Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition in which people describe symptoms that include widespread pain and tenderness in the body, often accompanied by fatigue, cognitive disturbance and emotional distress.

Fibromyalgia affects two to five per cent of the population, mainly women, although men and adolescents can also develop the condition. It tends to develop during adulthood.

Symptoms

It is important to remember that each person with fibromyalgia will have their own unique set of symptoms. They can be mild to severe. Symptoms may disappear for extended periods of time, sometimes even years. Some people have pain every day, or experience variations between these two extremes.

People with fibromyalgia have other differing symptoms, such as irritable bowel syndrome, lack of or disturbed sleep, irritable or overactive bladder, fatigue, headaches, and swelling and numbness or tingling in the arms and legs. Living with ongoing pain and fatigue often leads to secondary problems such as anxiety and depression. As mentioned earlier, symptoms vary from patient to patient.

Diagnosis

People with fibromyalgia often see many doctors before being diagnosed. One reason for this may be that pain and fatigue, the main symptoms of fibromyalgia, also are symptoms of many other conditions. Therefore, doctors often must rule out other possible causes of these symptoms before diagnosing fibromyalgia. (Fibromyalgia cannot be found by a lab test. It is a diagnosis by exclusion of other conditions.)

Treatment

The treatment is focused towards symptomatic relief. Effective management starts with a correct diagnosis. A management program should then be designed to meet each case.

Management will involve a combination of:

  • Education – people need to understand the condition to decide which management approach will help.
  • Medication – medication may be used to manage pain, reduce stress or promote sleep.
  • Exercise – gentle exercises, such as walking, tai chi or water-based exercise, can help to manage symptoms such as pain, fatigue and lack of sleep.
  • Stress management and relaxation – stress may aggravate symptoms. Skills that can help manage stress include planning, relaxation, assertiveness and emotional management.
  • Balancing rest and activity – plan your activities to make the most of your energy by alternating periods of activity with rest. Over-exertion aggravates the condition.
  • Massage – this can aid muscle relaxation and stress management.
  • Nutrition – eating a balanced diet can help provide you with energy levels, weight management, and give you a better sense of wellbeing.