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Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is an illness that causes pain in muscles throughout the body. The pain is usually accompanied by fatigue and difficulties sleeping.

  1. Induces pain and tenderness in the muscles
  2. Exact cause is unknown, but may relate to central nervous system
  3. Some treatments can alleviate symptoms

Our doctors are available to speak to online about fibromyalgia, whether you think you may be experiencing symptoms for the first time, or if you have already received a diagnosis and want to talk to someone about our treatment. Click below to book an appointment at a time that’s convenient for you.

Fibromyalgia
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Description

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain in various parts of the body. The term literally means a pain (algia) that originates in the muscles (my) and fibres (fibro). Fibromyalgia affects muscles, ligaments and tendons, but does not affect any of the joints. It’s a chronic condition that is incurable, so treatment options focus on reducing the pain.

It’s not yet clear why some people get fibromyalgia or what causes it. It is thought that the cause of fibromyalgia is linked to pain receptors in the central nervous system. Several theories have been posited. Changes in the neurotransmitters over time could make pain signals greater, resulting in the creation of pain signals when no injury is present, and causing pain and tenderness in the muscles.

Some research has suggested that hormones may also play a part. Studies have shown that people with the condition have low levels of dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin, and these are known to be involved with the function of pain receptors.

There is often some confusion in terms of understanding fibromyalgia, some people uphold that it’s a condition which is purely psychological, and does not constitute real pain as such, which isn’t the case. Contrary to the occasionally-held misconception, people with fibromyalgia do not have a ‘lower pain threshold’.

Fibromyalgia is a relatively common condition worldwide amongst all ethnic groups. According to the NHS, it’s thought to affect up to 5 percent of the population in some form. It’s also more commonly diagnosed in women than men.

Most people with fibromyalgia develop it in adulthood, between the ages of 30 and 50. However, it is not uncommon for someone to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia having experienced symptoms since childhood. A first-degree relative of someone with fibromyalgia is thought to be more likely to develop the condition.

Fibromyalgia has no significant physical complications, but it can be a distressing condition if treatment is ineffective. Remissions and exacerbated pain can be expected to fluctuate over time. Although it is a chronic condition, following an exercise plan and sleeping well will improve symptoms over time. Treatment options consist of prescription pain relief and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Our video consultation facility enables you to talk to a doctor online about pain, or discuss your fibromyalgia treatment plan. Book an appointment at a time suitable for you using our secure platform below.

Page last reviewed:  13/03/2020
Diagnosis and treatment

What are the causes of fibromyalgia?

It isn’t clear what causes the condition. However, there are several theories.

One is that, in people with fibromyalgia, neurotransmitters, which transmit pain messages between the nerves and cells in the brain, have started to work differently over time. Consequently, pain is felt even though there is no injury present. 

Another potentiality is that low levels of the hormones serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine change the way these pain receptors work. Evidence has suggested that people with fibromyalgia have lower levels of these hormones.

Some people with fibromyalgia also develop the condition after a traumatic or physically stressful event, such as an injury, an infection or childbirth. These factors may play a part.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

Fibromyalgia can typically be diagnosed by a doctor following a physical examination, and having ruled out the presence of other conditions. A clinician will look for the amount of areas which feel tender. Severe pain in three to six different areas of the body, or milder pain in seven or more areas, is indicative of fibromyalgia.

Further to this, a doctor will look to establish what your family history is, in order to find out if someone has had multiple episodes of chronic pain. The pain must have been present for over three months to meet the diagnostic criteria.

Will I need tests?

There are no specific tests that can be conducted to diagnose fibromyalgia. It’s usually identified through an assessment of symptoms. During the process, a doctor may carry out blood and urine tests to rule out other conditions.

How is fibromyalgia managed?

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, and it is often a chronic, long-lasting condition. However, symptoms can usually be managed. 

Treatment options are specific to each person depending on the level of pain present; there are no uniform guidelines on managing fibromyalgia.

Prescription treatments for pain, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can often be useful.

A doctor will advise you to do aerobic exercise regularly, such as cycling, swimming and yoga. These can cause a little stress on the muscles but will help to decrease pain in the long-term. Pain and stiffness may get worse to begin with.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is another option for people with fibromyalgia, as it can help to modify the way the brain responds to pain.

Page last reviewed:  13/03/2020
Questions and Answers

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

People with fibromyalgia experience pain throughout the body. It isn’t felt in the joints, but in the muscles or tendons. The diagnostic criteria for pain in fibromyalgia is pain felt over a  period of three months or more, with severe pain in three to six different areas, or milder pain in seven or more areas. 

What does diagnosing fibromyalgia involve?

Usually, a physical assessment with a pain specialist. They may also undertake tests to rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms. This may involve a blood or urine test.

How is fibromyalgia treated?

Fibromyalgia cannot be cured, but treatment may improve symptoms. Options can vary from person to person depending on the severity of pain and where it is located. A doctor will normally recommend a regular aerobic exercise plan without putting too much strain on the muscles. In some cases, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help.

When pain is particularly bad, medicinal treatment may also help to reduce symptoms.

Can I consult a doctor about fibromyalgia online?

Yes. If you have constant pain or would like to talk to a doctor online about fibromyalgia, our practitioners are available for video consultations. Our doctors can prescribe treatment or issue a fit note where required. Choose an appointment at a convenient time for you.

Page last reviewed:  13/03/2020

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