Rosemary Marchese – Physiotherapist and Schroth Physio for Scoliosis
Fibromyalgia is a painful condition that leads to pain in the muscles and bones. People often feel tired and do not sleep well. Poor sleep patterns further exacerbate the pain in people with fibromyalgia. Other common symptoms are that people feel fatigue and confused at times, and generally do not feel well.
Pain occurs when nerve signals travel from the site of body damage through your spinal cord to your brain. Pain eventually ceases for most people but not for people with fibromyalgia. In fibromyalgia there is an imbalance of messages being sent to the brain. They may have more signals carrying pain going to the brain compared to signals that are slowing pain down. This means these people often have constant pain, or minor bumps and bruises hurt a lot more than they should. Sometimes things that used to never hurt can also cause pain.
What causes fibromyalgia?
There is no complete understanding regarding the cause of fibromyalgia. It is thought that many things could cause the pain signals in the body to change. People with fibromyalgia report different things that seem to trigger their condition. It is also thought that more than one factor can cause fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is also thought to be related to other ‘sensitivity syndromes’, which may include chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome and some chemical sensitivities.
Potential causes of fibromyalgia may include:
- Genetics – it is apparent that fibromyalgia tends to run in families. There are genes that can make you sensitive to pain, while other genes that are linked to depression can also be passed on and being depressed can make the pain worse.
- Other diseases – diseases that cause pain, such as arthritis or an infectious disease, can possibly increase the chances of developing fibromyalgia.
- Emotional or physical abuse – the brain’s ability to handle pain and stress is affected by a history of emotional or physical abuse. This may increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – fibromyalgia is sometimes linked to people who have experienced a terrible trauma such as a car crash, war or physical attack.
- Gender – the condition is much more common in women than men. The reason for this is unknown, although it could be related to the differences in the way men and women react to pain, and also how we expect people to react differently to pain based on their gender.
- Lack of exercise and general movement – exercise helps to alleviate symptoms of fibromyalgia. The condition is much more common in those who are not physically active.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia are:
- Pain in lots of muscles and bones
- Difficulties sleeping
- Stiff and tender muscles and bones, which lasts longer than three months.
Other related symptoms may include:
- Anxiety, depression and emotional distress
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Pins and needles and numbness in the arms and legs.
What are the benefits of exercise for fibromyalgia?
There is no cure for fibromyalgia but reductions in some of the pain and stiffness can be achieved with a gradual introduction of exercise. A physiotherapist can design a program suitable for the individual with fibromyalgia. They will also be able to encourage healthy habits, such as setting aside plenty of time for sleep. Regular exercise reduces pain and tiredness in people with fibromyalgia. It can also help with improved sleep. Water based exercise may be a suitable place to start in people with fibromyalgia.
At Max Sports Physiotherapy Clinic we are commonly seeing active people with injuries who benefit from our holistic approach, that incorporates progressive but appropriately individualised exercise. Fibromyalgia is another condition that benefits from exercise, but it should be introduced slowly and gradually. Call our clinic if you have any further information (02)89140508.