What is fibromyalgia?
The word fibromyalgia means pain (algia) coming from the muscles (my) and fibrous tissues (fibro) such as tendons and ligaments.
What causes fibromyalgia?
The cause of fibromyalgia is not known. However, research has shown that people with fibromyalgia have certain subtle changes in some chemicals in the brain and nervous system. For example, there seems to be a minor change in the level of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. These are the chemicals responsible for transmitting messages between nerves and between brain cells. Research studies have also shown that people with fibromyalgia tend to have an increased amount of a chemical called substance P in the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord (the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)). This substance may be involved in the way pain messages are transmitted.
A current main theory is that people with fibromyalgia have an oversensitivity to pain signals in the brain. This is called central sensitisation. This may be due to various minor changes in brain chemicals. What triggers or causes these changes is not known.
Who gets fibromyalgia?
About 1 in 25 people develop fibromyalgia at some stage. It is seven times more common in women than in men. In most cases it first develops between the ages of 25 and 55. It is less common in younger adults, and is uncommon in children.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
The main symptoms are pains felt in many areas of the body, and tiredness (fatigue). Some people also develop other symptoms. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person.
Also, there are a number of other conditions that often occur at the same time as fibromyalgia. As a consequence, quite a number of other symptoms may occur in people with fibromyalgia. The following are perhaps the most common, but it is not an exhaustive list of every possible symptom that may occur:
- Headaches are common.
- Irritable bladder is common – you may need to go to the toilet more frequently than usual.
- Irritable bowel syndrome occurs commonly in people with fibromyalgia – with tummy (abdominal) pains, sometimes with diarrhoea, constipation or bloating.
- Painful periods occur in some women with fibromyalgia.
- Pins and needles in fingers and/or toes.
- Some people describe a feeling as if their hands or feet are swollen (although they are not actually swollen).
- Depression or anxiety develops in some people. It is not clear whether these are part of FMS, or develop as a result of having this condition.
- Some people with fibromyalgia also have chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME).
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia is usually diagnosed by the typical symptoms and a doctor’s examination.
To make a firm diagnosis, symptoms should include widespread pain involving both sides of the body, above and below the waist, as well as the neck, back and pelvis, and have been present for at least three months.
A doctor’s examination will find tenderness in various parts of the body. During the examination a doctor may press firmly with a thumb on various parts of your body. The amount of pressure used does not cause pain in people without fibromyalgia. However, the pressure typically causes people with fibromyalgia to wince with pain. The increased sensitivity to pressure (being tender to mild pressure) can be in many places in the body, and may be all over. However, a doctor may press on certain specific sites (as shown in the diagram). These sites are generally fairly sensitive areas and the easiest to check for tenderness which is typical in people with fibromyalgia.
Apart from finding areas of tenderness, the examination by a doctor will usually find no other abnormality. There is no laboratory test that confirms the condition. However, tests are advised in some cases to rule out other diseases that can cause similar symptoms. For example, your doctor may do some blood tests to rule out an underactive thyroid, early arthritis, etc.
Bournemouth Acupuncture has great success and years of experience in the treatment of Fibromyalgia. We recognize that every set of symptoms are slightly different and make a specific treatment plan for each individual. We deal with the pain quickly, giving relief almost instantly. At the same time the internal causes and other symptoms are addressed to get the patient back to full health as quickly as possible.