What is fibromyalgia?
It’s a long-term condition that can cause pain as well as other symptoms. You might feel pain across your whole body, or just particular areas such as your back or neck, and it may be continuous or worse at certain times. It could be an ache, a burning feeling or a sharp pain.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
These can be varied for different people, but may include:
- Increased sensitivity to pain
- Trouble sleeping
- Stiff muscles
- Extreme tiredness
- Memory problems or brain ‘fog’
- Dizziness and clumsiness
- Feeling too hot or cold
- Restless legs
- Pins and needles in hands and feet
- Painful periods
- Anxiety or depression
The typical tender points of fibromyalgia sufferers can be seen here:
What are the causes?
The cause of fibromyalgia isn’t entirely clear, but it’s thought to be related to the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, and the way your nervous system processes pain messages. It is thought to be inherited.
It can be triggered by physically or emotionally stressful events. It might also be that you have a sensitivity to smoke, certain foods and bright lights, which may cause your symptoms to flare up.
It can happen to anyone of any age, although it’s most common in aged 30-50.
Is there a test?
There’s no specific test for fibromyalgia, making it tricky to diagnose. It’s thought that one in 20 people may suffer from it.
What treatment is available?
There’s no cure for the condition but you can seek help from the GP. Treatments generally combine medication (antidepressants or painkillers), therapy and lifestyle changes. Exercise in particular can have a big impact on pain reduction. Find more information on self-help for fibromyalgia here.
Can changing your diet help?
There are no particular foods which have been found to help symptoms, but you might like to keep a food diary and see if anything makes your symptoms better or worse. As always, having a healthy, balanced diet with limited salt and sugar is a good idea for improved health. It’s sensible to eat plenty of wholesome, energy-boosting foods too, to help stop you feeling tired. Things like broccoli, tofu, oatmeal, beans and wholegrain bread will you’re your energy up.
There is some evidence that eating a vegetarian or vegan diet may help with pain too.
Keeping your weight under control through diet and exercise will help with your pain, sleep and reduce your tender points, according to a study of fibromyalgia patients.
Find a support group
Visit Fibromyalgia Action UK for support and advice.
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