What is fibromyalgia?
The name fibromyalgia comes from three words:
- ‘fibro’ is a Latin word, meaning fibrous tissues such as tendons and ligaments
- ‘my’ is a Greek word, meaning muscles
- ‘algia’ is also a Greek word, meaning pain
Fibromyalgia is a long term chronic condition which causes many symptoms but mainly widespread pain within all the muscles, ligaments and tendons all over the body, fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome. Fibromyalgia isn’t an inflammatory or degenerative illness so it doesn’t cause permanent damage to the muscles, bones or joints however, it can have a major impact on your quality of life, but it doesn’t appear to be life threatening or progressive.
Who is affected?
It is estimated that fibromyalgia could affect nearly 1 in 20 people worldwide and even more staggering to read is that there could be up to 1.76 million adults with the condition in England & Wales so a fairly common illness.
It appears that anyone can develop fibromyalgia although it tends to affect more women than men. It can occur in people of any age but in most cases, fibromyalgia develops between the ages of 30 and 60.
Causes of fibromyalgia
One of the most likely causes of fibromyalgia is a problem with the way pain messages are carried and received in the body. The central nervous system transmits information all over your body through specialised cells. The way pain messages are processed is disturbed in people with fibromyalgia and this may explain why sufferers result in constant feelings of pain and extreme sensitivity to pain.
There may be some risk factors that could cause fibromyalgia or act as a trigger for the condition.
These could include:
- physical trauma – to the tissues of the body
- psychological trauma – an incident that causes extreme emotional upset such as the death of a loved one
- a viral infection – such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C or HIV and AIDS
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
Pain – The main symptom is likely to be widespread continuous pain which may be felt throughout your body and it could be worse in particular areas such as, your back or neck. The pain could feel like an ache, a burning sensation or even a stabbing feeling.
Extreme sensitivity – Fibromyalgia can cause you to become extremely sensitive to pain all over your body, so if you accidently stub your toe or bang your elbow you may find that the pain continues for much longer than it would normally. You may also find that you are sensitive to other things such as smoke, certain foods and bright lights. Being exposed to something you are sensitive to could cause your other fibromyalgia symptoms to flare up!
Stiffness – Fibromyalgia can make you feel stiff such as when you first wake up in the morning after being in the same position for a long time or even driving your car long journeys. Fibromyalgia can also cause your muscles to spasm, which is in turn could affect your sleep. Due to stiffness in the neck you may also have headaches or migraines and depending on the severity these could cause nausea.
Fatigue – Fatigue associated with fibromyalgia can range from a mild tired feeling, to the exhaustion often experienced with a viral illness like flu. Fatigue may come on very suddenly and can drain you of all your energy and if this happens you end up being too tired to do anything at all. Due to the muscle stiffness and pain you may find sleeping difficult and this in turn will cause fatigue.
Cognitive problems – Fibromyalgia may cause you to have memory problems especially when it comes to learning new things and coupled with this are problems with attention and concentration.
Fibromyalgia also tends to lead to depression because the condition can be difficult to treat and cope with on a daily basis. I suppose if you experience all of the symptoms above then you will feel constantly low and emotional. It must be very difficult to adjust your daily life, interests and hobbies because of the severity of your symptoms and it would be understandable for you to lose an interest in everyday activities.
How is fibromyalgia treated?
There currently appears to be no cure for fibromyalgia, symptoms are usually permanent although they can vary in severity however, there are a number of combination treatments that may ease the symptoms and make the condition easier to live with such as, antidepressants and painkillers, counselling and making lifestyle changes. Exercise is found to be beneficial for people with fibromyalgia, including helping to reduce pain.
If you have fibromyalgia, there are several ways you can change your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms and make your condition easier to live with: exercise such as cycling, walking and swimming, relaxation and better sleeping habits.
Making adjustments to your daily life will take time and trying to find that important balance between work, rest and play can be difficult. Pacing yourself means not overdoing it or pushing yourself beyond your limits but if you do, it could slow down your progress in the long term, listen to your body and rest whenever you need to. Avoid any exercise or activity that pushes you too hard, because this could make your symptoms worse. If you pace your activities at a level right for you, this could improve the quality of your daily life.
Now that the nights are starting to draw in and the evening temperatures are getting lower, why not think about taking a holiday and travelling abroad. A long weekend or a couple of weeks in the warm Mediterranean sun with family and friends or just on your own, can be a good opportunity to get away for some proper rest and relaxation. A healthy diet and a gentle walk along the promenade will bring you the peace of mind to relax and help you cope with your fibromyalgia.
Free Spirit is here to help with all your insurance needs and to enable you to seek that peace of mind holiday you may need.