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Fibromyalgia

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Introduction

Fibromyalgia is a persistent pain disorder that is characterised by pain affecting multiple areas of the body. 

Signs & Symptoms

  • Fatigue.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Poor sleep quality.
  • Stiffness.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome.
  • A general increased sensitivity to pain. 

Causes

Although the cause is unknown, it is thought to be down to the brain unable to switch off pain signals so the pain experienced is often referred to as ‘unhelpful pain’.

Assessment & Diagnosis

There is no clear diagnostic test for Fibromyalgia. The 18 pain point test has been used previously to help determine if a patients pain is indicative of this condition but this has shown to not be wholly reliable for diagnosing Fibromyalgia (Harden et al., 2007). Blood tests have shown to not be effective for diagnosing Fibromyalgia, although work is ongoing to improve this. 

 

A Physiotherapy assessment will allow a musculoskeletal specialist to obtain a greater understanding of your symptoms and perform a physical examination so they can assessment your capabilities and limitations. Through knowing about your challenges, they can help you create individuals goals to help direct your treatment and management. We provide regular re-assessment to assess for progress and make adjustments to your treatment so that it remains effective, helping to achieve optimal outcomes.

Self-Management

Self-management is often focused on alleviating a combination of the symptoms outlined above. Your Physiotherapist can offer advice on useful strategies to help control your symptoms including medication to help manage your pain, talking therapies to help with coping strategies, pacing skills and activity modification techniques, helping you to maintain your quality of life.

Physiotherapy

Exercise is a key component of Fibromyalgia management and whilst there is no evidence that Fibromyalgia worsens with age, factors such as strength, flexibility and mobility do deteriorate with age if we do not exercise. Often patients with Fibromyalgia are unable to tolerate high intensity exercise but respond well to low to moderate intensity exercise and similar to conditions such as osteoarthritis, may need to incorporate some breaks into their exercise. Your Physio can use their expert knowledge and skills to create a bespoke exercise plan for you. 

 

Your Physiotherapist may also suggest other treatment modalities along side exercise such as manual therapy or acupuncture to help with some of the pain symptoms.  

Resources

Many people with Fibromyalgia find that support groups provide an important network where they can talk to others living with the condition. 

 

Fibromyalgia Action UK is a charity that offers information and support to people with Fibromyalgia. If you have any questions about the condition, call the charity’s helpline on 0300 999 3333. The charity also has a network of local support groups  you may find helpful and an online community, where you can find out about news, events and ongoing research into the condition. 

 

Another support group you may find useful is UK Fibromyalgia. 

 

www.nhs.uk/conditions/Fibromyalgia/  

References

Hackshaw, K.V., Aykas, D.P., Sigurdson, G.T., Plans, M., Madiai, F., Yu, L., Buffington, C.A., Giusti, M.M. and Rodriguez-Saona, L. (2019). Metabolic fingerprinting for diagnosis of fibromyalgia and other rheumatologic disorders. Journal of Biological Chemistry294(7), 2555-2568.

 

Harden, R. N., Revivo, G., Song, S., Nampiaparampil, D., Golden, G., Kirincic, M. & Houle, T. T. (2007). A critical analysis of the tender points in fibromyalgia. Pain medicine, 8(2), 147-156.

 

Okifuji, A. & Hare, B. D. (2013). Management of fibromyalgia syndrome: review of evidence. Pain and therapy, 2(2), 87-104.

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