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What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a poorly understood condition by both the public and medical professionals. It is a diagnosis often given as a last resort, when tests have been inconclusive – but it does have its own set of symptoms that define it.

As well as understanding what Fibromyalgia is, it’s important to understand how osteopathy can help you if you have this condition.

“Myalgia” literally translates to “muscle pain”, and there are specific tender points in the muscles of people with fibromyalgia. These are used to help make a diagnosis.

Alongside the long term pain, fibromyalgia is characterised by:

  • stiff joints
  • fatigue and poor sleep
  • “brain fog” – a combination of poor concentration and other cognitive difficulty

Because of the relatively vague collection of symptoms, patients will usually undergo a lot of testing to rule out other conditions before receiving a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is now classified as a central sensitivity syndrome. This means that the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) is incorrectly processing pain signals.

Other conditions that fall into this category include Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) and Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Like ME and CRPS, fibromyalgia sometimes follows a traumatic incident, from a sprained ankle to a car accident.

There is no recognised cure, but symptoms can typically be managed through lifestyle changes. Improving sleep, diet, and exercise can go a long way to making fibromyalgia less disabling. Gently building up an exercise routine is recommended, and talking therapy can help with both taking control and managing the pain.

Osteopaths are trained to work with central sensitisation, and can often help to desensitise an over-excited central nervous system by gradually building up a different stimulus. This could be in the form of exercise, touch, massage, or joint movement.  Your osteopath can also give advice about improving sleep and reducing stress. As with all pain, being listened to can also be a huge relieving factor.

This article was written by Freya Gilmore, a Registered Osteopath within the Shefford Osteopathic Clinic team.