What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic neurological condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue.
It involves a number of symptoms felt in different parts of your body. That pain does not seem to be due to any inflammation or damage but rather to an overactive pain system.
Fibromyalgia most commonly affects young to middle-aged women and its presentation is varied, often fluctuating in its clinical course.
What causes fibromyalgia?
At the moment, we don’t have a good answer to that question.
We’re still trying to understand the cause of fibromyalgia. Genetics may play a role as well as environmental triggers such as infection, psychological stress or physical trauma.
You’re at greater risk of developing fibromyalgia if you:
- Are female
- Have another condition such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
- Have a family member with fibromyalgia
- Recently had an illness or infection
- Have pain from an injury or trauma
- Have experienced emotional stress and depression.
Fibromyalgia involves significant changes in your central nervous system that amplify painful sensations.
What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia expresses itself in a range of symptoms including:
- Sleep disturbances
- Chest pain where the ribs meet the sternum
- Digestive issues – abdominal pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea
- Irritable bladder – frequency, urgency
- Generalised muscle and joint stiffness in the mornings
- Headaches or facial pain
- Jaw pain and clicking
- Upper and/or lower spine pain
- Thyroid and adrenal dysfunction
- Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
- Restless legs
- Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
- Sensitivity to loud noises or bright lights, odours, weather patterns
- Dryness of skin, eyes and mouth
- Cognitive and memory difficulties – problems concentrating, fog, memory lapses, word mix-ups when speaking or writing, difficulty getting words out, clumsiness/dropping things
- Dizziness and balance problems – difficulties in orientation when standing, driving or reading.
- Low mood (depression) or anxiety.
How is Fibromyalgia diagnosed?
There is no test for fibromyalgia though your doctor may order blood tests or X-rays to rule out other conditions.
If there’s no evidence of another condition, then your doctor may diagnose fibromyalgia based on examining you and listening to your symptoms. That’s called an ‘exclusion diagnosis’ because it’s made based on checking for and then ruling out other conditions that could explain your symptoms.
In the past, doctors would check 18 specific points on your body and diagnose fibromyalgia if at least 11 were painful when pressed firmly. The American College of Rheumatology no longer requires a tender point exam, preferring doctors to base their diagnosis on all of your relevant symptoms.
If you’re seeing a naturopath, they may recommend other tests to gain a fuller picture of your health, including:
- Biological terrain analysis
- Adrenal stress profile (including 24 hour cortical and DHEA levels)
- Thyroid profiles – T3, rT3, antithyroid antibodies
- Heavy metal analysis
- Digestive testing for SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
How do you treat fibromyalgia?
Due to its complexity, there is no single treatment for fibromyalgia. There is no cure for the condition so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms to improve your quality of life.
Your doctor may prescribe some a low-dose antidepressant to help manage your sleep and pain levels and may recommend that you see a physiotherapist for ongoing treatment.
Orthodox physiotherapy treatment consists of:
- Pain management and advice
- Prescriptive and guided exercises to tolerance levels
- Tailored home exercises for self management
- Deep tissue therapy, joint mobilisation, stretching, and pain modulation therapy.
It’s often helpful to see a dietitian too as they can advise on weight loss (if necessary) and nutrition that may help ease some symptoms, though this is the subject of ongoing research.
Alternative treatment options may include:
- Supplements – B vitamins, magnesium, selenium, vitamin C, fatty acids, vitamin D, zinc, iodine
If you’re living with fibromyalgia, it’s important to remember that it often requires a rounded approach that aims to address each potential causative factor. One person’s fibromyalgia experience and treatment may look completely different to another’s.
Why choose Sycamore Health?
At Sycamore Health, we have a special interest in pain management, meaning we’re ideally placed to help you manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Patients choose us because of our:
- Convenient location: our clinic is situated in the heart of Caboolture, a stone's throw from public transport and Morayfield Shopping Centre.
- Online booking: our online booking system is easy to navigate and lets you book your appointments at any time.
- Same-day appointments: we understand that sometimes you need to see us as soon as possible, so we reserve several appointments each day for those who require urgent assistance.
- Private treatments: to ensure you are comfortable, all treatment is provided one-on-one with your physiotherapist in private rooms.
- Range of physiotherapy approaches: our physiotherapists employ a range of approaches and services, including hands-on treatment, tailored advice, gym-based rehabilitation, and customised home exercise programs.
- Highly trained physiotherapists: our team of physiotherapists are all fully qualified and highly skilled.
- Tailored therapies: we know that your pain is unique to you, so we make sure our approach is based on your specific situation.