Taking Control of Fibromyalgia

Identifying fibromyalgia can be a difficult process. Once diagnosed, sufferers may be able to manage the disease through self-help techniques and treatments

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can involve pain all over the body and heightened pain response to pressure. Other symptoms may include muscle spasms, muscle stiffness, fatigue, severe headaches, tingling and numbness in the extremities, hypersensitivity to noise and temperature and memory difficulties. Some sufferers even show signs of restless leg syndrome (an abnormality in the nervous system causing legs to move uncontrollably) and slowed mental processing (also known as ‘fibro fog’). Fibromyalgia can sometimes lead to other conditions such as depression, anxiety or irritable bowel syndrome. Recently it was revealed that Lady Gaga suffers with fibromyalgia, and her fans saw the pain she faces in her Netflix documentary, GAGA: Five Foot Two.


A great deal of uncertainty surrounds the subject of what causes fibromyalgia, although it is believed to be—in part—due to genetic and environmental factors. Links have also been made between fibromyalgia and abnormally low levels of certain hormones in the brain such as serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine. These aid the regulation of mood, appetite, sleep and behavioural response. Hormonal imbalances in the body’s nervous system could therefore explain why fibromyalgia causes feelings of extreme sensitivity to pain. 


Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be difficult because symptoms are notoriously varied; this means it can resemble several other ailments. Associated conditions include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. There is no definitive test to detect fibromyalgia; your doctor may arrange a blood test to eliminate other suspected conditions. Your physician will conduct a comprehensive examination alongside a thorough investigation into family history. 

Effective treatments

While there is no definitive cure, there are treatments that can alleviate symptoms and drastically improve sufferers’ quality of life. Because of the varied nature of the condition, treatment strategies will be based on your personal symptoms and needs. You may require several specialised physicians to create a treatment plan for you—a rheumatologist, psychologist and neurologist being the most essential. 

Your medical team may also suggest some methods of self-help. Exercise is especially recommended for maintaining your overall health and alleviating symptoms; if high-intensity workouts are too strenuous, try brisk walking. Resistance and strength training can also be hugely beneficial, although you will need to follow a personalised plan to avoid injury to your muscles. Your medical specialists may also suggest some relaxation tips, sleeping advice and other coping mechanisms to make the condition more manageable.

Suffering from fibromyalgia can feel like a constant battle, but you aren’t alone. Seek out a local support group or join a forum—visit fmauk.org

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