Fast Facts About Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is misunderstood by many. Due to its invisible symptoms, fibromyalgia is a condition that many non-sufferers struggle to empathise with. Some even believe that fibromyalgia does not exist, which is not true. At Brian Barr Solicitors, we witness first-hand how debilitating the condition is through the eyes of our clients. That is why we are so passionate about spreading awareness of the disease, which affects hundreds of thousands of people across the world.
For this blog, we have provided a list of fast facts about fibromyalgia, which will prove to be useful for people who have either just been diagnosed with the condition, or know of someone who has.
Fact 1: Fibromyalgia is more common in women
More women than men suffer with fibromyalgia. It is a fact. However, this is not to say that fibromyalgia is a “woman’s disease”, as men can still develop the condition.
Fact 2: There is no cure for fibromyalgia
Unfortunately, there is no cure for fibromyalgia. This being said, there are treatments available to sufferers to help ease symptoms and make life with fibromyalgia much more manageable.
There are various treatments and therapies available for fibromyalgia sufferers, from over-the-counter painkillers and muscle relaxants, through to hydrotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) sessions.
Fact 3: There is no easy way to diagnose fibromyalgia
Diagnosing fibromyalgia is not straightforward. First, doctors must rule out a number of conditions, which share some of the same symptoms as fibromyalgia, by carrying out various tests. These tests will predominantly consist of numerous blood tests and, potentially, an X-ray or two.
Fact 4: Exercise can be beneficial for fibromyalgia sufferers
In some cases, exercise has proven to be beneficial for fibromyalgia sufferers. Light exercise is always advised; overdoing things can have a negative impact on your health and may make your fibromyalgia symptoms much, much worse.
Popular forms of exercise, which have been known to help patients in the past, include swimming, yoga, meditation, and cycling.
Fact 5: Fatigue is a common symptom of fibromyalgia
Life with fibromyalgia is tough and can often result in patients being stuck in a vicious cycle with no way out. This vicious cycle makes it extremely hard for patients to sleep, which results in extreme fatigue. It is one of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
If you have, or someone you know has, been suffering with extreme fatigue, as a result of fibromyalgia, then we would recommend that you get in touch with your local GP or doctor to discuss potential treatments. Untreated, fatigue can lower your mood and increase your chances of suffering with anxiety and depression.
Fact 6: The cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown
Nobody understands why people suffer with fibromyalgia. The exact cause remains unknown. However, there are known triggers, such as stress and trauma. This means that, if you experience a traumatic experience, such as a car crash, you could eventually develop fibromyalgia as a result.
Fact 7: Some days will be good, others will be bad
The pain caused by fibromyalgia has a tendency to get worse, then better on a daily basis. That means some days will be good, others will be bad. On good days, it is important to remember not to overdo things, as it will catch up on you.
Complex Fibromyalgia Diagnosis
Factors Complicating Fibromyalgia Diagnosis
Fibromyalgia is one of the most poorly diagnosed rheumatic conditions, despite it being fairly common. The diagnostic process is both frustrating and difficult for patients and physicians alike. In our latest blog, we attempt to uncover why this is the case.
General lack of knowledge and understanding
Most patients facing chronic widespread pain and other symptoms related to fibromyalgia tend to visit their GP for guidance, which often involves a lengthy and complex diagnostic process. A study published in the US National Library of Medicine assessed the awareness and knowledge of diagnostic and clinical features of fibromyalgia amongst GPs. 96% of the 172 participants claimed to be familiar with fibromyalgia; however, the findings suggest otherwise with only 55% aware fibromyalgia is associated with widespread pain.
Criteria for diagnosing
There isn’t a clear path to diagnosing fibromyalgia, however, many doctors use a benchmark, set in 2010 by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), to identify the illness. These guidelines state, a patient with fibromyalgia must display signs of both the below points:
- Constant pain in all four quadrants of the body (left and right sides, above and below the waist) for at least three consecutive months
- Tenderness in at least 11 of the 18 tender points associated with fibromyalgia
This criteria has been criticised in the medical community for not taking into account the disease’s behaviour. Fibromyalgia has over 200 symptoms that vary in intensity, so a person that meets the criteria at one point may not in a few hours or days. This diagnostic formula also neglects symptoms unrelated to pain, such as fatigue and depression.
No defined tests to pinpoint fibromyalgia
A doctor examining for fibromyalgia will ask the patient questions relating to their symptoms and medical history, as well as conduct a physical examination. If fibromyalgia is being considered, the medical team will usually take further effort to rule out all other possibilities, with tests involving blood, urine, x-rays and other scans. This complicated and lengthy process usually compels the patient to also seek out medical care from specialists as listed below:
- Pain Specialists
The windy and unclear path to determining fibromyalgia results in many people left undiagnosed, and forced to live with the illness without any understanding of the cause of their pain or treatments available to them to alleviate symptoms. A multicenter study on misdiagnosis in fibromyalgia analysed 427 consecutive outpatients (418 females and 9 males; mean age of 49.3). All patients, with a previous or new fibromyalgia diagnosis, were complaining of chronic widespread pain. The study reports, 57 patients (13.3%) had been referred with an incorrect diagnosis, reaffirming how it can be a challenge for GPs and specialists to differentiate fibromyalgia from various other rheumatic and musculoskeletal disorders.
It’s also common for fibromyalgia patients to have coexisting conditions that share symptoms, like chronic widespread pain, making it even more difficult for medical professionals to reach a full diagnosis. Often physicians, especially those unfamiliar with fibromyalgia, may limit themselves by treating one illness and neglect to check if fibromyalgia could also be contributing to the patient’s overall discomfort. Find out more about disorders that tend to accompany fibromyalgia here.
Common Misconceptions About Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is being recognised and diagnosed more frequently, however, there are still many misconceptions about this mysterious illness.
Although millions of people suffer from it, very little is known about what causes fibromyalgia and how it should be treated. In this blog, we look at why this debilitating chronic pain condition is so misunderstood, as well as the common myths that surround it.
Until a few years ago, many people experiencing the distressing symptoms of fibromyalgia received very little or no medical validation. As it is an ‘invisible’ illness, with no definitive cause, some people suffering with pain and fatigue, as well as other symptoms of fibromyalgia, have been questioned by doctors and, in some cases, their loved ones.
“It’s all in your head.”
This is one of the most damaging misconceptions about fibromyalgia. Many people struggle to believe that a person who looks so healthy can be experiencing such incapacitating pain.
The pain is real and, at times, unbearable.
“Only women are diagnosed with fibromyalgia.”
More women are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which is suspected to be as a result of the hormones, which play a pivotal role in the development of the disease. Women are also more likely to have heightened or specific symptoms, such as early morning fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome.
Men can get fibromyalgia, however, are less likely to report it, perhaps regarding pain as a sign of weakness.
“Fibromyalgia is untreatable.”
While it is true that there is currently no treatment for fibromyalgia, there are ways to reduce the severity of pain and suffering through prescribed treatments, alternative therapies and diet. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
The coexisting physical and emotional symptoms of fibromyalgia can be managed.
“Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are the same.”
Fatigue is a major symptom of fibromyalgia, however, it is only one of many side-effects. Most people with chronic fatigue syndrome have no pain at all, apart from that associated with an unsettled night’s sleep.
Fibromyalgia fact: Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are two completely different disorders that just happen to share some of the same symptoms.
“Fibromyalgia sufferers should avoid exercise.”
Although it may at times seem incomprehensible to sufferers, physical exercise can help to keep fibromyalgia pain in check. Light to moderate exercise increases strength, flexibility, enhances energy and pumps oxygen rich blood throughout the body.
Fibromyalgia fact: Exercise helps to address the psychological and emotional symptoms of pain.
“Fibromyalgia is caused by depression.”
Due to distressing symptoms and a feeling of isolation, individuals living with fibromyalgia may also develop mental health disorders. Maintaining a positive mental wellbeing can be challenging when each day presents new struggles.
Fibromyalgia fact: Fibromyalgia can lead to sufferers experiencing low mood, however, is not brought on from it.
Fortunately, these misconceptions about fibromyalgia are dwindling as more research is conducted into the condition and more rapid diagnosis is leading to far greater awareness.
6 Things Every Fibromyalgia Sufferer Thinks
Having fibromyalgia is tough. Not only does it cause extreme pain, it can also have a psychological impact on sufferers, leading to depression and, in some cases, anxiety. Initial symptoms of fibromyalgia can cause a vicious cycle to begin, which is hard to escape from; after being diagnosed, patients will often experience exhaustion, which then leads to stress, leading to increased pain and so on. Those who are new to fibromyalgia as a condition will find it difficult to understand the complexities of it, as it is poorly understood and, unlike many other conditions, is not visible. In this blog, we reveal some of the most common thoughts which run through sufferers’ heads to help educate those who are keen to understand more about the condition.
Thought 1: “Please accept my ‘maybe’ to your invitation!”
Fibromyalgia is unpredictable. For sufferers, making arrangements can be an extremely difficult thing to do, as each day is different. Some days will be bad, some will be good. The pain and discomfort caused by fibromyalgia varies. Plans can be made, but when it comes to it, some patients may not have enough energy to see them through. In these cases, it is important for sufferers to listen to their body and rest.
Thought 2: “I’ve had enough, just let me vent.”
Sufferers do not want to talk about their condition all the time. However, when things become too much, they do want to vent – just like everyone else! At the moment, fibromyalgia is incurable and this thought is mentally challenging and tough for sufferers. When a sufferer is ‘moaning’, they do not expect answers or solutions; instead, they just want someone to listen and provide some sympathy. The last thing they need is to feel guilty about the understandable feelings they are experiencing.
Thought 3: “When will this end?”
It is estimated that approximately 1.5 to 2 million people in the UK are suffering with fibromyalgia. Despite this staggering statistic, medical professionals still understand very little about the disease and, although there are specific treatments to help relieve pain and discomfort, there is currently no cure.
Thought 4: “Where did I put that?”
One of the most common side effects of fibromyalgia is ‘fibro fog’. It can manifest itself in many different ways depending on the person it affects. Some of the most common symptoms include the following:
- Short-term memory loss
- Misplacing objects
- Becoming easily distracted
- Forgetting plans
- Difficulty carrying on conversations
- Inability to remember new information.
Thought 5: “I cannot carry on.”
The effects of fibromyalgia can sometimes be so extreme that a sufferer often experiences depression. A positive mindset is thought to reduce the pain a sufferer feels, however, this is easier said than done. The pain experienced by sufferers is often so bad that it can seem impossible to carry on. Without the right support, a sufferer will find it extremely hard to overcome their bad times.
Thought 6: “You just don’t believe me!”
Fibromyalgia is an invisible illness. Although times are changing, many people still believe the condition is a figure of imagination. Symptoms are not visible, therefore, some people find it difficult to believe that a patient is in as much pain as they say they are. This is extremely frustrating for sufferers. Further awareness is needed to ‘spread the word’ about fibromyalgia, so more people become educated and understand that it is real.
The Best Mineral Supplements For Fibromyalgia Sufferers
As anyone suffering from fibromyalgia knows, the condition is not a simple one to treat. Aside from the core issue of pain in muscles and ligaments, there are a number of associated issues such as sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome.
Facing such complexities, many physicians believe that the best approach is to treat symptoms on a case-by-case basis in order to improve patient’s quality of life.
Improving nutrition is an important part of this and your diet of course has a key role to play in this. In addition, many look to supplements to help muscles to perform optimally. If they are not supplied with the correct amount of nutrients they cannot operate at full capacity and therefore are more likely to cause pain.
Muscle cells use an active transport system and they need the correct amount of minerals for this to work efficiently.
If you’re deficient in these they can’t be supplied by a normal diet, which is where supplements come in.
Research into the effects of supplements are ongoing but there is as yet insufficient evidence to know for sure which ones will work. However, as long as you’re careful and speak to a physician first, taking supplements should not be detrimental and should only have a positive impact.
Let’s look then at a selection with which you should consider adding to your diet.
- Vitamin DAccording to a 2014 study published in the journal Pain 30, women who took Vitamin D over a 20-week period saw improved physical functioning and reduced pain, compared to a control group that received a placebo.
- Omega-3 fatty acidsThese come primarily from fish oils, which have great anti-inflammatory properties. This can really help with fibromyalgia pain and also offer improved immunity, which is great for general health.However, if you are taking blood-thinning medications then speak to your doctor before taking these.
- S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe)S-Adenosyl methionine, fortunately more commonly known as SAMe are a synthetic form of a compound that the body produces naturally. It’s related to the immune function and helps form cartilage. Unfortunately, our bodies produce less of it as we age, and this could be exacerbated for fibromyalgia sufferers. A common dosage starts at 200mg twice a day for six weeks, moving up gradually to 400mg to avoid side-effects such as an upset stomach.
- RiboseRibose supplements help with tight muscles – a common form of fibro pain. Ribose is a simple sugar, and increases energy to muscles, helping to relax them. According to a 2012 study published in The Open Pain Journal, it reduced pain experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers by an average of 15.6 per cent.
- MagnesiumStudies suggest that fibromyalgia sufferers are deficient in magnesium, which is a significant problem considering it plays a role in keeping every body part healthy. In one 2013 study, women who took 300 mg/day of magnesium citrate for eight weeks reported a reduction of tenderness as well as other symptoms.Magnesium is found in green leafy vegetables, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and spinach. Unfortunately, about half the dosage is lost when these foods are cooked so a supplement is recommended – 280 to 300mg per day with meals.Magnesium supplements can interact with other medication, such as those for high blood pressure, so make sure you talk to your doctor first if you are taking anything.
Which Foods Help Fibromyalgia?
There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, however, certain types of foods are said to help reduce the severity of symptoms caused by the condition. Find out more in this blog.
Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes widespread pain all over the body, as well as a host of other life-changing symptoms, such as extreme fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome. No specific diet is known to cure fibromyalgia, however, past studies have suggested that there are certain foods and additives that may exacerbate the condition. These foods are thought to alter brain chemistry and increase the amount of pain perceived by the body. Contrastingly, there are also foods and additives that are said to help reduce the pain caused by the condition, as they help to reduce inflammation and contain enough nutrients to battle cell damaging free radicals in the body.
There is a noticeable link between diet and fibromyalgia. Many sufferers of the chronic condition find that the food they eat can have an impact on the symptoms they experience. Certain food products that may normally trigger a mild reaction can often have a more adverse effect for fibromyalgia sufferers. These include:
- Refined sugar
- Fried foods
- Red meat
- Highly processed foods
Research has also shown that cutting out certain additives, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame can help to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms.
This being said, however, there is no definitive dietary programme that has been shown to consistently improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. This is not surprising when you consider that every fibromyalgia sufferer experiences their own unique set of symptoms. However, there does tend to be a pattern between certain foods and symptoms. For example:
- Wheat-based foods can account for bowel sensitivity
- Cheese can often cause headaches, as it contains the known trigger, L-tyramine
- Chinese food commonly contains MSG, a known excitotoxin to the nervous system, which causes insomnia
- Excitotoxins, which also include aspartame, are also known to increase pain perception
As well as foods to avoid, there are a few golden dietary rules to follow to help manage symptoms of fibromyalgia. These include:
- Eat plenty of oily fish, such as sardines and mackerel, as these contain anti-inflammatory properties
- Linseeds – also known as flax seeds – are a valuable source of Omega 3 fatty acids, which can help ease irritable bowel syndrome
- Eat as many ‘colourful’ foods as possible (carrots, beetroot, red grapes, green peppers etc.) to combat the oxidative stress of this inflammatory condition
- Avoid tea, coffee and nicotine as they are all anti-nutrients and stimulants
- Watch out for common allergens, such as dairy, wheat, citrus and eggs
- Cut down or eliminate sugar and salt entirely, as they are also anti-nutrients – salt can cause calcium retention and lead to tight muscles, whereas sugar lowers immunity and causes fatigue and bloating
- Drink plenty of water; dehydration causes headaches, mental fog, backache and fatigue
- Make every effort to eat slowly, get some sunshine and improve your sleep quality – these three simple measures will help you to slow down, improve mood, reduce stress, aid cell repair and boost energy levels
Meditation & Yoga May Not Help Fibromyalgia Sufferers
A programme of meditation or yoga may not help if you’re suffering from Fibromyalgia, according to a recent study
The study, published in the journal Pain, looked at the effects of so-called “mindfulness-based stress reduction” – a technique combining mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga postures, delivered in the form of an eight-week programme of classes.
For the new study, researchers tested the programme’s effects among 177 women with fibromyalgia.
They found that women assigned to the mindfulness programme showed no greater gains in health-related quality of life than those assigned to a waiting list for treatment.
That meant no significant improvements in either physical symptoms or emotional well-being.
The precise cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. There are no physical symptoms – but some researchers believe the disorder involves problems in how the brain processes pain signals.
Standard treatments for fibromyalgia include painkillers, antidepressants, cognitive-behavioural therapy and exercise therapy. However, many fibromyalgia sufferers find that their symptoms persist despite treatment.
Researchers suspect that this may be because standard treatments do not specifically address the role psychological stress and emotions can play in triggering pain.
Studies have found that people with fibromyalgia have above average rates of stressful life events such as childhood abuse and marital problems. Evidence also suggests that they are less aware of their own emotions and have more difficulty holding on to positive feelings compared to those without fibromyalgia.
The idea behind mindfulness practices is that sufferers become more aware of how they are feeling, emotionally and physically, from moment to moment. Then they can start to see how their emotions affect their perceptions of their physical symptoms.
But maybe the problem is also that people with the disorder may need extra help in learning how to manage the emotions that come up when they meditate or practice mindfulness-based yoga.
A recent study of the “mind-body” approach to fibromyalgia suggested that patients can benefit from addressing their emotions. In that study of 45 women with fibromyalgia, about half of those who underwent a therapy called “affective self-awareness” reported a significant improvement in their pain over six months.
Affective self-awareness tries to get people to “directly engage” their emotions with the help of various techniques. Mindfulness meditation and “expressive” writing are two of them.
One possibility arising from the study is that only certain subsets of fibromyalgia patients stand to benefit from mindfulness-based therapies.
For example, Dr. Alex Zautra, a professor in psychology at Arizona State University, found that people with rheumatoid arthritis who also had a history of depression benefited more from mindfulness meditation than arthritis patients who had never battled depression.
It’s possible – though not proven – that a similar pattern exists for fibromyalgia patients.
Top 5 Exercises For Fibromyalgia Sufferers
It may be raining the day I’m writing this, but there’s no doubt that summer is here. After a long cold winter, warm sunny days are finally arriving. Here in the UK that’s not something you can take for granted so it pays to make the most of them.
For fibromyalgia sufferers the warmer weather can ease symptoms such as muscle pain. Many doctors recommend exercise as a way to alleviate symptoms, so as long as you aren’t too ambitious, brighter, dryer days are perfect for getting yourself out of the house and doing your body some good.
That said some of these exercises can be done indoors, so if it does start to rain you still have options.
Remember, whatever you do you, should always be careful not to overdo it. It’s good to push yourself a little bit but doing too much can be detrimental.
With that in mind, here are our top 5 suggestions for exercises – two that are for the great outdoors and three that are done indoors.
- WalkingThe road to a life with reduced pain is long and should be taken step by step – literally. Get yourself some comfy shoes and get walking. The May Clinic in the US puts walking at the top of the list as the most effective form of exercise for fibromyalgia sufferers. It’s not too strenuous, so doesn’t put too much strain on your muscles and it’s a great way of getting oxygen into those limbs to decrease pain and stiffness.
- CyclingWe’ve recommended cycling before and for good reason. It’s a fantastic way of getting those muscles working and moving oxygen around the body. Core stability can be an issue for some fibromyalgia sufferers so, as long as you are comfortable on a bike, the fact that you are sitting on a saddle will make things easier than free running. Make sure you get the right bike and buy a helmet, and you can enjoy the wind in your hair on a sunny day, while generating energy boosting endorphins and helping to ease those pains away.
- SwimmingSwimming is a great example of an all-over exercise that’s great for your health. We’ve listed it as indoors, as most UK pools are covered, or if you have a pool in your garden, then of course it’s an outdoor activity too. Swimming is low impact so won’t put too much strain on your body and it will benefit your whole body. Try and seek out a warm pool. Research published in Arthritis Research & Therapy showed that women who exercised in a heated pool three times a week did better than fibro sufferers that did not. You might not be able to manage that many times a week, but whatever you can do in a warm pool should help.
- StretchingIt’s not just about getting the heart rate up and working up a sweat. Gently stretching out those muscles will help reduce pain and improve posture, which will reduce strain on your body when you’re out and about. Make sure you stretch at the right time – after all of the above exercises would be ideal. Do it gently, but as ever, don’t overdo it – you are looking to reduce pain, not cause it. Hold your stretches for 30 seconds to a minute to get the benefit. You might even want to try out a Yoga or Pilates class if you’re up to it.
- YogaYoga is considered by some to be an alternative therapy but some Fibro patients swear by it for helping to relieve pain. Fibromyalgia often manifests itself in the upper back, shoulders and next, all areas that Yoga can target. For example, backbends can focus energy into the spine, while head rotations can relieve the neck. The ‘Eagle pose’ meanwhile is ideal for the shoulders. This focus on stretching and strengthening muscles in a gentle, controlled manner is exactly what a fibromyalgia suffer needs. However, with meditation and breathing as much a part of the treatment as the physical exercises, Yoga offers a holistic approach to healing.
Virus Linked To Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Researchers at the Whittemore Peterson Institute in United States have discovered an infectious virus in a significant percentage of people with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The virus, known as Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) is a retrovirus, which means it inserts its DNA right into your cell’s genetic makeup. Once infected, the virus remains permanently in the body and creates an immune deficiency that can leave people vulnerable to a wide range of diseases.
Although XMRV doesn’t appear to replicate as quickly as HIV does, scientists are still unsure how XMRV is transmitted. The infection was found in patients’ blood samples, which raises the possibility that it could be transmitted through blood or bodily fluids.
Researchers are also unsure if the XMRV infection led to a weakened immune system contributing to the disease, or if the disease impacted the immune system and enabled the virus to become established.
There are hopes that the latest findings could lead to new treatments, but there are still more questions than answers and a significant amount of research lies ahead. Since the possible link between XMRV and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome was first identified in 2009, the subject has been controversial, and the link itself remains highly contested by other researchers.
The Benefits Of Massage Therapy For Fibromyalgia Patients
Fibromyalgia symptoms can be wide-ranging, but they often involve muscle aches and stiff joints: making it difficult for patients to participate in daily physical activities. Whilst many who suffer from the condition receive medication to help alleviate symptoms, alternative therapies are becoming increasingly popular as an effective form of complimentary medicine. Although such therapies should not be seen as a replacement to more conventional medical treatments, many patients have advocated massage therapy as a successful method in both reducing general stiffness and promoting flexibility. Other benefits of massage therapy have been reported to include:
- Reduced heart rate
- Relaxed muscles
- Tension headache relief
- Improved sleep
- Improved joint motion
- Relief from lower back pain
- Increase in production of the body’s natural pain killers
According to the fibro network’s facebook page, massage therapy can also improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as daytime fatigue: “A 1996 report indicated that half-hour sessions twice weekly not only cut the pain by 38%, but also exerted a favorable impact on fatigue, mood and sleeping problems.”
So why might massage therapy be beneficial for fibromyalgia patients?
According to an article posted by the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine: “Massages require the physical manipulation of muscles and tissues. When done correctly, they can help encourage proper circulation of blood throughout the system. Coupled with correct breathing on the patient’s end, regular massage therapy can promote tissue oxygenation.”
Other studies have shown that massage therapy can have beneficial effects on joint and muscle pains, decreasing: “pain and tenderness” as well as resulting in “increased levels of serotonin, decreased levels of stress hormones, [as well as improving] the patient’s overall sense of well-being.”
Are all types of massage therapy suitable for fibromyalgia patients? Should I be aware of any precautions to take and how can I find out more about massage therapy?
There are several different types of massage therapy available to fibromyalgia patients and it is worth seeking expert advice to find out which form might be of benefit to your particular symptoms. As a common symptom of fibromyalgia can be sensitivity to touch, gentle massage is the most appropriate form of treatment, rather than a more stimulating massage. We have listed a few of the more popular massage treatment choices below (information has been taken from themassagesource.com). As always, before trying out any new form of treatment for your fibromyalgia symptoms, consult your GP and physiotherapist first.
Using light but firm pressure, the word shiatsu translates to mean “finger pressure” and works with traditional acupuncture points. This method of massage has been reported to have particular success with fibromyalgia symptoms that include lower back pain and stress relief.
Reflexology is based upon a traditional Chinese method that works with reflex areas in the hands, feet and/or ears. It is said to stimulate energy flow as well as reduce blockage and encourage the body’s own healing process.
- Swedish Massage
Swedish massage combines five basic strokes: effleurge; petrissage; friction; tapotement and vibration. It is a very traditional technique that promotes better circulation and relaxation. Reported benefits include reduction in migraines, neck pain and relief from chronic pain, as well the stimulation of blood flow.
Vibration Exercise To Help With Fibromyalgia Symptoms
It has been well publicised that low impact, non-weight-bearing exercise may be beneficial to the relief of fibromyalgia symptoms. In addition to contributing to a greater sense of wellbeing, the reported advantages of light and regular exercise may include an improvement in:
– pain and stiffness
– fatigue levels
– sleeping patterns
Suggested activities suitable for fibromyalgia sufferers range from walking and biking, to warm water swimming and light aerobics. You can read a little more about these forms of exercise in some our previous blog posts, by following the links below:
Despite the benefits of these forms of exercise, some patients of fibromyalgia still harbour fears that any form of physical activity will impact negatively on their pain levels. However, according to Tony Kaleth, Associate Professor of the School of Phyical Education & Tourism Management (Indiana), the danger of avoiding exercise altogether is that it can result in a sedentary lifestyle:
“Over time, this can lead to additional weight gain, as well as accompanying chronic health conditions associated with obesity, such as high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes“
So is there another answer?
Kaleth and his team of researchers, at the University of Indiana, have been investigating a form of exercise that involves vibrating the whole body. According to an article in medical news today, this method of whole-body vibration: “involves standing, sitting or lying on a machine with a vibrating platform that causes muscles to contract and relax as the machine vibrates.”
A report in the online journal medicaldaily.com describes the technique as being:
“meant to simulate the effects of actual exercise, but in a more passive form.”
Research into whole-body vibration as an alternative treatment for fibromyalgia has been investigated in a number of international clinical trials. If you want to do some further reading, links to several studies can be found on the NCBI resources page, here.
Where can I find a whole-body vibration machine?
Whole-body vibration machines are widely available to purchase in sports retail outlets, on the internet and you may even find one in your local gym. However, before you rush out to try one, please ensure that you first consult your GP who can assess whether this is a suitable form of complimentary treatment for you particular condition.
Is whole-body vibration an effective form of treatment for my fibromyalgia symptoms?
Although the judges are still out as to the effectiveness of this new form of therapy, Kaleth reports that fibromyalgia patients who have trialed this method, have reported improvements in:
– muscle spasticity
– pain in select populations
A word of warning
An article written by the Mayo Clinic suggests that, whilst whole-body vibration can prove beneficial to your health, it should certainly not be seen as a replacement for regular exercise and a healthy diet:
“And because whole-body vibration can be harmful in some situations, check with your doctor before using it, especially if you’re pregnant or have any health problems.”
Have you tried out whole-body vibration as a complimentary treatment for your own fibromyalgia symptoms? Did you feel any beneficial effects, or did you have a negative experience? As always, we’d really appreciate your opinions.
Treating Fibromyalgia With Magnesium & Malic Acid
There has been some evidence to suggest that a deficiency in magnesium may contribute to causing a number of autoimmune diseases and other conditions. Researchers are now investigating the possibility of whether fibromyalgia may be treated with a pill that combines malic acid with magnesium.
Why is magnesium so important to the way that our body functions?
Magnesium is a significant mineral when it comes to nearly every function and tissue in our bodies. In fact, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, magnesium is a:
“cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body…”
These systems include:
- Protein synthesis
- Muscle and nerve function
- Blood glucose control
- Blood pressure regulation
Magnesium is also important for energy production; contributes to the structural development of our bones; supports a healthy immune system and boosts heart health, amongst is numerous other roles.
Which foods are high in magnesium?
Three foods that contain high levels of magnesium are:
- Leafy greens
Including: spinach, kale and swiss chard;
- Nuts and seeds
Including: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, flaxseed and pecans;
Including: halibut, tuna, wild salmon and mackerel
What effects can a reduced level of magnesium have on fibromyalgia sufferers?An article published in the Journal of Korean Medical Science (Oct 2011) describes how, through hair mineral analysis, researchers discovered that:
“the concentrations of calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese in the hair of female patients with fibromyalgia are lower than of controls, even after adjustment of potential confounders.”
The team involved concluded that further research should be undertaken to assess whether supplementing the mineral could impact the progress of fibromyalgia.
Why is malic acid so important to the way that our body functions?
- Supports energy production;
- Increases muscle performance;
- Reduces fatigue after exercise;
- Helps boost energy levels.
In addition, malic acid plays an essential role in the Krebs cycle:
“A process that turns carbohydrates, proteins and fats into energy and water in your body. If there isn’t an adequate supply of malic acid in the body, the Krebs cycle can’t function properly, leading to fatigue.”
Which foods contain malic acid?
Fruits and vegetables can be a rich source of malic acid and it is most commonly associated with apples.
Here are some of the other recommended fruits and veggies that you might want to put on your shopping list:
The possible benefits of malic acid on fibromyalgia sufferers:
If you have fibromyalgia, your body may find it difficult to make and use malic acid. With this in mind, in 1995, a study was undertaken the Department of Medicine, University of Texas Health Science Center, to test the:
“efficacy and safety of Super Malic, a proprietary tablet containing malic acid (200 mg) and magnesium (50 mg), in treatment of primary fibromyalgia syndrome”.
The concluding data revealed that super malic was a safe treatment and may have beneficial qualities to patients with fibromyalgia.
According to the Fibro Care Center:
“the ability of malic acid to overcome the block in energy production that this causes, should provide hope for those afflicted with FM.”
In addition, magnesium is reported to not only help with muscle spasm, but may also help patients to get a better quality of sleep.
Alternative Therapies To Help Combat Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia can have a serious impact on your quality of life, with chronic pain, sleep problems and fatigue being common symptoms. It is no wonder that sufferers are always on the lookout for solutions that could help alleviate their symptoms.
Alternative therapies although controversial, have helped many sufferers and some studies show that some of these treatments really can help.
Let’s take a look at three kinds of alternative therapies that may be worth trying:
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine which involves inserting fine needles into specific points of the body, along what is considered to be lines of energy called meridians. These needles are sometimes gently twisted, or small amounts of electrical current are applied. It is believed that inserting the needles and stimulating these pathways clears any blockages, and releases a flow of energy called qi (pronounced chi). This helps relieve pain and ailments by restoring balance to the body.
Although acupuncture has not been taken seriously by western medicine in the past, some recent studies have shown that acupuncture can have a moderate effect on pain. The results are temporary and can vary from person to person, but some people find that it helps to relieve pain for a number of weeks.
If you would like to try acupuncture, then you can find a professionally qualified acupuncturist in your area at http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/ .
Meditation is a relaxation technique that can help you switch off from day to day stresses. Many of those who meditate claim that it can have a profound effect on your mental and physical wellbeing. The physical benefits include reduced blood pressure, pain and tension. The mental benefits include a reduction in anxiety, stress and depression.
Studies show that meditation actually produces brainwaves consistent with serenity and happiness, which could aid with the sleep problems and pain associated with fibromyalgia. There is an increasingly popular form of meditation called mindfulness, which is gaining popularity amongst fibromyalgia suffers. Mindfulness focuses on living in the present moment, promoting calm thought and therefore reducing the stress, anxiety and pain associated with the condition.
If you would like to try meditation or mindfulness, there are some great books, DVD’s and CD’s available, or you could join one of the many classes available across the UK.
Massage is the rubbing and kneading of the muscles and joints, to relieve pain and tension. Swedish massage targets the superficial layers of the muscles. A therapist will apply gentle pressure combined with kneading and rubbing in the direction of the blood flow to the heart. Deep-tissue massage targets the deeper muscle tissues, as well as rubbing and kneading of the skin. The therapist will often apply pressure with an elbow or thumb directly to tension points in the muscles in a bid to relieve pain.
Many fibromyalgia sufferers say that massage can bring much welcomed relief from their symptoms. In fact, some studies have shown that massage can lift the mood, help with pain, and in some cases reduce the need for pain medication.
If you would like to try massage, then there are several massage directories on-line or you could ask your doctor if they recommend someone in the local area.
Remember to always consult your doctor before trying a new alternative therapy.
Fibromyalgia, Sleep Problems & How To Establish A Good Sleep Routine
Fibromyalgia can affect your life in many ways, not least your sleep. Many sufferers experience difficulty getting to sleep in the first place, or find themselves waking frequently throughout the night. The instances of restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea are also more common amongst fibromyalgia sufferers.
The good news is, there is much that can be done to help establish good sleep routines and promote a more restful night’s sleep:
1. Get the right amount of sleep
Sometimes you may have commitments that affect your routine, but wherever possible try to establish a regular time for going to bed and waking up. The amount of sleep that adults need varies from person to person. sleepfoundation.org state that is somewhere between 7-9 hours for 18 – 64 year olds and 7 – 8 hours for those who are 65+. Work out how many hours sleep work for you, and as tempting as it is to lie in, try to get up at a set time every day. This will help set your circadian rhythm (body clock), and help solidify your sleep. Staying in bed for too long can lead to fragmented and shallow sleep.
2. Have a relaxing bedtime routine
Finding ways to relax and unwind in the evening before going to bed can work wonders. Everyone’s idea of relaxing is different, perhaps a nice soak in the bath, some deep breathing exercises, reading a book or spending time doing a hobby that relaxes you.
3. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed
Both of these have been shown to contribute to poor sleep quality.
4. Have a light carbohydrate snack
Hunger may disturb you through the night, so having a light snack before bedtime could help. Obviously avoid foods that you know can trigger problems for you, but perhaps you could have a small portion of cheese and biscuits, a hearty bowl of porridge with soya milk or a banana.
5. Avoid long daytime naps
Tempting as it may be to snuggle up and have a nice long nap when you have the opportunity, this could interfere with your sleep during the night. So if you need to have a nap, then make sure not to sleep for too long as it may not help in the long term.
6. Get regular exercise
Exercising three times a week can benefit those with sleep difficulties. Pick the type of exercise that you feel you are able to do and will enjoy. A gentle walk, swimming or gardening are all great forms of light exercise. Just remember not to exercise in the three hours before bedtime as this could interfere with your sleep.
7. Block out any noise
It sounds simple but any noise coming from outside (or inside) your house could stop you from getting good quality sleep. Think about what you can do to reduce the noise levels, perhaps you sleep in the front room by a busy road and moving to the back room could help. If you have trains or planes that disturb your sleep, earplugs may help.
8. Keep a sleep diary
Write down how your sleep is over the course of a few weeks. You may start to see patterns and triggers that are affecting your sleep, which will then allow you to come up with strategies to deal with these things.
Of course, if sleep problems persist your doctor may be able to help. In fact, treatment for the chronic pain and depression associated with fibromyalgia can lead to an improvement in sleep problems. In some cases, sleep medication is prescribed to help sufferers get back into a good night time sleep routine.
Do you have sleep problems? Have you found certain things that have helped you get a more restful night’s sleep, if so we would love to hear from you. Please comment in the box below.
Are The Seasons Affecting Your Fibromyalgia?
The chilly Winter months have definitely arrived! Everyone is bustling around, preparing for the festive season, and there is lots to do. So if you are a fibromyalgia sufferer, you may well be feeling the strain more than most!
Many sufferers find that changes in the weather can have an adverse effect on their condition. Although the results of studies into the matter have been mixed, many find the temperature drops in the Winter months, can make symptoms more severe. In fact, it’s not just the cold temperatures associated with the winter months that can cause bother, it’s the changes in air pressure and humidity levels too. Sufferers find that these weather conditions cause higher fatigue levels, more headaches, increased muscle pain, more sleep problems and an increase in the number of flare ups.
So far, researchers have been unable to determine why the changes in weather affects sufferers, however there are some possible explanations. Firstly, changes in temperature can affect sleep patterns. Getting plenty of sleep is really important if you have fibromyalgia, and even small shifts in your sleep pattern can aggravate the condition. Secondly, as the seasons change, the amount of light you are exposed to can throw off your circadian rhythm (body clock), making you feel low and more tired than usual. Lastly, there may be a connection between low temperatures and pro-inflammatory cytokines, which appear to be connected to pain intensity.
What can you do?
- The best thing that you can do is to keep warm (but not too warm)! Dress in two or three comfortable layers, so that you can take a layer off if you are a bit too hot. If you are going outside, make sure that you are wearing suitable winter footwear, a scarf, gloves and a warm hat. Indoors, keep your heating at a comfortable temperature.
- Keep as much sunshine in your home as possible. It is easy to feel low during the dark winter months, which will make your symptoms feel worse. So, let as much light into your house as possible, maybe even invest in a mood enhancing light box.
- The application of heat packs can be a huge benefit, not only during the winter months, but all year round. You can buy reusable heat packs easily in the shops or online, or you can use a hot flannel. Just place the heat pad on the affected area for eight to ten minutes and then do some gentle stretches afterwards to feel relief.
- Try hydrotherapy, many find that wet heat is very beneficial. If you can get to a hydrotherapy tub brilliant, if not a good soak in a hot bath can work wonders.
Have you tried any of these tips? Have you found any of them useful, or do you have any to add. We love to hear of your experiences. Please post your comments below.
Recipes For Fibromyalgia Sufferers
While Fibromyalgia is a well-known disease there is still much debate over what it is actually caused by. As we recently discussed on the blog, while it is distinguished by joint and muscle pain, it does not present itself like other inflammatory diseases. Despite this, there have been discussions that suggest that inflammation could be a factor. This leads to the fact that diet could be key – so all fibro suffers should pay close attention to what they eat to help alleviate their symptoms.
To help with this we’ve compiled a short guide to some of the websites that you should bookmark to help you prepare food that will help rather than hinder you living with fibro.
As well as foods that directly affect fibromyalgia, it makes sense to make sure that you are eating as healthily as possible. After all, the more healthy your body the easier it will be to manage your symptoms.
- http://www.lifescript.comLifescript.com is a website dedicated to women’s health, ranging from health to parenting, fitness and diet. Fibromyalgia suffers are primarily women so it makes a lot of sense to see a selection of recipes on the site aimed at fibro sufferers. Categories range from eggless and low-calorie breakfasts to fast 20-minute dinners and, oddly, ‘bridal shower’ dishes.
- http://www.thekitchn.comIf you are a fan of chicken, salmon or some vegetarian dishes then take a look at this page, which lists six recipes in answer to a reader question on dishes that omit eggs, nuts, grains, corn, dairy, and legumes.
- http://www.everydayhealth.comThis site isn’t a food site but does have a useful page, which claims that it’s been ‘medically reviewed’ by a doctor, that discusses a list of food types that could potentially causing issues for fibro sufferers: – caffeine, sugar, MSG, dairy and gluten – and goes into some detail on each one.
- https://uk.pinterest.com/fibro24/fibromyalgia-recipe-cards/Are you familiar with Pinterest? It’s a website that lets you curate a group of images organised into ‘boards’ that can be categorised as you please. One user has a public list of recipes for fibro patients – from breaded turkey and garlic mushrooms to carrot soup. Click on the pictures to see the full recipes and you can comment on them underneath.
- https://www.youtube.comIf you fancy watching rather than reading, then head over to YouTube: There are several clips their focusing on recipes suitable for fibro patients. For example, there’s one that focuses on a diet plan and one that gives you 13 Natural Ways To Manage Fibromyalgia. Be warned, they are quite US centric but it’s worth going through them – you’ll be certain to find some good food advice and some empathy with what you’re experiencing.
- http://www.living-smarter-with-fibromyalgia.com/gluten-free.htmlThis website is set up by ‘Fibro-Girl’. While she probably won’t be appearing in a superhero movie anytime soon, she may become your saviour if any of the recipes on this site work for you.The dishes are described as, “gluten-free, grain free and anti-inflammatory recipes,” –spaghetti squash, Jicama Salad and Jicama Salad are all there. It’s not all worthy main meals, there’s also enticing sounding ‘Coco Love Bars’. There are a good number of other options, so we’d definitely bookmark this one.
Have you found any recipes that have improved your quality of life? Do you have any tips and recipes to share with us? We would love to hear your comments below.
How Low Impact Exercise Can Help Alleviate Fibromyalgia
Everyone knows the benefits of exercise, but did you know that low impact exercise can be particularly beneficial for those suffering with fibromyalgia?
Studies have shown that moderate exercise can help alleviate the pain, fatigue and anxiety associated with the condition.
Here are six reasons why low impact exercises are a great idea:
- Exercise has been shown to trigger a positive emotional state, through increasing serotonin and endorphin levels. Low levels of serotonin have been linked with fibromyalgia so a boost of these ‘feel good’ hormones can help reduce pain, stress, depression and anxiety.
- Regular exercise can reduce muscle tension and stiffness and strengthen weak muscles, particularly exercises that focus on gentle stretching such as yoga, tai chi or pilates. This exercise group is also renowned for the relaxing effect they have on body and mind.
- Exercise can help build up your health and stamina. Studies have shown that when fibromyalgia sufferers take part in regular low impact exercise, their day to day stamina can show significant improvement.
- Regular exercise promotes restful sleep. One of the most common symptoms with fibromyalgia are sleep problems. Many sufferers have difficulty sleeping through the night and don’t feel rested when the morning comes. Regular exercise can help promote good sleep patterns. Just be careful not to exercise immediately before you go to bed, or that will have a detrimental effect.
- Exercise supports a healthy immune system. If a fibromyalgia sufferer picks up a virus it can be much harder to recover from than the average person, so anything that can boost your immune system is a really good idea.
- Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight. This is true for everyone, whether you suffer from fibromyalgia or not, however it can be very common for fibromyalgia sufferers to struggle with those extra pounds. There are a few reasons why weight gain might be common amongst sufferers, thyroid problems, inaccurate hunger messages can be sent to the brain and those with fibromyalgia may have a lower metabolism than those without the condition.
It is true that when you have fibromyalgia sometimes the last thing that you feel like doing is exercising, but research has shown that if you give it a go you are very likely to start seeing positive results. It can take a couple of weeks to start seeing the benefits but if you stick with it, it will be worth it.
So if you are looking to start a low impact exercise program, go slowly at first. If you decide to enrol in a class, make sure the teacher is aware of your individual health problems and go at a pace you feel comfortable with. If you are too conscious to join a class perhaps try to incorporate some low impact exercises into your routine at home to build up a bit of stamina first.
If you would like to start swimming don’t aim to swim a length of the pool on your first visit, perhaps just go to the pool and do some gentle stretching, floating and walking in the pool, then gradually build up to a few strokes at a time. Walking is another good option, but don’t aim to walk a half marathon! Perhaps just take a daily walk to the local shop, or find a friend who would like to gradually build up their health and go on small walks together, building up the distance as your strength increases.
Remember, always consult with your doctor before you start a new exercise regime. Many doctors can give you really good advice on exercise programs that are right for you, and can even point you in the direction of classes and people that can help.
Have you found that exercise has helped you with your symptoms? We would love to hear about your experiences, please comment in the box below.
Sleeping Tips For Fibromyalgia Sufferers
If you’re a fibromyalgia sufferer who struggles to drift off, read our blog to learn more and discover our handy tips to finally get a good night’s sleep.
we know our fair share about the disorder, including how it can cause problems for sufferers when it comes to sleeping. There are many sleep disorders associated with fibromyalgia, including insomnia, sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome, all of which can cause a serious lack of sleep for sufferers. It’s needless to say that sleep is a necessity for everyone, especially those suffering with a serious condition such as fibromyalgia, so if you have been diagnosed, read our blog and take note of our helpful tips to finally get the sleep you’ve been waiting for.
According to experts, sleep can help to manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia and, in some cases, may help to decrease pain and discomfort. Try out the following tips to establish a better sleep routine:
1) In order to maintain a regular sleeping pattern, don’t oversleep, set an alarm for the same time each morning, and try not to spend too much time in bed as this is often associated with poor, fragmented sleep.
2) Before going to sleep, take some time out to read your favourite book; as we read, our eyes move regularly and our brains are constantly working hard to interpret the words we see. Due of this, our eye muscles become tired which eventually makes us feel lethargic.
3) Taking some time to relax before going to sleep can sometimes help. Try out some deep breathing exercises, take a hot bath, or wind down with a gentle massage. Either of these techniques will enable your body to slow down and be ready for a restful night’s sleep.
4) Try to reduce your caffeine or alcohol intake; both beverages will make it difficult for your body to settle. If you’re one of many who enjoy a warm drink before getting into bed, why not try out a herbal tea?
5) Taking part in gentle exercises that are beneficial for fibromyalgia sufferers is going to make it easier for your body to tire. Plus, it could help reduce some of your symptoms.
6) Keep a sleep diary to log how many hours of sleep you have per night, and which triggers have interfered the most with your sleep. This way, you can begin to understand your sleeping pattern better and take action to improve it.
If sleep disruption continues to be a serious issue for you and your fibromyalgia, we suggest that you seek further medical advice with your GP; you could be suffering from a serious sleep disorder and may need medication to relieve symptoms.
How Does The Weather Affect Your Fibromyalgia Pain?
The United Kingdom is known for its poor and inconsistent weather, which is problematic for a number of health conditions including fibromyalgia. Shifts in the weather are known to trigger symptoms in the condition and increase pain levels. Continue reading, as we take a closer look at how various climate conditions affect fibromyalgia.
The root cause of fibromyalgia symptoms is unknown, however, many people with the disorder believe changes in the weather make it worse. Fibromyalgia patients may favour different seasons depending on their sensitivities, as explained below.
Some people with fibromyalgia have heat sensitivities and find weather that’s a bit colder more tolerable than hot. A heat sensitive person often feels burning sensations, coming from within, all over their body. This can make any slight touch or layer of clothing against the skin feel unbearable. Other side effects include puffy and aching hands and feet, as well as hot flushes, heat stroke and excessive sweating. Heat sensitivity, like most fibromyalgia symptoms, can be tied to the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA). As detailed in a study stemming out of The Netherlands, the hypothalamus is a section of the brain that is responsible for keeping the body’s status quo, a process known as homeostasis, by linking the nervous system and the endocrine system. FMS patients are prone to an imbalance of the HPA axis, which disrupts the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis and can lower their human growth hormone (HGH), dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), cortisol and other hormones, causing a whole host of issues including sensitivities to temperature. This is evident with Dr. John C. Lowe, the Director of Research at the Fibromyalgia Research Foundation reporting, 43% of FMS patients have low thyroid function, meaning those with FMS are 10 to 250,000 times more likely to suffer from thyroid dysfunction.
On the other side of the spectrum, less sunlight and cooler temperatures, frequently onset symptoms, making winter also a dreaded time of year for sufferers. One of the reasons behind this is that people with fibromyalgia have an enormous increase in the number of sensory nerves on their palms and hands, according to findings by the Integrated Tissue Dynamics (Intidyn) in New York. Another reason is that our body temperature is regulated in our hands and feet, with blood vessels and shunts, opening up to let blood flow faster in cool temperatures, while exposing nerve fibers, fibromyalgia patients, with their surplus of nerve fibers, have greater pain in colder weather. Further complicating this issue is the fact that our hands and feet act as a reservoir and store and divert blood flow. Disruption at these critical sites, as seen in FMS patients, can result in mismanaged blood and cause muscular pain and aches. It can also contribute to a buildup of lactic acid, causing fatigue or hyperactivity in the brain, and inflammation. The increase in the number of these sensory nerves means drops or rises in temperature will have a large impact on FMS patients.
Above all, humidity hits fibromyalgia patients the hardest despite their normal tendencies. Researchers speculated this is a result of the weather, in either clammy or hot condition, feeling more oppressed. Given the biometric reasons above, fibromyalgia patients are also particularly vulnerable to weather fluctuations, as well as drops and rises in the barometric pressure, since their bodies scramble to regulate.
It’s interesting to consider, a fibromyalgia patient is rarely affected by both hot and cold but the dysfunction leading to their body flaring up is seen in both climates, whether the reaction causes noticeable symptoms. Can you relate to any of these issues adjusting to climate condition? Connect with us on Facebook, to let us know and stay tuned for our next blog entry tailored to aid fibromyalgia sufferers regulate their body and adjust to flare-ups brought on by temperature.
Technology, Tools & Tricks To Help Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Applications (reporting & informative)
Applications provide a means of monitoring and understanding complex medical conditions, like Fibromyalgia, with regular updates about emerging trends, research and opportunities relating to the condition.
The award-winning, NHS approved, mobile app is an 8-in-1 solution for people suffering from Fibromyalgia, ME/CFS/SEID, Lupus, MS, Arthritis, or CRPS. The system can easily focus on complex conditions with over 200 co-existing symptoms populated in the app. The app’s journal feature also allows users to further expand on their state of being; the application seamlessly tracks the user’s medication use and sleep patterns and compiles comprehensible reports in a chart or graph format. This information is helpful to medical professionals and sufferers in order to better understand and control the symptoms.
The Fibromyalgia Magazine mobile application is an electronic version of the popular magazine that covers a wide range of topics related to Fibromyalgia. Ongoing themes in the monthly magazine include emerging medical research, alternative therapies, pharmaceutical news, advice towards treatment and pursuing an insurance or legal claim. A basic version of the Fibromyalgia magazine application is free to download but there is a subscription fee to fully access current and past editions. Monies raised are divided up to support local support groups and charities in an effort to further Britain’s Fibromyalgia community.
Gadgets (pain management)
Fibromyalgia is characterised by widespread pain. There is no known cure for the condition but a variety of coping techniques are available to help patients improve their current state. We have come across these two tools that have been found to be useful in pain management:
This self massage tool was developed by a patient with chronic pain to relieve pressure in hard-to-reach sore muscles. The Thera Cane breaks up tension and helps maximise the flow of oxygenated blood to increase circulation and restore muscle function. The Thera Cane allows chronic pain sufferers to take control of their own healing by applying deep compression directly to hard, knotted “trigger points.” The tool can be used sitting, standing or lying down. It is recommended to start with gentle stretching and use the tool to apply light pressure to tender areas in short intervals and slowly increase. The Thera Cane is an American product but can be purchased in the UK through Amazon.
- Back Support Waist Belt
A wide support belt is used to stabilise the spine and reduce back pain and chronic fatigue in people with Fibromyalgia. It works by improving their posture and protecting the back by ensuring the knees and hips do most of the work when lifting. There are a number of options, when selecting a back support belt for chronic pain; a breathable model with lumbar support may help. Ensure the belt fits comfortably and regularly loosen or remove it, since overuse can potentially weaken spine muscles.
Tricks (pain prevention)
We understand the troubles someone with chronic pain faces daily and know that even the smallest movements can be detrimental. Here are some tricks we’ve come across to prevent movements that escalate pain levels.
- Long handed tools
Prevent squatting and bending over with long handled household tools. You can often find alternatives to commonly used items like brooms and dustpans, nail clippers and hair brushes to gardening instruments. If there is not an ergonomic substitute, look for or craft extensions to lengthen existing items yourself. For example, make your keys easier to grab and turn by adding a plastic cover to enlarge the end. Be vigilant to detect daily movements that cause you strain and proactively modify these.
- Pots and pans with two handles
It sounds simple but having two handles on cooking sets makes a big difference, especially when you consider the large cast iron skillets & woks found in many kitchens. The ability to grip and move hot, heavy items with both hands eases the cooking process.
- Drive safe and pain free with panoramic mirrors
Constantly twisting your body and turning your neck to adjust mirrors and check blind spots, while driving, can aggravate a sufferer’s pain. To stay safe and prevent additional discomfort we recommend installing panoramic and wide-angle mirrors. They’re available in different sizes to fit all vehicles and can easily be incorporated by switching out your factory-installed mirror or clipping on top of it.
Everyday tasks are often dreaded and difficult for people with chronic pain. We hope this article has brought new insight into helping you to better manage the condition on a day-to-day basis. Share this article with the FM community to help others and, if you’ve given any of our suggestions a try, get in touch through Facebook or Twitter to let us know your thoughts.
Fibromyalgia & Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and how does it relate to fibromyalgia?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is talking therapy that helps patients manage problems by changing the way they think and behave. It’s commonly used to treat anxiety, depression and other mental and physical symptoms, like chronic pain linked to conditions such as fibromyalgia. In this article, we identify what CBT is and explain how it relates to fibromyalgia patients.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is based on the notion that a person’s thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and actions are all connected. When a negative element enters this ecosystem it creates a ripple effect; impacting their entire being and trapping them in a vicious cycle. Therapists pinpoint and break down key factors that initiate and progress this pattern.
CBT is minimising chronic pain
CBT has been shown to improve outcomes for patients with fibromyalgia, and its cardinal feature chronic pain. CBT aids in the development of coping skills that minimise the sufferers awareness of the pain, so it doesn’t feel as severe even if the actual level of pain stays the same. Several studies show CBT to be the most effective psychological treatment for fibromyalgia patients; it’s different from most talking therapies, since CBT deals with current problems rather than solving issues from the past.
New research into preventing fibromyalgia with CBT
A clinical trial soon to commence in the UK will be the first of its kind focusing on preventing chronic widespread pain (CWP) in people at high-risk of developing fibromyalgia. It stems out of the influx of scientific research supporting CBT as a coping mechanism for fibromyalgia sufferers. The trial titled, “The Maintaining Musculoskeletal Health (MAmMOTH) Study: Protocol for a randomised trial of cognitive behavioural therapy versus usual care for the prevention of chronic widespread pain”, will be performed by researchers at the University of Aberdeen. The university is currently using a primary care database to approach patients. To be considered, patients must have sought medical care for their pain and face two of these additional issues; sleep problems, maladaptive behaviour response to illness, or a high number of somatic symptoms.
The trial aims to analyse data from 946 participants by performing an initial assessment followed by six CBT sessions to be delivered once a week. Booster sessions will also be held at three and six months into the study, with a follow up questionnaire conducted at 12 and 24 months. Researchers are hopeful results will guide future treatments and provide insight into the disease.
Do you use CBT therapy to help you manage fibromyalgia? Share your story with us on Facebook
Fibromyalgia & Weather Sensitivities
Dressing and acting in accordance with weather is no easy feat and it can be extra challenging for fibromyalgia sufferers with sensitivities to heat or cold. In this article we take a look at controversy in the medical community over whether or not a fibromyalgia patient is infact impacted by temperature change, as well as outline clothing and lifestyle choices to make sufferers more comfortable.
Many people with fibromyalgia report extremities to hot and cold, indicating their pain levels and symptoms increase with shifts in the weather. One person with fibromyalgia may find heat unbearable and cool climates soothing, whereas someone else with the same condition may feel the opposite. Typically a patient is bothered by one extreme or another, although the reasoning behind their flare-ups are noted to be the same. As explained in our previous blog entry, How does the weather affect your Fibromyalgia pain?, symptoms triggered by temperature changes can be tied to an increase in the number of sensory nerves on their palms and hands, as well as their proneness to offsetting their hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA).
These facts have been disputed by Dutch researchers in the study, Weather Conditions Do Not Affect Fibromyalgia Pain or Fatigue, published in Science Daily. Lead author Ercolie Bossema, PhD, from Utrecht University indicates:
“This study is the first to investigate the impact of weather on fibromyalgia symptoms in a large cohort, and our findings show no association between specific fibromyalgia patient characteristics and weather sensitivity.”
The study examined 333 female patients, that have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for an average of two years, over a 28-day period to explore the impact of weather on pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia. The results, showing only 10-20% of the participants had a small effect from the weather, has received quite a bit of backlash within the community of fibromyalgia and chronic pain sufferers. Numerous bloggers have come out emphasizing the pain they feel in unfavourable climates, while drawing attention to clinical studies that back up their point. For instance, the Perceived Pain and Weather Changes in Rheumatic Patients retrospective cross-sectional study found fibromyalgia patients to be strongly influenced by weather change. The three week study evaluated and compared 955 patients with various rheumatic conditions to find out how weather changes impacts pain levels and disease activity.
Despite the overflow of contrasting evidence and opinions, it’s important to be vigilant towards your own sensitivities and act accordingly because above all your comfort is what’s most important. Here’s a list of simple suggestions, we’ve compiled from medical and pain management experts, for fibromyalgia sufferers to incorporate to combat and ease symptoms triggered by fluctuations in the weather.
As uncomfortable the bitter cold may be, mixed with wet and clammy conditions, for the general population that level is escalated for the cold sensitive to intolerable. The trick to maintaining your warmth is to relax your muscles and restoring heat on a deeper, internal level. Once you’ve reached a comfortable temperature, it’s important not let the heat escape, since re-adjusting is known to onset pain in fibromyalgia.
- Soak in a warm bath
- Drink hot liquids and eat hot meals like soup and oatmeal.
- Keep your feet covered by wearing socks and slippers.
- Layer using naturally thin warm fibers, like silk, merino wool, or fleece.
- Light candles in your home and keep the curtains open if the sun is shining
A person that is sensitive to heat finds even slight increases in temperature unbearable. It’s best to prepare yourself and your home.
- Avoid home and beauty products that expel heat
- Stay hydrated by carrying a bottle of water and sipping from it often, rather than waiting to be thirsty
- Wear lightweight, loose fitting clothing. Stick to light colours in warm weather because dark colours absorb heat.
- Soak your hands and/or feet in cold water to cool your entire self down.
- Become equipped with a cooling kit comprised of a mini battery operated fan, ice packs and aloe vera.
As sufferers are aware, fibromyalgia is a complex condition so if you are facing onset symptoms, it’s good practise to track them in a journal for external factors and intensity, as explained in our previous blog post Factors Complicating Fibromyalgia Diagnosis. Through this analysis you may notice a pattern of symptoms being provoked from your medication or a coexisting condition. We’re always interested in hearing about personal experiences with fibromyalgia, so if you’ve noticed a pattern relating to your symptoms get in touch to tell us about it. Connect with us
The Healing Power Of Pets For Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Complex conditions like fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome are often triggered by a traumatic life event and hinders a person’s ability to perform regular tasks. There is no known cure in sight for these conditions, therefore, sufferers are often forced to mask their symptoms in an attempt to lead a normal life. In prior posts, we’ve mentioned the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, to minimise the severity of symptoms, by establishing a good sleep routine, adapting a nutritious diet and incorporating daily low impact exercise. We also understand there’s not just one remedy for fibromyalgia patients and a combination approach is typically most effective. That’s why Brian Barr is constantly communicating emerging techniques to help sufferers cope, involving modern medication and traditional healing, such as music therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy and meditation. This post will highlight how animal companionship has the ability to aid fibromyalgia patients, both physically and emotionally, so continue reading the five points outlined below to find out:
- Relieves Your Mind
Fibromyalgia is known to consume a sufferer’s entire being. A lot of patients are unable to work or face a loss in wages due to the amount of time they’re away from work, usually attending appointments in an attempt to reach a diagnosis, for their widespread symptoms. If you’re in this position, as we’ve heard from fibromyalgia warrior Sue Hadden, it’s best to clearly communicate your condition in order to manage a suitable work-life balance. Having this stress on top of living with constant pain and discomfort is difficult enough, but many sufferers further burden themselves by constantly thinking about their state.
Pets force patients to focus their attention on something else that requires their care and concern and, therefore, leaves little attention for them to anguish over their wellbeing. Animals can have kind, nurturing and bizarre mannerisms that have been known to distract patients from their problems and allow them to see the brighter side of things. Even spending a small amount of time with a puppy can leave a patient, in constant pain, laughing at their antics.
- Facilitates a Healthy Lifestyle
Low impact exercise is encouraged for fibromyalgia patients and can easily be achieved by caring for a pet. The act of taking them for walks and playing or stroking their fur can be therapeutic for your muscles and joints, as well as support a healthy immune function. Pets also require their caretaker to habitually get up and move around the house in order to feed them, let them out or attend to their mischievous behaviour. This regular mobility is key to maintaining healthy circulation and will help relieve fibro fog. Plus, animals expel heat and snuggling next to them can actually soothe and relax stiff and achy muscles, while providing a sense of emotional comfort.
- Lifts Your Mood
Interacting with an animal can increase endorphins and act like a natural painkiller. And the less pain you’re in, even momentarily, will ease your breathing and slow down your heart rate to provide a calming relief. This happy sensation has been known to put sufferers in a better place to proactively handle their fibromyalgia symptoms head on.
- Provides New Companionship
It’s very common for fibromyalgia sufferers to feel alone and overwhelmed, as they face chronic pain, especially when you consider they are three times more likely to suffer from depression and their hormonal axis is frequent offset. When you’re in this state, it can be difficult to maintain relationships with the people closest to you and a quiet companionship may be incredibly comforting. It’s a hard situation for your loved ones to understand, and even though their efforts are sincere, their attempts to emphasise may fall short. Having a no-strings attached, loyal companionship may bring you the confidence and support that you’re seeking. In addition, this bond may trickle into your human relationships, as you may feel more relaxed, ready or willing to connect with people around you. Furthermore, having a pet also brings a new realm of social opportunity and interaction, especially if you choose a dog. If you head out to the park or for a walk around your neighbourhood, you’re likely to run into other dog owners and pets make a great icebreaker.
- Drives Routine and Responsibility
Fibromyalgia has the power to dominate your daily routine by inhibiting you to do the things you love and requiring you to spend time on things you don’t. Owning any type of animal requires a level of routine and responsibility, and provides their owner with the means and ability to do it, and as you’re taking care of them, you’re also taking control of at least one aspect of your life. And even if it feels like a dreaded task at the time, the overall experience is rewarding. Caring for a pet can also help you establish a regular sleeping pattern, which is important for your overall wellbeing.
Animal companionship is scientifically proven to have a positive impact on chronic pain and fibromyalgia sufferers, so even if you’re not particularly drawn to them, you may be pleasantly surprised with the outcome of spending time with one. Get in touch, if you’re a fibromyalgia or chronic pain sufferer that’s been influenced by having an interaction with an animal,
Fibromyalgia & Hormonal Imbalance
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common diseases affecting the muscles, tendons, and joints in women. It is difficult to detect fibromyalgia, despite its commonality, with no set diagnostic protocol and its likeliness to coexist with other conditions. Further complicating the process, is the fact fibromyalgia symptoms are inconsistent and can fluctuate with seasonal changes and hormonal shifts. As mentioned in the article posted earlier this month, the link between fibromyalgia and hormones, fibromyalgia is regularly first detected in women during a major hormonal change like puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Considering this connection, we’ve taken a look into the various ways fibromyalgia patients can balance their hormones to keep symptoms at bay.
Hormonal replacement therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) involves boosting decreasing levels of the female reproductive hormones. Medical evidence suggests replenishing oestrogen and progesterone hormones in fibromyalgia patients may help relieve symptoms. One reason tied to this theory, is magnesium utilisation is increased by the presence of oestrogen. As we’ve previously reported, Using Malic acid and Magnesium to treat Fibromyalgia, women with fibromyalgia lack, magnesium, a vital mineral supporting a healthy immune system. Signs of magnesium deficiency are muscle soreness and tension, poor sleep, migraine headaches, anxiety, hyperactivity, and constipation – all symptoms common in fibromyalgia. In addition, research shows oestrogen’s are beneficial for skeletal muscle function and strength. This is affirmed by physicians, comparing cases involving patients with decreasing amounts of female hormones to those with ideal levels, concluding women with hormone deficiencies sustain greater injuries and requiring more time to recover.
If you’re considering HRT, it’s important to consult with medical professional to determine the best course of action for you. A physician will need to review your medical history and assess the risks involved to create a personalised approach. Keep in mind, there’s no standard method of HRT and treatment regimens vary. Below is a list of the current approaches:
- Tablets, usually taken once per day, are the simplest and most commonly used way of taking HRT. Blood clots are a higher risk with tablets compared to other forms of HRT.
- Skin patches, also common, provide an alternative option for people looking to avoid the inconvenience of taking a pill every day. Patches are to be stuck on your skin and replaced every few days. Side effects from HRT, such as indigestion, are reported to be less in patients using patches. And, unlike tablets, patches don’t increase your risk of blood clots.
- Oestrogen gel, applied once per day, is increasing in popularity and provides a convenient way of taking HRT. Oestrogen gel won’t increase your risk of blood clots but there is a risk of developing womb cancer, so you may be required to use it in combination with another method of HRT.
- Implants can be inserted under a patient’s skin to gradually release hormones over time. The small pellet-sized implant needs replacing every few of months. Implants are the most convenient method of HRT, yet aren’t widely available or used very often. Like, oestrogen gel, you may be subject to a combination of HRT in order to avoid the risk of womb cancer.
- Vaginal oestrogen, available as a cream, pessary or ring, is placed inside the patient’s vagina. The risks and side effects involved in HRT are less with this method.
Depending on your condition and goals for wanting to try HRT, the doctor may recommend another form of modern or traditional medication. It’s also possible to balance hormones naturally by developing healthy lifestyle habits, such as altering your diet, to include key minerals and vitamins, incorporating low impact exercises and developing a sleeping pattern. Have you attempted to balance your hormones to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms? Reach out to us on social media
The Connection Between Fibromyalgia & Hormones
What is the connection between fibromyalgia and hormones? The is no definitive correlation, however, there is a lot of speculation surrounding this subject in medical community. Researchers suggests a hormone imbalance could be a contributing factor in people developing the disorder, as well as a means of irritating symptoms in diagnosed patients. In this blog entry we take a deeper look at this topic.
Can a hormone imbalance cause fibromyalgia?
There is no sure answer to this question because there is not a complete understanding of what exactly causes fibromyalgia. As mentioned in our previous blog entry, What causes Fibromyalgia?, fibromyalgia symptoms are often first seen following a trigger event such as a viral infection, mental trauma or physical trauma such as an injury in a public place, at work or in a road traffic accident. The impact from this traumatic event leave many people facing the long-term effects of fibromyalgia.
A leading theory is that this incident has disturbed their central nervous system that processes pain messages around their body, which could be reflective of a hormonal imbalance. The NHS reports, in the article Causes of fibromyalgia, people with fibromyalgia have abnormally low levels of the hormones serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine in their brains. These hormones are required for regulating everyday behaviours such as mood, appetite, sleep and our reaction to stressful situations. There’s also evidence to suggest an imbalance of other hormones, such as cortisol and oestrogen, may contribute to fibromyalgia.
Major hormonal changes
Significant research is ongoing to explore the link between gender roles in fibromyalgia, considering the vast majority, approximately 85%-90%, of all fibromyalgia patients are women. Some researchers suggests this is due to the fact that women are more prone to large hormonal shifts are various life stages, as detailed below:
As mentioned in our prior blog entry, Women suffer more from chronic pain than men, but why?, hormones in women tend to start fluctuating during puberty as a response to pain at different points in their menstrual pain. Post puberty, women’s sensitivities to pain has been known to create a pattern that can persist through adulthood with the majority of chronic migraines, irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia sufferers being female.
There is a tremendous increase in the amount of hormones in a woman’s body during pregnancy, but due to our individuality there is no telling how we will react to them. In the initial stages, the majority of fibromyalgia patients report typical symptoms of pregnancy such as morning sickness, headaches and dizziness. Once these side effects subside, leading up to the third trimester, their fibromyalgia flares-up. Although, on the contrary, some doctors say pregnancy helps to lessen, or even eliminate, symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. They speculate this could be from the extra ovarian hormone relaxin in the body during pregnancy.
Most women are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, between the ages of 40 to 55, during menopause. Medical researchers believe symptoms noticed at this stage in a woman’s life are most likely triggered by a decrease in the amounts of estrogens. The typical post-menopausal woman produces 40 % less oestrogen than a woman who is still experiencing menstruation and therefore experiences symptoms like anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. It’s when other hormones are low or unbalance that trigger the full spectrum of fibromyalgia but it can be difficult for doctors to distinguish the difference between normal menopausal features from fibromyalgia, since symptoms overlap.
How To Cope With Fibro Fog
Fibro fog is one of the most common symptoms amongst fibromyalgia sufferers, and can render patients disoriented and forgetful.
Fibromyalgia is a disease that causes all over body pain for its sufferers. The exact cause is unknown, yet symptoms are vast and are not confined to just all over body pain; symptoms often include extreme sensitivity, fatigue and IBS, with one of the most common being cognitive dysfunction, also known as ‘fibro fog’.
Fibro fog is related to issues with mental processes, and can present itself as short-term memory loss, leaving sufferers struggling to find the correct word or getting words mixed up, problems with attention and concentration and episodic disorientation, amongst other symptoms.
Establish healthy habits
Both regular exercise and a healthy diet are helpful for combatting fibro fog; low impact exercise improves blood flow, can increase energy and clear your mind. Past studies have shown that going for a walk just three times a walk can effectively increase the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that controls your memory. Some fibromyalgia patients prefer yoga as a form of low exercise, while others may focus on strength training. There are plenty of low impact exercises that may help patients with their fibro fog
Maintaining a healthy diet is also a good way to manage the symptoms of fibro fog. Sufferers are advised to stay away from processed foods, sugar and junk food. Instead, it’s recommended that sufferers focus a diet filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy. It is also incredibly important to stay hydrated, so drinking water regularly should be included in your diet, along with brain boosting foods such as blueberries, chia seeds and leafy greens such as kale and spinach.
Quality and quantity of sleep
While it’s no secret that everyone should try and get a good 8 hours sleep per night, it is particularly important for fibromyalgia patients, especially for those who struggle with fibro fog. To improve the quality of your sleep, try to follow a routine by waking up and going to sleep at the same time each day; avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, along with heavy meals before going to bed; try to keep your bedroom solely for sleeping – if you’re going to read, watch the television or use a laptop, try and keep it to another room in your home; and keep your bedroom cool and dark, so you’re as comfortable as possible when you go to bed. Some patients like to use herbal remedies or natural treatments such as melatonin, magnesium and valerian root to help them sleep, yet it is recommended that you consult with your doctor before taking any supplements. If you’re looking for more advice, read our blog on sleeping tips for fibromyalgia sufferers.
Organisation is key
Staying organised is a great way to help patients cope with their brain fog. This is not limited to organising yourself but also your space, both at work and at home. To do this, remove clutter by throwing out the things you no longer need and create storage for those things that you do need. By doing this, you may find your fibro fog easier to control. Self organisation is also a great coping mechanism. Use a planner to help you keep track of meetings or arrangements, set alarms to remind yourself of certain tasks, and try to plan ahead to avoid stress.
Pace yourself and avoid stress
Overactivity is a contributing factor to cognitive difficulties. It’s important to manage your activity levels throughout the day, and it’s okay to take short breaks if you feel overwhelmed or as though you’re losing your concentration.
Additionally, most sufferers will find that they have specific times of the day that they consider to be better than others. If you’re aware of this being the case, try and plan your day so that the tasks that require the most concentration can be completed in your preferred time periods. Similarly, if you feel you may have overstretched yourself in a day, consider postponing or cancelling activities and using the time to rest instead. This will enable you to complete or enjoy activities more thoroughly when you do get around to them.
Avoiding stress is another crucial point, as stress can exacerbate fibro fog and also prohibit you from effectively using other coping techniques, such as maintaining a routine and getting good quality sleep. Try using techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness; learn how to relax in response to stress; and focus on reframing a stressful situation by calming yourself and slowing down.
While these are some of our most recommended tips for coping with fibro fog, as a specialist fibromyalgia law firm, we are sympathetic to the fact that not all techniques will work for everyone. If you find that these techniques don’t work for you, you may find it useful to speak to your GP for further information.
Fibromyalgia & Low Vitamin D Levels
According to a new study, low levels of vitamin D can worsen postural control, balance and pain in fibromyalgia sufferers.
Fibromyalgia is an extremely debilitating disease, often developed spontaneously or as a result of an accident or trauma. Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia patients at present, experts are hoping to better understand the condition through various studies and, as a leading law firm with vast expertise in handling fibromyalgia claims, we think it’s important to remain in the know at all times; by following these studies, we’re able to provide helpful advice and insight to our clients where possible. In a recently published study, researchers carried out an investigation to explore whether or not low vitamin D levels can have a negative effect on postural control and balance in fibromyalgia sufferers and in this blog post, we discuss the results.
For the study, the researchers examined 53 fibromyalgia patients and 47 healthy individuals, aged 35 to 65-years-old. To find the results, participants were divided into groups of those whose vitamin D levels were above or below 30ml. During the study, patients were examined using the Fibromyalgia Impact Scale (which measures the physical functioning, work status, and well-being of the patient), Berg Balance Scales (to measure to the patient’s balance during specific activities), Nottingham Health Profile (which measures the impact the disease has had on the patient), and visual analog scale (to measure the severity of the pain and fatigue).
Analysis of the study showed that the vitamin D levels were lower among fibromyalgia sufferers, and that a total of 33 fibromyalgia patients and 27 healthy participants had vitamin D levels below 30ml. In terms of balance, there was a significant difference observed between those suffering with fibromyalgia and the control group. Furthermore, the researchers also witnessed a statistical difference in pain levels in fibromyalgia patients who had low and normal vitamin D levels. As a result of the study, a significant correlation was established between vitamin D levels and balance. Experts now believe that vitamin D levels are likely to have a negative effect on balance and pain severity in fibromyalgia sufferers, and suggest further investigations should be made to better understand the relationship between the two with a larger group of people.
This isn’t the only time experts have carried out studies to better understand the relationship between vitamin D and fibromyalgia however; there have been several studies and observations in the past to test vitamin D as a potential treatment for the disease – it’s even been named as one of the best mineral supplements for fibromyalgia sufferers. According to findings, vitamin D may improve symptoms of fibromyalgia and, while it can’t reduce the risk of developing the condition, it can reduce the production of cytokine, a protein known for causing inflammation.
If you have developed fibromyalgia as a result of an accident or injury, you may be entitled to compensation and we can help.
Herbs & Supplements To Help Fibromyalgia
As an increasing number of patients turn to alternative medicine to reduce stress and relieve chronic pain, there is some evidence to suggest that herbal remedies could actually help Fibromyalgia sufferers. Both the Fibromyalgia Association UK and the Fibro Action recommend herbal remedies to relieve some of the symptoms and side effects of the Fibromyalgia.
We have outlined four such herbs and supplements for you here:
No. 1 Ginkgo Biloba
Made from the leaves of the Ginko Biloba tree, this has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Its primary use being to treat blood disorders and improve memory, making this a top selling supplement in Europe and the US. It is its effect on blood circulation which makes this a recommendation for people with Fibromyalgia, with 25% of sufferers reporting poor circulation and the associated numbness and tingling.
No. 2 Valerian
A herbal remedy that has been in use for over 30 years, said to provide temporary treatment for sleep and mild anxiety problems. A number of studies have suggested that the herb helps treat insomnia and encourages better quality sleep, however studies into its effect on anxiety have produced mixed results. With many Fibromyalgia sufferers reporting sleep problems, it is hoped that Valerian might help them get a more restful night’s sleep and also feel more rested when awakening.
No. 3 – Pycnogenol
The trademark name of a supplement extracted from the bark of a tree known as Pinus pinasterpine, this may help to improve blood flow, stimulate the immune system and have antioxidant side effects. Fibro Action have said that its link to improved blood flow may help alleviate the poor circulation symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia.
No. 4 – SAMe or SAM (S-Adenosyl methionine)
A chemical that occurs naturally in the body and can be reproduced in the laboratory. It is not known exactly how SAM-e works in the body, but some believe it increases levels of serotonin and dopamine, altering mood and helping with restful sleep. Encouragingly Fibro Action have said there is evidence to suggest that SAMe may help with the depression and body tenderness associated with the Fibromyalgia, although further research is needed.
All of the above herbs and supplements require additional studies before they can be recommended as a specific treatment for fibromyalgia, whilst the NHS has stated that no herb or plant extracts have been found effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Anti-Inflammatory Recipes For Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Having a healthy, balanced diet is recommended for anyone, particularly those with fibromyalgia, as there are foods that can help to fight inflammation and in turn reduce pain.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain all over the body, as well as extreme fatigue, stiffness, mental fogginess, headaches, and increased sensitivity to pain. Although there is yet to be a cure for fibromyalgia, there are many treatments out there for sufferers to try in order to reduce painful symptoms. One potential way to treat fibromyalgia naturally is through the diet; having a clean diet helps to support your immune system, allows you to maintain a healthy weight, and can reduce inflammation in your body. If you’re a fibromyalgia patient on the hunt for a new treatment method, look no further. In this blog, we provide a list of healthy recipes that could help towards reducing the pain you feel on a daily basis*.
This recipe is quick, easy to make, and the perfect option for a highly nutritious breakfast, lunch or snack. Avocados are low in saturated fat and contain more potassium than bananas, a nutrient that is said to reduce blood pressure. For the toast, we would recommend whole wheat or, if you’re gluten intolerant, a gluten-free option.
Salmon is a great addition to any meal; as well as being high in omega-3 fatty acids, salmon helps to reduce inflammation and joint pain. Although this recipe is healthy, it isn’t short on flavour; the glaze itself is made from a mixture of chilli sauce, soy, sesame oil, rice wine, garlic, and ginger. Who said eating healthy was bland and boring?
Black beans are prized for having high protein and fibre content, which is essential for healthy bowels, regular bowel movements, and weight management. This healthy recipe will act as the perfect replacement for beef burgers at any barbeque. Don’t forget that if you are avoiding gluten, you should opt for gluten-free buns to serve your veggie burgers with.
With this recipe, you will transform sweet potato from a sweet treat into a satisfying savoury feast. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, as well as potassium, dietary fibre, vitamin B1, and vitamin B2. In addition to the sweet potato, there is a healthy filling made with spinach and chickpeas to bump up the health factor, both of which are ingredients notorious for their health benefits.
This vegan recipe is so much more than your everyday vegetable soup. It’s low in fat, cholesterol and calories, which makes it the go-to recipe for times when your stomach is craving good food. With various herbs and spices, including thyme, sage and bay leaves, this soup is full of flavour, so you definitely won’t need to reach for the salt anytime soon.
If you’re looking for a tasty and simple yet filling lunch, this salad recipe is perfect. The combination of chicken, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olive oil, and greek yoghurt is a match made in heaven. As these ingredients are easy to pick up from your local supermarket, it couldn’t be simpler to make, meaning that you can easily prepare for your lunches in advance.
This hearty shepherd’s pie is the perfect option for cold evenings. With lentils, sweet potato, pumpkin peel, tomatoes, and various other vegetables, this recipe is full of goodness as well as flavour. As it serves up to 6 people, it’s also the ideal recipe to prepare for any family get-togethers you’re hosting.
It’s important to remember that although healthy eating may work for one person with fibromyalgia, it isn’t guaranteed to work for you; while some people show sensitivities to gluten, others will show sensitivities to dairy, which proves how symptoms vary from sufferer to sufferer. When trying new recipes, it’s important that you pay attention to how your body responds in order to understand which foods you should and shouldn’t eat. As discussed previously in this blog post, it’s important to discuss new diets through with a medical expert, so that you can both create a bespoke eating plan that’s specific to your situation.
Fibromyalgia Sufferers Prone To Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)
Are external factors making you nauseous? Living with fibromyalgia (FMS) certainly has its own set of challenges, as we’ve mentioned in prior posts tying the disease to work absences, weather sensitivities, and sleep disturbances. Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is another common aggravator. The condition, also known as idiopathic environmental intolerance (E.I), is described as an unusually severe sensitivity to a whole host of external elements. Continue reading to find out more about multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and how the condition correlates with fibromyalgia.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) Defined
To clarify, multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is an allergic-like reaction onset by a wide range of pollutants. Common toxins, said to trigger the condition, are used in everyday life by the public at large, listed below:
- Solvents and cleaning agents
- Perfumes, deodorants, hair products
- Petrol, diesel and vehicle exhaust
- Smoke (wood fire or secondhand tobacco)
- New furniture or carpeting
- Fumes from wet paint or fresh ink
- Dust mites, pet fur and dander
- Chlorine in drinking water, caffeine or food colouring in foods
Symptoms are provoked when low doses of the chemical enters the body, from smell, touch or ingestion. If a person has MCS, their body overreacts to these irritants and displays symptoms of muscle and joint pain, headaches, dizziness, nausea, extreme fatigue, allergy reactions such as sinus problems, wheezing or breathlessness.
How Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) relates to Fibromyalgia
Researchers believe that MCS, chronic fatigue symptom (CFS), and FMS are all central sensitivity syndromes (CSS). These conditionals share the same family of illnesses, as well as common traits, as described below:
- These illnesses, made up of the brain and spinal cord, manifests differently in each person. Meaning, a sufferer’s triggers and symptoms are individualised. For example, one sufferer with MCS may be able to tolerate essential oils and most brands of perfumes, body wash and washing liquid, however, they get a violent reaction from walking down the candle aisle at a store or drinking tap water. Likewise, in fibromyalgia, a person with climate sensitivities may be able to handle cold weather but find humidity weather unmanageable.
- There’s stigma surrounding whether CSS conditions, specifically fibromyalgia, have been drummed up in a person’s head. This notion still exists despite numerous patient testimonials and scientific research that prove otherwise. This mindset trickles into patients being misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.
- CSS illnesses are well known for their difficulty to diagnose. This is attributed to a number of factors, as explained in our prior post Factors Complicating Fibromyalgia Diagnosis, including complex variables in the diseases, as well as lack of tests and diagnostic criteria.
- Symptoms of CSS illnesses, tied to CFS, FM AND MCS among other disorders, are unpredictable and often overlap. Additionally, these conditions are prone to share concurrent conditions, like restless leg syndrome and depression. It’s also common for CSS illnesses to coexist, which is evident in research, stemming out of the study: Prevalence of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities: A Population-Based Study, reporting 11-15% of Americans have MCS, and of those, over 60% are also diagnosed with CFS, FMS and Gulf War Syndrome.
Moving forward with MCS
Like fibromyalgia, the cause of MCS is unclear, although research is continuously being conducted in an effort to determine this. Some doctors consider MCS an immune response, similar to allergies. There’s also speculation surrounding the impact of high exposure to toxins, as well as, psychological or neurological disorders and depleting immune symptoms. Regardless of where your condition stems from, it’s best to move forward by attempting to determine the root irritant that causing your symptoms to flare up and avoid it. Unfortunately, the reality is that an estimated 100,000 different chemicals taint world and each year around 1,500 more are added to the environment, so it’s utterly impossible to avoid all chemicals. If you have a technique to help sufferers pinpoint or manage their MCS symptoms, share it with our community on
Why Does Fibromyalgia Cause Weight Gain?
As a chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia is renowned for causing a wide range of extremely painful and uncomfortable symptoms, such as headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, temperature sensitivity, and restless leg syndrome. A common unfortunate frustration that many fibromyalgia sufferers face is weight gain, even if they don’t particularly eat a lot of food. In this blog post, we discuss the link between weight gain and fibromyalgia and provide tips on how you can help to stop it from happening to you.
Like most diseases, fibromyalgia comes with its own set of good and bad days and there’s no way of telling what kind of day you’re going to have when you wake up in the morning. Fibromyalgia compensation is something we specialise in, which means we regularly witness first-hand how the condition has the power to dampen every sufferer’s mood. When you’re feeling particularly down, it may only take one small thing to push you over the edge, and that small thing could be weight gain; no one likes to see the scales go up, however, this can be a particularly traumatic experience for fibromyalgia sufferers and may lead to further problems, such as depression.
There are a number of contributing factors as to why fibromyalgia patients often gain weight, such as the following:-
- Lack of sleep – Due to the extreme pain caused by fibromyalgia, many sufferers have trouble sleeping and will often become extremely sleep-deprived. A lack of sleep can lead to a reduced metabolism, which is then replaced by an increased appetite and cravings for high-carb and high-sugar foods.
- Lack of exercise – The pain caused by fibromyalgia can sometimes be so bad that sufferers will avoid exercise at all costs, much like anyone in pain, which means they won’t be burning the calories they need to maintain, or lose, their current weight.
- Medication – A number of medications, particularly antidepressants, have the side effect of weight gain.
- Hormones – Fibromyalgia is known for causing hormonal imbalances, affecting the levels of cortisol, thyroid, serotonin, and insulin, as well as the production of growth hormones, which can cause the metabolism to slow down.
If you have fibromyalgia and are worried about gaining weight, paying attention to your diet will help; due to the severe pain you most likely experience everyday, you won’t find exercising easy, which means your metabolism may slow down as a result. Below are some appropriate diet plans that you could follow*.
- High protein, low carbohydrate – Switch your carbs for foods that are good proteins, such as lean meats, eggs, dairy products, tofu, soy meat substitutes, and legumes (peas, beans, chickpeas, lentils). Up your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid sugar and sweets, breads and pastas, rice, potatoes, carbonated drinks, and alcohol.
- Don’t stuff yourself – Rather than eating until you’re stuffed, only eat meals until you’re full and remember to eat slowly, chewing your food well. Eating regularly during the day is healthier than eating three large meals, so try to find the time to eat five to six times a day. For example, try three regular meals and two small snacks, three small portion meals and two large snacks, or five small portion meals. If, alongside your fibromyalgia, you suffer with irritable bowel syndrome, you may find that eating smaller, more regular portions helps.
- Eat protein first – When sitting down for every meal, make protein your top priority and eat it first; by doing this, you will immediately activate protein digestive enzymes, which helps to slow the absorption of carbohydrates.
- Time for a break – When following a diet plan, it’s important to give yourself a break on the weekends; knowing you have the option to eat whenever you want when the week comes to an end will make it much easier to follow the rules during the week.
*It’s important to remember, however, that you should consult with your doctor before starting any form of diet. We have experience in handling fibromyalgia compensation claims, however, are not best placed to provide medical advice in instances such as these, which is why we recommend that you arrange to see your local GP or doctor prior to beginning a new diet or exercise regime
How Fibromyalgia Can Cause Weight Gain
People with fibromyalgia often experience weight gain due to several factors that are directly, and indirectly, related to the disease itself.
In this blog, we look at the relationship between fibromyalgia and weight gain and provide information on how and why it happens, along with helpful tips on how you can try and prevent it if you suffer with the condition.
Fibromyalgia is a long-term chronic pain syndrome that, unfortunately, is incurable and causes widespread pain for sufferers on a daily basis. As well from the debilitating effect it can have on the everyday lives of so many, most sufferers also endure the additional challenge of coping with weight gain.
Fibromyalgia leads to hormonal imbalances, affecting levels of cortisol, thyroid, serotonin and insulin, as well as the production of growth hormones. As a result, the metabolism slows down and weight gain often naturally follows.
Fatigue associated with fibromyalgia can also lead to an increase in weight. Fibromyalgia initiates a wake-like disturbance in the brainwave pattern during sleep, which means sufferers do not get sufficient restorative rest. Sleep apnoea – pauses during night-time breathing accompanied by snoring – is an additional problem, along with restless legs, which further increases tiredness.
A recent study found that a lack of sleep leads to higher hypocretin production, which has a direct effect on appetite levels. When hypocretin neuron levels are high, they not only lead to fatigue, but also to overeating. In addition to fatigue, the extreme and constant pain caused by fibromyalgia inhibits the ability to exercise, which means many patients are unable to partake in any form of exercise and, as a result, are increasing their risk of gaining weight.
Prescribed drugs taken to treat fibromyalgia-related depression can also cause an individual to gain weight, increasing appetite, fluid retention and affecting hormone levels and, therefore, metabolism.
It’s imperative to maintain a healthy, balanced diet in order to minimise the amount of weight gain caused by fibromyalgia. However, we understand that this is often easier said than done, therefore, we have put together a brief list of tips to help. Take note of the following and your chances of gaining weight as a result of your fibromyalgia diagnosis will be reduced:
Goals: It’s important that you set a realistic goal or set of goals, as you will be more optimistic about achieving it.
Diary: Try to keep a food diary. Comfort eating is a natural reaction to being in pain. Noting down what you eat and when will help to keep your bad habits under control.
Healthy is key: Stay away from faddy, quick-win diets. Instead, embark on a healthier eating regime that is sustainable.
Lean meats: When eating meat, opt for skinless chicken and turkey, which are lean meats with a high source of protein.
Eat more of certain foods: Increase your intake of foods that are rich in fibre and low in sugar, such as vegetables. Eat plenty of fresh fruit but try to avoid dried varieties, as they can contain sugar and preservatives.
Good fats: Omega-3 fatty acids are important in a healthy diet and can be found in cold-water fish. Other good sources of fat include almonds, avocados, fish oils, and olive oil.
Bad fats: Avoid where possible fried foods, highly processed foods, white flour, sugar, and alcoholic or carbonated beverages.
Light exercise: On days where you feel like you can, taking part in light exercise will help to burn a few calories and keep you as active as possible. Try to take part in gentle exercises, such as walking, stretching, and yoga. If possible, try to gradually increase the amount of walking you do per day, even if it’s only by a few minutes or steps. Remember to stop when you feel like you’re in pain or may have took on a little too much; over exercising will do more bad than good.
Are Fibromyalgia and Celiac Disease Related?
Fibromyalgia and celiac disease are two debilitating conditions that prove to be extremely difficult to live with. Some symptoms of both conditions overlap and are very similar. In this blog, we look at the connections between the two conditions and how they may be related to one another.
Fibromyalgia is a complex, long-term chronic condition with a multitude of different symptoms, including widespread pain all over the body, and without a single known cause.
Many people with fibromyalgia have digestive disorder complaints. Most commonly they are told that these are caused by Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). The symptoms of IBS include alternating diarrhoea and constipation; nausea; bloating and wind; and extreme tiredness – the same symptoms of celiac disease.
Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder whereby the body mistakenly attacks its own tissue seeing it as a foreign substance. When a person with celiac disease eats any food containing gluten (the protein found in wheat, rye, oats and barley), damage is caused in the small intestine.
It has been reported that gluten can lead to chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia and that some of the symptoms of celiac disease resemble the symptoms of fibromyalgia. These include major digestive disorders; stomach ailments; chronic fatigue; headaches; widespread pain; and mental fog.
So, indications would suggest you could be presented with many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia and be suffering from celiac disease. This similarity can make gaining an accurate diagnosis difficult.
There are a few key differences between the two conditions, however. First, celiac disease only flares up when you eat gluten. It is diagnosed by a blood test and biopsy of the small intestine during a gastroscopy. The simple treatment of it is a completely gluten-free diet.
Secondly, there is one aspect of fibromyalgia that makes it distinctive. Pain occurs in eighteen specific points around the body and gets worse when someone applies pressure to these same areas. This makes it possible to distinguish fibromyalgia from other chronic pain conditions. A doctor can tell if you have fibromyalgia by performing a diagnostic test based on these ‘tender points’.
Research has revealed that some patients who have adopted a gluten-free diet have seen their symptoms of fibromyalgia and IBS disappear or dramatically improve but there is currently insufficient data to substantiate this.
Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity & The Link Between Fibromyalgia
Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) causes a wide range of symptoms and is a condition that affects many fibromyalgia patients. Read our blog post to learn more.
Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is also known as idiopathic environmental intolerance (IEI) and is a condition that affects many people who also suffer with fibromyalgia (FMS). Anyone who has MCS is severely sensitive to many pollutants, including perfumes, petrol, diesel, smoke, pollen, dust, pet fur, and many more. The cause of MCS is unknown, however, it is recognised as a disorder and is an ongoing problem for many patients, which means it is classed as chronic. To find out more about MCS and how it is linked to fibromyalgia, continue reading.
MCS is triggered by various different things, depending on the person; no two people with MCS will experience the same discomfort with the same pollutants. Symptoms of the disorder range from mild to severe and are both painful and uncomfortable, including headaches, nausea, fatigue, stinging eyes, a sore throat, cough, runny nose or sinus problem. MCS symptoms are similar to those of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, which makes it extremely hard to pinpoint what is causing symptoms.
There are no reliable tests for MCS, much like fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, which makes it difficult to determine whether you are suffering with one of the three conditions or a combination of them all. When it comes to receiving diagnosis, however, you must meet several different criteria:
- Your symptoms must be reproducible and triggered by the same thing every time
- The discomfort you feel must be a long-lasting problem
- Symptoms must show signs of improvement when suspected harmful substances are removed and not present
- Your symptoms always remain the same, regardless of whether or not exposure to the substance is small or large
- Symptoms must involve more than one organic or area of the body
Although MCS is incurable, there are a number of possible solutions to help relieve symptoms and discomfort, including the following:
- Avoid exposure to substances you know are harmful to you
- Purify the environment you reside in by investing in purifiers and/ or water filters
- Eat cleanly as certain foods could be to blame
- Detoxify and release toxins by increasing your sweat production (give sauna therapy a try or take part in light exercise)
According to this article, 40% of people with chronic fatigue syndrome and 16% of people with fibromyalgia also suffer with MCS. In fact, researchers believe that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are all part of the same family of illnesses – central sensitivity syndromes. As discussed earlier in this blog, it can be difficult for chronic pain sufferers to determine whether or not they are suffering with symptoms of their condition or MCS. Due to this, it’s important that you be aware and take note of the symptoms you suffer with; if you are experiencing any of the symptoms detailed above as a result of a suspected substance, it’s important that you visit your medical professional*. You may be suffering with MCS alongside your condition and, therefore, will need to pinpoint exactly what it is that’s causing discomfort, so you can make the appropriate changes to your life.
Is Fibromyalgia Worse For Women?
Fibromyalgia is more common amongst women than men but are the symptoms worse?
Fibromyalgia varies from person to person. Some describe the pain as sharp and shooting, while others report a constant, dull ache. It is widely accepted, however, that women experience symptoms differently. For example, they tend to report higher levels of pain and often have additional symptoms to men. In this blog, we look at the different ways that men and women may experience fibromyalgia. Read on to find out more.
While there are many variations of this complex, often confusing condition, the hallmark of fibromyalgia is chronic, widespread pain that cannot be explained by other issues. This debilitating, persistent pain is usually in several areas of the body, such as the hips, thighs, neck, and back. The type of pain is less important for diagnosis than its chronic and widespread nature.
As well as from pain, every person with fibromyalgia will experience a variety of other symptoms including chronic fatigue even after a good night’s sleep, dizziness, cognitive problems, such as concentration or memory, dry eyes, and hair loss. Urinary problems such as frequency or incontinence and gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhoea and vomiting can also make day-to-day-life more uncomfortable and troublesome.
Many women with fibromyalgia experience heightened or different symptoms than men. For example, women are more likely to experience fatigue in the morning, pain all over the body, and issues specific to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Fibromyalgia can also affect the menstrual cycle, causing periods to be heavier and many women may suffer abnormally painful menstruation, which is called dysmenorrhea.
Many women with fibromyalgia have no problems during pregnancy, although in some cases pregnancy can worsen symptoms of the condition. Fibromyalgia can also lead to increased fatigue and mood swings, both of which are common side effects of pregnancy.
Fibromyalgia is characterised by 18 tender or painful points in nine locations on the body. These are generally paired and located on either side of the spine. Not everyone with fibromyalgia has tender points, however, women are more likely than men to have them in the following areas:
- At the base of the head, where it meets the neck
- Between the base of the neck and the tip of the shoulder
- Where the muscles of the back connect to the shoulder blade
- On each forearm near the crease of the elbow
- Just above the collarbone
- Beneath the collarbone on the side of the breastbone
- Just above the bony part of the outer hip
- Very low on the back, above the buttocks
- Inside the knee
No test can determine whether someone, man or woman, has fibromyalgia. Instead, diagnosing fibromyalgia tends to be a process of exclusion. A doctor will ask about symptoms, then test for other disorders that might cause them. If no other cause can be found, the likelihood is a doctor will diagnose fibromyalgia.
Can Menopause Make Fibromyalgia Worse?
Many fibromyalgia patients experience worsened symptoms as they age as a result of menopause.
Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, 75-90% of people with the condition are women. The exact root cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, however, it is well-known that the majority of women receive their diagnosis between the ages of 40 and 55-years-old, with symptoms starting at any time between the ages of 20 and 55. This coincides with menopause, which is something many fibromyalgia sufferers unfortunately face alongside their condition and, as a result, experienced worsened symptoms and increased discomfort. In this blog post, we discuss this topic in further detail to better understand how fibromyalgia and menopause are linked and what can be done to treat symptoms of each. To find out more, continue reading.
According to the NHS, menopause usually occurs in women aged between 45 and 55-years-old. In the UK, the average age for a woman to reach menopause is 51. It is a natural part of ageing, however, is extremely uncomfortable. Common symptoms can begin begin months or years before your last period and last around 4 years after your last period, although some women experience them for much longer. Common symptoms include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Difficulty sleeping
- Low mood or anxiety
- Reduced sex drive
- Problems with memory or concentration
During the course of menopause, oestrogen levels begin to decline before hitting rock bottom. In postmenopausal women, the production of oestrogen levels decline by 40%, which can lead to further symptoms, such as depression, sleeplessness, and anxiety. Hormonal changes such as these are known to also trigger moodiness, soreness, and crankiness, which are further aggravated by sleepless nights, causing a vicious cycle.
Symptoms presented in menopause are extremely similar to those of fibromyalgia. When combined, the two conditions can make symptoms of each feel much worse. Although further research is required to better understand the connected between the two, there is some research to indicate that fibromyalgia symptoms worsen post-menopause, compared to women who are still menstruating.
If you are going through menopause and experiencing worsened symptoms as a result, then we would recommend that you visit your doctor or local GP, as they may be able to recommend a form of treatment, such as oestrogen or hormone replacement therapy, which can be used to ease your menopausal symptoms. Once your menopausal symptoms ease, it is likely that you will not experience the impact of your fibromyalgia symptoms as much, although this is not guaranteed.
Enjoying a healthy lifestyle is something you can do to improve your overall wellbeing. This involves taking part in regular exercise, eating healthily, not smoking, managing your weight, and limiting your alcohol intake. While healthy living may not specifically target menopause or fibromyalgia, it can still work to improve your bone strength and cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and enhance other aspects of your health.
Can Turmeric Help Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
As well as being used in cooking, turmeric can also be used to treat fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are both chronic conditions, which cause great pain and major discomfort for sufferers. Fibromyalgia is known for causing widespread pain, as well as a whole host of other debilitating symptoms, such as increased sensitivity to pain, muscle stiffness, problems with memory and concentration, also known as ‘fibro-fog’, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, and much more. Also extremely debilitating, chronic fatigue syndrome is characterised by extreme tiredness that doesn’t disappear with rest and cannot be explained by an underlying medical condition. Both conditions are incurable, however, can be treated either naturally or through prescribed medication. In order to better understand fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, medical experts from around the world have carried out various studies in order to learn more about the potential treatments available to sufferers. As a result, it is understood that turmeric, a spice regularly used in Indian, Thai and Moroccan cuisines, can be used to treat symptoms of both chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. In this blog, we explain more.
Turmeric is a yellow spice popular in most households, often used in cooking to provide an aromatic flavour and vibrant colour. As well as its tasty and colourful properties, turmeric has also long been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, as it contains curcumin, a compound which is known to offer several health benefits, which are said to alleviate symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, as it works in the same way as a pain reliever and can be useful in fighting inflammation.
Although there is existing research on the use of turmeric/ curcumin to treat symptoms of painful conditions, further studies need to be conducted in order to understand exactly what the benefits are.
What experts do know about turmeric is that the spice is known to be the following:
- Digestive aid
- Topical antiseptic
In the past, it has been used as a treatment for multiple ailments, including the following:
- Cancer in order to prevent the spread of tumors
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Gallbladder function
- High cholesterol
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Kidney stones
Much like every other medication or treatment, there are potential side effects, which can be caused by the consumption of turmeric, including the following:
- Stomach upset
If you suffer with either fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome and would like to trial turmeric to see if it has a positive effect in the treatment of your symptoms, then the best way is to incorporate it into your diet. To do this, it may be useful for you to research into the various recipes that include turmeric as an ingredient. To help you make a start, check out this article for seven easy turmeric recipes that you can make at home. Turmeric is widely accessible by all and is stocked at all major supermarkets, so you shouldn’t have any problems adding it to your collection of herbs and spices.
Alternatively, you could invest in some turmeric supplements instead, which are just as effective.
Before trialling turmeric, however, we would recommend that you discuss it with your doctor first. As discussed above, there are potential side effects associated, so it is best to weigh up the pros and cons first with someone who knows your specific case in great detail.
Therapies To Help Ease Fibromyalgia
As well as medication, there are also alternative methods to treat pain caused by fibromyalgia.
The management of muscle and joint pain is important for fibromyalgia patients. In addition to medications, there are various therapies that can help to ease the pain, lighten the mind, and ease the burden of this debilitating long-term condition.
We’ve put together a list which you might find helpful:
This is the practice of using water to relieve aching muscles. This does not need to take place in a special pool to be effective. Simply soaking in a bath full of warm water is extremely pleasant and beneficial. Avoid having the water temperature too high, as it can cause your blood pressure to rise. Add essential oils or Epsom salts to help relieve deep muscular aches and pains. A warm bath before bed may also help to improve sleep.
Acupuncture involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles. This results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins. A course of acupuncture will usually create longer lasting pain relief than a single treatment.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, also known as TENS, is something most commonly associated with childbirth, however, can also be effective in helping to ease muscle pain and spasms in fibromyalgia sufferers. It works by stopping the pain signals from reaching the spinal cord, while also triggering the release of endorphins, which naturally relieve pain.
There is little scientific evidence that aromatherapy treatments can help in the long-term, however, many people find that it helps them to relax and feel less stressed, enabling them to better cope with their condition.
- Deep Tissue Massage
A trained massage therapist will be experienced in applying intense pressure to ensure they reach deep tissue. This will help to lessen the knots and tension in the muscles and decrease painful spasms. Ensure your therapist is aware of your condition before treatment begins.
- Heat therapy
Using heat is an excellent way to help relax muscles and encourage blood flow to areas that are particularly painful. This can be easily replicated at home using dry or damp hot towels. Simply hold the towel against the affected area until you feel relief. Alternatively, heat packs can be bought from high-street chemists. These either activate on opening or are warmed in the microwave prior to use. Always check the temperature to avoid burns.
Often referred to more simply as CBT, this is a talking therapy that aims to change the way you think about things, so you can cope with pain and tackle problems with a more positive state of mind.
Psychotherapy is another form of talking therapy that helps you understand and deal with your thoughts and feelings based on regular personal interaction with a trained specialist.
Any low-impact exercise that does not put additional pressure on the joints is good for helping with pain relief. Swimming and aqua-aerobics is especially beneficial for fibromyalgia patients.
Although the therapies outlined in this blog have been successful for some sufferers, it is important to remember that it may not work for you. It is also important to remember that we are not medical experts, therefore, it is advised that you get in touch with your local GP to arrange for an appointment.
Why Is Fibromyalgia Worse At Night?
No two cases of fibromyalgia are ever the same. One thing most sufferers do have in common, however, is that their pain tends to worsen at night.
Why is fibromyalgia worse at night? This is a question asked by many sufferers from around the world. A good night’s sleep is invaluable. Without rest, we cannot function and would find it extremely difficult to carry out even the simplest of tasks. Try to imagine how your day would be if you did not sleep at all the night before. This is what it is like for those suffering with fibromyalgia.
At the end of the day, many patients will lie in bed, tossing and turning, writhing in pain from tense, aching muscles, while experiencing night sweats. The lack of a good night’s sleep applies an overwhelming pressure to the body as it tries to cope, which in turn increases the body’s sensitivity to pain, creating a vicious cycle.
At this point, sleep is not an option – or an escape.
Drawing conclusions as to why fibromyalgia is worse at night is complex. Research has shown that with fibromyalgia, there is an automatic arousal in the brain during sleep. As the mind becomes clear to focus on resting, it becomes more acutely aware of the pain. When the body is fatigued from activities and challenges of a day, it takes far less to stress the muscles and create more inflammation. Typically, fibromyalgia sufferers cannot relax their muscles. During the day, this is less noticeable and troublesome. At night, however, the situation is very different.
When lying in bed, the muscles stiffen, the aching increases, the mind – which is desperately trying to switch off – is constantly alerted to the pain, which causes the muscles to stiffen and the aching to increase, and so the vicious circle keeps on turning.
Unfortunately, there is no miracle cure for this. However, there are tips and tricks that have been proven to aid in restful sleep for fibromyalgia sufferers, which include:
- Bath: End the day with a soothing, warm bath. Give Epsom salts a try, as they are a well-known muscle relaxant.
- Massage: Gently massage your body with a loofah or soft brush in the bath to unknot stiff and aching limbs. Alternatively, you could roll a tennis or massage ball over tender points to reduce pain.
- Light exercise: Yoga is a great way of stretching the body. If you are considering joining a class, make sure it is for beginners and alert the teacher to your condition.
- Music: Listen to calming music to distract the mind. Tune your bedside radio to Classic FM or invest in a meditation CD.
- Dark: Make sure your room is as dark as possible or consider investing in an eye-mask if necessary.
- Temperature: Keep the temperature in your bedroom moderated, so there is no sudden surge or drop in heat.
- Drink: Avoid drinks with caffeine, such as tea or coffee. Try to stick to water.