Fibromyalgia syndrome – Fibro = fibrous, my = muscle, algia = pain – also known as FM/S, is a complex condition that affects approximately 1 in 25 people. FM is one of the most common chronic pain conditions affecting an estimated 10 million people. 

While 75-90% of those affected are women, Fibromyalgia can occur in men and children of all ethnic groups. (1)

Living with Fibromyalgia

When diagnosed with FMS, it’s important to remember that everyone’s journey and body is different. However, it is not uncommon for a person to have both FM and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Some experts believe that FM and CFS are in fact the same disorder, but expressed in slightly different ways. Both CFS and FM have pain and fatigue as key symptoms. 

Managing FM, as well as overlapping conditions, requires a full-time commitment. Changes must be made, some minor and some major, in order to manage the symptoms of Fibromyalgia and minimize the factors that exacerbate them. Please remember your doctor and healthcare professional can help you understand your specific condition, and if you also suffer from CFS, they can help you find the best ways for you to deal with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Causes and symptoms of Fibromyalgia

This chronic disorder is typically characterised by pain and tenderness in multiple muscle points around the body coupled with extreme fatigue. There is a whole range of other symptoms associated with FM such as headaches, irritable bladder and irritable bowel syndrome, pins and needles, depression and anxiety, all of which affect each patient differently.

As yet, there is no cure for Fibromyalgia and no direct tests that are able to diagnose it – which is part of the challenge.

However, it’s important to work closely with your Doctor as they can spot your specific symptoms, make a diagnosis early, and ensure to exclude all other possible causes (as there are other conditions with similar features that can masquerade as FMS). For your Doctor, it is crucial that they understand the impact it has on your life and what personal goals are best for your treatment.

Coping tips to ease Fibromyalgia pain

Coping tips to ease Fibromyalgia pain, fatigue, and stress 

1. Gather a team of professionals you trust

Identify a healthcare professional (Doctor, Physio, etc) with whom you have a good relationship, as this can aid in your recovery process when dealing with Fibromyalgia. FMS is a complex condition and one of the key determinants of how successful a treatment plan is likely to be is the relationship you have with the health professionals involved in your care. There is evidence that patients with FMS are more satisfied with their treatment when their health care provider has a good understanding of the condition.

2. Keep moving and stay active

The mainstay of treatments for FMS are in fact non-pharmacological, and the strongest evidence is for physical exercise. This can be challenging for people who suffer from FMS so some education and guidance from your Doctor or Physiotherapist around this can be helpful. Regular, low-intensity exercise, such as walking or doing exercise in warm water, are some of the best treatments for Fibromyalgia. They are shown to lessen pain, stiffness, and stress associated with the condition and can help promote better sleep. The aim is to try to look at ways to maintain your physical activity as it both indirectly and directly can improve your physical wellbeing and stress-related symptoms.

3. Consider Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

Consider the important role of Psychotherapy in the long-term management of your condition – anybody suffering with a chronic condition can benefit from this and evidence suggests that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) lends itself well to the successful management of FM symptoms. (2) This can be approached in several ways – through books, webinars, or one-on-one with a personal therapist who can support your recovery and symptom control. 

4. Stress less

Stress is a well-documented trigger for symptoms of FMS in sufferers. Looking at ways to actively manage stress and stressors is crucial in supporting patients manage their symptoms. Research suggests there is good evidence for the role of mindfulness meditation, but yoga, relaxation breathing techniques, and partaking in select social activities can all help de-stress and can lessen the symptoms of FMS for some people. (3) 

5. Talk to your boss and colleagues

Help them to understand the condition better and signpost them to useful forums and resources. If the type of work you do or the way in which you do it is exacerbating your symptoms, then perhaps you can explore a flexible plan that works for you and your organisation. At the office, make sure your workspace is modified for comfort and easy accessibility. A telephone headset, keyboard tray, or other ergonomic products may help put less strain on your body. Occupational health advisors can support you.

6. Be aware of tablet trends

There is a role for medicines and pharmacological agents to treat some of the symptoms such as pain, insomnia, and low mood that can be associated with FM, but some have side effects and although have a place in the treatment pathways, they should be considered carefully alongside the advice of your team of healthcare professionals. Always consult your Doctor before taking any medication.

7. Seek out support groups and charities

Support groups can play an important part in the lives of people with a chronic illness as they offer a safe place to talk with others who may share similar symptoms, frustrations, and concerns. Support groups can provide emotional support, information, and tips for coping.

Remember, you are not alone, and you can manage your journey in the best way possible.


READ NEXT: Tried and tested remedies and products to help you manage Fibromyalgia.


References:

1. www.fmaware.org/about-fibromyalgia/prevalence/
2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3334632/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5693231/

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