Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain throughout the body, as well as tenderness in specific areas known as tender points. Other common symptoms may include fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, depression, anxiety, and cognitive difficulties such as problems with memory and concentration. Fibromyalgia affects approximately 2-4% of the population and is more commonly diagnosed in women than men.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not known, but it is believed to involve a complex interaction between genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Some possible causes and contributing factors that have been suggested include:
Abnormal pain processing: People with fibromyalgia may have a heightened sensitivity to pain due to abnormalities in the way the brain and nervous system process pain signals.
Genetics: There may be a genetic predisposition to fibromyalgia, as it tends to run in families.
Infections or illnesses: Some people with fibromyalgia report that their symptoms began after a viral or bacterial infection, or as a result of another illness or injury.
Trauma or stress: Physical or emotional trauma, such as a car accident, surgery, or psychological stress, may trigger the onset of fibromyalgia in some people.
Sleep disturbances: People with fibromyalgia often have difficulty sleeping, and some researchers believe that sleep disturbances may play a role in the development of the disorder.
It’s important to note that fibromyalgia is a complex condition and likely involves multiple contributing factors. While the exact cause is not yet known, research is ongoing to better understand the underlying mechanisms of the disorder.
Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread pain throughout the body, which is often described as a deep ache or burning sensation. Other common signs and symptoms may include:
- Tender points: Specific areas of the body that are especially sensitive to pressure, such as the neck, shoulders, hips, and knees.
- Fatigue: People with fibromyalgia may experience profound fatigue, which can interfere with daily activities.
- Sleep disturbances: Many people with fibromyalgia have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and may wake up feeling unrefreshed.
- Cognitive difficulties: Fibromyalgia can cause problems with memory, concentration, and other cognitive functions, which are sometimes referred to as “fibro fog.”
- Headaches: Migraines or tension headaches are common in people with fibromyalgia.
- Depression and anxiety: Many people with fibromyalgia also experience symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Fibromyalgia has been linked to IBS, a condition that causes digestive problems such as abdominal pain, bloating, and constipation or diarrhea.
- Sensory sensitivities: Some people with fibromyalgia may be hypersensitive to sensory stimuli such as bright lights, loud noises, or strong smells.
It’s important to note that the symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary widely from person to person and may come and go over time. If you are experiencing symptoms of fibromyalgia, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs.
Treatment for Fibromyalgia
Physiotherapy can be an important component of the treatment plan for fibromyalgia. The goals of physiotherapy for fibromyalgia are to help reduce pain, improve physical function, and promote overall health and well-being. Some possible physiotherapy interventions for fibromyalgia include:
Aerobic exercise: Regular aerobic exercises, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, can help reduce pain and improve physical function in people with fibromyalgia. Exercise should be tailored to the individual’s abilities and gradually increased over time.
Strength training: Strength training exercises can help improve muscle strength and reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia.
Stretching and flexibility exercises: Stretching and flexibility exercises can help improve range of motion and reduce stiffness in the joints and muscles.
Relaxation techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being in people with fibromyalgia.
Manual therapy: Techniques such as massage, myofascial release, and joint mobilization can help reduce pain and improve physical function in people with fibromyalgia.
Education and counseling: Physiotherapists can provide education and counseling on topics such as pain management, stress reduction, and healthy lifestyle habits.
It’s important to note that the optimal physiotherapy treatment plan for fibromyalgia will vary depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. A comprehensive approach that incorporates multiple interventions may be most effective in managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia. It’s also important to work closely with your healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your specific needs.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to a therapist about fibromyalgia please call us at 03 9836 1126.
Martin-Santos R, Torre-Mollinedo FJ, Lomas-Vega R, Ferragut-Garcías A, Martín-Pintado-Zugasti A. Effectiveness of aquatic therapy vs land-based therapy for fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clin Rehabil.