What You Need to Know
Fibromyalgia key facts
Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term, incurable condition that causes pain all over the body. The pain can range from a mild achiness to an intense and almost unbearable discomfort. Its severity could dictate how well you cope day to day.
This condition can be hard to understand, even for healthcare workers. Its symptoms mimic those of other conditions, and there aren’t any real tests to confirm the diagnosis. As a result, it normally takes a long process of elimination before diagnosis or fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia - As well as widespread pain, people with fibromyalgia may also have:
increased sensitivity to pain
extreme tiredness (fatigue)
problems with mental processes (known as "fibro-fog"), such as problems with memory and concentration
Headaches - migraines
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating
What causes fibromyalgia? - The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it's thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes pain messages carried around the body.
Who's affected? - Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although it affects around 7 times as many women as men. The condition typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but can occur in people of any age, including children and the elderly. It's not clear exactly how many people are affected by fibromyalgia, although research has suggested it could be a relatively common condition. Some estimates suggest nearly 1 in 20 people may be affected by fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia fog - also known as “fibro fog” or “brain fog” – is a term some people use to describe the fuzzy feeling they get. Signs of fibro fog include:
trouble staying alert
Living with fibromyalgia - Your quality of life can be affected when you live with pain, fatigue, and other symptoms on a daily basis. Complicating things are the misunderstandings many people have about fibromyalgia; because your symptoms are hard to see, it’s easy for those around you to dismiss your pain as imaginary.
Know that your condition is real. Be persistent in your pursuit of a treatment that works for you. You may need to try more than one therapy, or use a few techniques in combination, before you start to feel better
If you have fibromyalgia, it's important to pace yourself. This means balancing periods of activity with periods of rest, and not overdoing it or pushing yourself beyond your limits.
If you do not pace yourself, it could slow down your progress in the long term.
Over time, you can gradually increase your periods of activity while making sure they're balanced with periods of rest.
If you have fibromyalgia, you'll probably have some days when your symptoms are better than others.
Try to maintain a steady level of activity without overdoing it, but listen to your body and rest whenever you need to.
Avoid any exercise or activity that pushes you too hard as this can make your symptoms worse.
If you pace your activities at a level that's right for you, rather than trying to do as much as possible in a short space of time, you should make steady progress.
Many people with fibromyalgia find that support groups provide an important network where they can talk to others living with the condition.
Fibromyalgia Action UK is a charity that offers information and support to people with fibromyalgia.