Fibromyalgia is a term that relates to a set of symptoms which typically includes widespread body pain (usually neck, shoulders, back and pelvis but can also involve the limbs as well as headaches). It is also usually associated with a feeling of muscle tension, touch tenderness of the muscles, and feelings of fatigue and sleep disturbance. This may also be associated with symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, stomach pain, period pain and depressed mood. The symptoms of fibromyalgia can be very distressing and debilitating.
- How common is it?
- Fibromyalgia risk factors
- Myths & facts about fibromyalgia
- Approaching fibromyalgia
- Assessing fibromyalgia
- Treating fibromyalgia
How common is it?
What are the risk factors?
There is a lot of research that suggests a combination of genetic and environmental factors increase people’s risk of fibromyalgia.
Genetic factors relate to hypersensitivity of the nervous system to stress. Meaning that the person’s system becomes more likely to operate in ‘fight or flight’ mode. Environmental factors include early life stress events, sustained periods of stress, poor sleep quality or quantity, inactivity or over activity and feeling run down and exhausted.
Over time these factors can result in changes to the nervous system and immune system resulting in widespread sensitivity to touch and movement, as well as a range of other symptoms such as feeling fatigued.
Myths about fibromyalgia
✖ Fibromyalgia means the structures of the body are damaged and need scanning
✖ The painful structures associated with fibromyalgia need specific treatment
✖ If exercise and movement is painful it should be avoided
✖ The body needs extra protection when it is so sensitive
✖ It is important to rest if you feel tired
✖ Massage, needling and spine manipulation are effective treatments for fibromyalgia
✖ Surgery and injections are needed with fibromyalgia
✖ There is very little treatment for fibromyalgia
✖ Once a person has a diagnosis of fibromyalgia it is for life
Facts about fibromyalgia
✔ Fibromyalgia means the structures of the body are sensitive but not damaged and scanning is rarely helpful
✔ The painful structures associated with Fibromyalgia are related to widespread changes within the nervous system and so treating specific structures does not provide any long-term benefits
✔ Even though exercise and movement are often painful, engaging with exercise gradually and frequently reduces the symptoms over time
✔ Developing consistent and healthy sleep habits is a key aspect of treatment
✔ Learning to manage stress and practicing relaxation techniques / meditating can help calm the nervous system
Many of our physiotherapists at Body Logic Physiotherapy are skilled in managing people with Fibromyalgia.
Assessment of fibromyalgia
We will explore many aspects such as your sleep patterns, activity levels, your energy levels and the way you respond to stress. Identifying triggers that are both physical as well as non-physical is key to understanding and managing your condition.
We will also screen you for other causes for your pain.
We will then perform a comprehensive examination.
This includes assessment of: the sensitivity of the muscles and joints to touch, move and load; the mobility of your spine and joints; the strength and endurance of the hip muscles. We will also assess whether you are able to relax your body and your breathing patterns.
Treatment of fibromyalgia
It’s very important to understand that the pain associated with Fibromyalgia is not related to any specific injury or tissue damage. Therefore, while treating specific tissues may give short-term pain relief, it doesn’t provide long-term benefits.
Our physiotherapists at Body Logic Physiotherapy play a very important role in the treatment of Fibromyalgia.
This includes educating you regarding the key factors linked to your symptoms, and helping you understand your condition.
Coaching you in body relaxation. Relaxed breathing techniques, and relaxed postures and movement can help to calm the nervous system and take it out of a ‘fight or flight’ pattern.
Sleep rehabilitation is also very important. This may involve setting regular sleep times, relaxation techniques, and reducing stimulants.
Graded physical activity is a key aspect of treatment. Physical activity needs to start slowly and build up over-time. We will personalise a program for you based on your fitness and symptom severity and sensitivity. It is important not to let symptoms dictate levels of activity as it can lead to a cycle of boom-bust – over and under activity which can exacerbate symptoms.
A long-term plan is the key to controlling this problem. This process may take 6-10 sessions over 3 months.
We also work with your doctor and/or a clinical psychologist if additional care is needed.
Follow-up consultations may be needed during pain exacerbations, which are common. When pain exacerbations happen, it is important to learn to detect and manage these events to get back on track.
For more information on Fibromyalgia, or for anything else, get in touch with our friendly team today!