What is Fibromyalgia?

The word fibromyalgia means pain (algia), stiffness and tenderness experienced in the muscles (my), joints and tendons / fibrous tissues (fibro) of the body. Fibromyalgia is also characterised by chronic tiredness and lack of energy. Despite the significant and disabling pain in certain areas of the body there is no development of tissue damage or deformity and there is no inflammation within the painful tissues involved. There is also no damage caused to the internal body organs as a result of fibromyalgia.

What causes Fibromyalgia?

The cause of fibromyalgia is fairly unknown but is often put down to a combination of physical and mental factors. Pain that is experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers is unlike common pain that is felt after a particular stimulus such as trauma. However, it is believed that fibromyalgia may be caused by subtle changes in certain chemicals in the brain and nervous system. People with fibromyalgia have shown an increased amount of the chemical called substance P in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord known as cerebrospinal fluid (CF). There have also been signs of increased nerve growth factor and decreased levels of serotonin in fibromyalgia patients. These alterations in chemical levels within the brain and spinal cord have been thought to interfere with the way pain messages are transmitted between the brain and the nervous system resulting in abnormalities of how pain is experienced.

A further cause of fibromyalgia includes the theory that people with fibromyalgia have an oversensitivity to pain signals in the brain or an abnormal perception of pain which again may be a result of minor chemical changes in the brain. Additionally, it is thought that fibromyalgia sufferers are victims of abnormal sleep patterns and have an impaired non-rapid-eye-movement phase which can explain the exhaustion and fatigue. Further associations have been made with psychological distress, trauma and infection as contributors to the onset of fibromyalgia.

What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

The main symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic pain in any area of the body although the most common places are the neck and back. However, as mentioned before the pain associated with fibromyalgia is not caused by tissue damage or inflammation nor is it a result of injury. The pain may be characterised by an aching, burning sensation in the affected areas. The affected body part may also feel especially tender at even the lightest of touch and the pain can be made worse by stress or activity

Another primary symptom of fibromyalgia is persistent and severe fatigue, lack of energy and muscular fatigue. This can also be accompanied by a poor sleep pattern and fibromyalgia sufferers may wake un-refreshed and feeling exhausted. Small amounts of activity may aggravate the fatigue and it can affect concentration. This fatigue can make everyday activities very difficult to carry out.

Other symptoms of fibromyalgia may include:

  • Headaches

  • Pins and needles

  • Disturbed sleep

  • Irritable bowel – diarrhoea or constipation and nausea

  • Cognitive problems – reduced concentration, memory problems and communication difficulties

  • Dizziness

  • Sensitivity to lights, noise, smoke and changes in weather

  • Clumsiness

  • Stress, depression or anxiety

  • Reduced fitness as a result of the decrease in activity

Symptoms can vary significantly in characteristics and severity among sufferers and some people may develop other unrelated symptoms. Some fibromyalgia patients may also suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome / myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS / ME).

What physiotherapy treatments will I receive for Fibromyalgia?

Physiotherapy is an effective method of treatment that will help relieve some of the symptoms you are experiencing as a result of fibromyalgia. The main aims of physiotherapy in the treatment of fibromyalgia are to reduce your pain and stiffness using a combination of strategies. Other goals include the reduction of muscle spasms, increase energy levels, improve pain management and improve sleep patterns. Specialist physiotherapist at will provide you with a thorough assessment and comprehensive treatment plan that is specific to you. Your physiotherapy will include:

The success of your physiotherapy course with ABC Physiotherapy will depend on your commitment and adherence to the treatment and advice provided.