Fibromyalgia is a persistent pain disorder that is characterised by pain affecting multiple areas of the body. 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’.
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.
Treatment is often focused on alleviating a combination of the symptoms outlined above. This may include medication to help manage your pain, talking therapies to help with coping strategies & managing your symptoms and graded exercise.
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 Physiotherapist may also suggest other treatment modalities along side exercise such as manual therapy or acupuncture to help with some of the pain symptoms.
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.
Hackshaw, K. V., Aykas, D. P., Sigurdson, G. T., Plans, M., Madiai, F., Yu, L., … & Rodriguez-Saona, L. (2019). Metabolic fingerprinting for diagnosis of fibromyalgia and other rheumatologic disorders. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 294(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.