there are no specific blood tests or scans that can test for Fibromyalgia. A diagnosis of Fibromyalgia is generally made based upon the patients’ symptoms and the results of a physical examination, while ruling out other similar conditions. On average, it can take up to 5 years from the time a person begins experiencing symptoms to the time they are diagnosed.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but the symptoms can be managed using various strategies. Generally, management of the condition will involve a combination of the following.
- Education – people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia need to understand the condition to be able to identify the management strategies best suited to them.
- Exercise – a gentle aerobic exercise program, such as walking, tai chi, pilates or water-based exercise can help manage symptoms. But it will be important to balance rest and activity.
- Medication – In some cases a GP may prescribe medications such as an antidepressant to help normalise chemical imbalances and also improve pain and sleeping patterns.
- Stress Management
- Nutrition – eating a balanced diet can help with energy levels, and help main your weight.
- Support from others – there are various support groups within Sydney, including Arthritis & Osteoporosis NSW.
Take Home Message
Fibromyalgia is complex condition in which people describe widespread pain and tenderness. Although there is no cure for Fibromyalgia, the symptoms can be managed by adopting a multi-modal approach. If you have any concerns or have some specific questions regarding your condition, please ask your Physiotherapist.