Fibromyalgia affects approximately 2% of the population; women are 7 times more likely to be affected than men.

Fibromyalgia usually affects people from the ages of 30 to 60 years of age and then in the elderly, it may subside.

Fibromyalgia is the name given to chronic pain syndrome.  It is defined as a constant, widespread pain occurring in all 4 parts of the body and lasting for more than 3 months.

People with fibromyalgia often have increased pain following an injury and there may be a precipitating cause, such as a whiplash injury or following development of generalised pain due to arthritis.

Anyone can be affected by fibromyalgia.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is associated with points on the body which are tender to pressure and is defined as affecting 11 out of 18 pressure points. (The amount of pressure being applied is enough to make the thumbnail go white.)

Accompanying problems may include:

  • sleep disturbance with non-refreshing sleep
  • marked fatigue aggravated by exertion with slow recovery times
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • irritable bladder problems
  • submandibular jaw problems
  • generalised pain, stiffness
  • dryness of the eyes
  • headaches which may be quite severe with pain in the neck radiating to the shoulders
  • cognitive disturbances so that people complain of brain fog, difficulty concentrating and memory loss
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon with blanching of the fingers on exposure to cold

It is a disabling condition and the disability can be likened to that of people suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis. It prevents  sufferers from participating in an active life, including a social life, and they may become housebound.

Treatment of fibromyalgia

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not known.  The pathway for pain is through small fibres called C-fibres, which are also the fibres that conduct information from all surfaces of the body, whether internal or external, to the base of the brain, which is the controlling centre of the autonomic nervous system. These C-fibres conduct the information which, in the brain, is perceived as pain. The integration of information in the brainstem allows the body to respond to external information. However, it can be increased when the information is regarded as noxious and destabilises the responses in the autonomic nervous system. This is known as dysautonomia.

Using low-dose immunotherapy (LDI), dysautonomia can be reversed and controlled. Therefore very often the pain stimuli which are being accentuated can be controlled with LDI. While LDI is usually thought of as a method of allergy management, it is much more overarching than simply dealing with allergies/sensitivities.

Management of fibromyalgia needs to be with a multi-disciplinary team approach, starting with a consultation with a doctor, which includes a thorough examination to exclude other possible causes for pain, an explanation of the condition and a discussion about what treatment programme is necessary.

Pain relief is of the highest priority in the treatment programme for fibromyalgia. There are a number of drugs which can be a great deal of help.

Non-pharmacological treatments are also of benefit; some examples of these are:

  • IRATHERM®. Intense infra red sauna body-heating therapy can help to relieve the pain.
  • Advice and treatment from a qualified therapist with regard to massage, musculo-skeletal taping and exercise programmes. It is important to have exercises which help to relieve stress, improve the muscle function and increase the natural hormones within the body. It is important to have exercises which help to relieve stress, improve the muscle function and increase the natural hormones within the body.
  • A sleep evaluation can be carried out to make sure there are no abnormal sleep patterns. If a sufferer is experiencing sleep problems, advice and therapies to help can be provided.
  • People with fibromyalgia often also suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is commonly caused by food sensitivities and testing for these and provision of low-dose immunotherapy will allow the correction of specific food sensitivities, which will help to relieve pain and provide support.
  • A wide range of herbal remedies can also help. Popular herbs are ginkgo biloba, which can improve circulation, and valerian, which can help with sleep and calm the nervous system.

Costs

As you can see, there are a number of different investigations and treatments available for people with fibromyalgia and, depending which are recommended, each person’s cost of the testing and treatment will vary considerably.

After your first appointment, you will be given a details estimate, with your recommended treatment programme in detail with all the costs, which will be explained to you by your Patient Liaison Officer.

On the day of your appointment or anytime afterward, if you have any specific questions regarding tests, prices, estimates and treatment programmes, please contact Patient Liaison by phone 01442 261 333 ext 293 or email: liaison@breakspearmedical.com

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