Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterised by the presence of chronic widespread pain and tenderness to light touch (allodynia). It occurs most commonly in females aged between 55 and 64 years. Other symptoms can include moderate to severe fatigue, needle-like tingling in the skin, prolonged muscle spasm and weakness, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic sleep disturbances. Many patients with fibromyalgia experience cognitive problems affecting concentration and memory. This is termed “brain fog” or “fibrofog”. Anxiety and depression may also be present
Although pain is the dominant feature, fibromyalgia is often referred to as Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) due to the complex nature of its presentation. FMS does not usually involve significant tissue or inflammation, but rather a heightened sensitivity in the way the brain processes a painful stimulus. This results in feeling pain when most people would only feel light touch.
FMS is difficult to diagnose. There are no blood test, x-rays or scans that will show it. The diagnosis is made on the basis of widespread pain for greater than 3 months, along with a typical pattern of ‘tender points’ in areas of the body that are normally not sore to touch. FMS does not cause lasting damage to muscles and joints. Symptoms can vary from very mild to severe and debilitating. There is no cure for FMS, but with the right approach, the syndrome can usually be well managed.
Some things that FMS sufferers can do to help manage their condition include:
Find ways to manage pain
Every person’s situation is different but working out how to best manage your pain is essential. Pain does not have to control your life. try to see pain as a signal to take positive action rather than something to be feared. Pain, stress, fatigue and depression can all interact. Chronic pain can cause anxiety and depression which further increases sensitivity to pain. Having a ‘Mind-Body’ approach is useful. Consider meditation or breathing exercises. Do things that make you feel happy and revitalized.
Exercise is important, but you need to start slowly and build up your fitness. Because FMS often comes in bouts, you need to get the right balance between activity and rest. This balance will need to change depending on how things are going at the time.
A good diet is essential. Low sugar diets are helpful, as is avoiding preservatives and additives. Coffee and alcohol should be limited. Eat a wide variety of wholesome foods including fresh fruit and vegetables. Supplements such as CoQ10, fish oil. Magnesium and Vitamin B may help some people.
Chiropractic care can be very helpful, especially with regional myofascial (muscle and connective tissue) pain and postural components commonly seen with FMS. However, FMS often requires help from more than one practitioner due to the complex nature of the problem. Addressing lifestyle factors is a critical component of long term improvement.
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