There have been many times since my diagnosis that people have asked me, ‘What is fibromyalgia?’ To be honest, I had never heard of it before my doctor suggested that I might be living with this syndrome.
What does the term ‘fibromyalgia’ mean?
New Latin ‘fibro’ – meaning ‘fibrous tissue’
Greek ‘myo’ – meaning ‘muscle’
Greek ‘algos’ – meaning ‘pain’
It quite literally means ‘muscle and fibrous connective tissue pain.’
What symptoms does fibromyalgia cause?
The way in which symptoms manifest are unique to each individual, as is the treatment. What works for one may not work for another. I have even found in the past, what worked on several occasions for me, did not permanently work. Below is a list of common symptoms associated with fibromyalgia:
Chronic widespread pain
Heightened pain response to pressure
Problems sleeping and waking feeling just as tired as you did when you went to bed.
Concentration difficulties and poor memory
Digestive problems, such as bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, constipation, IBS.
Food sensitivity (certain foods trigger a flare, again this is very individual)
Tingling and Numbness.
Restless Leg Syndrome.
Sensitivity to temperature (cold and hot)
Stiffness in limbs, sometimes to the point of severely affecting mobility.
Migraine (this doesn’t necessarily mean with pain in the head, I very rarely get the headache, I usually have visual symptoms, numbness in my hands or nose and nausea).
Painful menstrual cramps
What is the cause of fibromyalgia?
Very little is known about the actual cause of fibromyalgia, although it is believed that a combination of factors with each playing a substantial role, doctor’s term this as a multi-factorial disorder.
A traumatic or stressful childhood
Psychological or physical stress/trauma
Abnormality in the way a person’s central nervous system functions
A certain type of infection
Disorder of immune system function
Toxins we digest in food and drink and absorb through the skin or inhale from various different sources such as make-up, cosmetics, cleaning products etc.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
This is a very troubling time for many people who are living with random, debilitating symptoms as there is no definitive test for fibro. It is more a case of ruling out other potential causes initially. Generally, blood tests are taken to rule out other potential causes such as rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, anaemia, glandular fever and thyroid issues.
My diagnosis of fibro was delayed because I was found to have hypothyroidism, (although this definitely happened after fibro as all of my previous tests had been fine and it wasn’t until several years after my fibro symptoms started that I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism). I often wonder if hypothyroidism is connected to fibro in some way as I know many people with fibromyalgia who are later diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
Pain is highly personal and what feels like all over pain for one person may be entirely different for another. Therefore, doctors us a ‘pain point’ system to help diagnosis. There are 18 pain points or 9 pairs that are painful when a small amount of pressure is applied, this pain can also spread to other parts of the body. People who have fibromyalgia will have a least 11 of these tender points when the doctor applies pressure.
For the majority of people, diagnosis takes quite some time, perhaps years. I was diagnosed four years after the symptoms started and I have to say, I was very upset and worried that I had a syndrome that very little was known about, no particular treatment available and no cure. However, there were a few positives… ‘I wasn’t going crazy or turning into a hypochondriac (as had been suggested). It also gave me a place to start researching for self-help treatments I could implement.
I will just touch briefly on various treatments here, but I will add more detailed posts and link them here.
I would strongly recommend that you speak with your doctor about the various medications they would recommend and that are suitable for you. To take medication or not, is a personal choice but if you do take it, there is no reason why you can’t use natural self-help treatments too. Personally, I have used medication only three times for short periods of time, since being diagnosed as I found that I have more side effects than benefits. I believe in treating the body as a whole therefore focus on holistic treatments and natural self-help treatments, of which there are many, to manage my symptoms. I have found a combination of NLP, Mindfulness, lots of changes in my diet and exercise to be the most effective way to manage my symptoms.
I hope this post was useful for you, please do share with people you know may benefit from the info.
As always, please do see your doctor if you are worried about any symptoms you may be experiencing.
Have a wonderful day xxx