What Is Fibromyalgia?

'The Most Tricky And Venomous Condition'

What Is Fibromyalgia? To Some, Fibromyalgia Is A Mystery. To Fibromyalgia Sufferers It Is A Curse Without Cure. Only With Knowledge And Information Can We Fight Back.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia or ‘Fibromyalgia Syndrome’ is a condition typified by pain all over your body and extreme tiredness.

For many years, it was dismissed as a mystery and more recently has been used as a ‘catch-all’ for any other condition that can not be easily diagnosed an results in pain/ tiredness.

It is only fairly recently (in medical terms) that fibromyalgia is recognised as a condition with it’s own ideal treatment program. This will of course vary from person to person (as will the symptoms) – but at least provides a starting point for improving patient outcomes.

No Cure…

There is no actual cure for fibromyalgia, nor is there is a strong understanding of what causes it in the first place. We do however know, that certain things can trigger the onset of fibromyalgia. 

In the sections below, I have attempted to summarise some of what we have learnt about this most debilitating of syndromes… 

What Triggers Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a strange condition in that it can lay dormant in someone for years and years and then suddenly develop out of nowhere.

It does beg the question – just how many people are predisposed to developing fibromyalgia that manage to avoid the key triggers and thus avoid it altogether (or until they are too old to categorise it for certain)?

It is generally accepted however that possible triggers can be broken down into the following –

1) A viral infection

2) Surgery

3) An injury

4) The breakdown of a relationship

5) The death of loved one

6) Being in an abusive relationship

7) Giving birth

8) PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Following a terrible event such as war or rape, that leaves permanent mental scars.

Basically, in each case the development of fibromyalgia is triggered by some sort of stress and potentially a hormonal change.

Unfortunately, however it is not as simple as that because fibromyalgia may still develop even if you avoid all the trigger factors – simply for no logical reason at all!

Picture of a woman sat alone on a bench feeling deeply traumatized.
Stress Is The Main Trigger Of Fibromyalgia

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, nobody actually knows what exactly causes fibromyalgia.

Some research suggests it is linked to abnormal levels of chemicals resident in your brain. It also has a connection to your CNS (central nervous system) because that is the only way your body can interpret messages of pain and it is a fault in these interpretations that are one of the biggest differentiators with fibromyalgia.

Much of the research is inconclusive, but possible causes can basically be broken down into the following –

Genetics

Research suggests that your genes can play a small part in developing fibromyalgia. However, given that the condition can often lie dormant and only surface after a trauma or injury – then it is impossible to say just how many people have a predisposition that doesn’t develop.

Abnormal Pain Messages

One of the main characteristics of fibromyalgia sufferers is a change in the way their central nervous system transmits messages of pain from the rest of the body. It does this through specialised cells – but these could be affected by changes in the chemicals in the brain, spinal cord and nerves.

Chemical Imbalances

The first theory is then further backed up by scientific findings that point to the evidence of particularly low levels of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline in the brains of fibromyalgia sufferers.

These hormones are key to regulating the bodies mood, behaviour, stress and appetite. These are key characteristics often linked to fibromyalgia sufferers.

Sleep Problems

Another theory is that poor sleep patterns may actually be a cause, rather than just a symptom, of fibromyalgia. It is well accepted that tired people feel pain more acutely, so it follows that exhausted individuals could feel pain to the levels of fibromyalgia sufferers (and thus develop it). Effectively stuck in an unbreakable cycle.

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia.

As mentioned earlier, diagnosing fibromyalgia can be really tricky because it can present symptoms very similar to those of a number of other conditions.

These include rheumatoid arthritis (pain and swelling in the joints), ankylosing spondylitis (swelling/ pain in the spine), lupus (again the immune system attacking itself and cause pain in tissues), multiple sclerosis (balance and movement affected by changes to the CNS), osteoarthritis (damage to the joints resulting in intense pain again) and especially chronic fatigue syndrome (FFS).

It is also not something that on it’s own can be identified with normal hospital tests and scans.

Instead doctors have to look to diagnose and separate other conditions that frequently run in conjunction to fibromyalgia. These include – irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and the most prevalent by far – depression.

After this, the first stage in then actually diagnosing fibromyalgia is to rule out many of the rheumatic conditions that present with very similar symptoms. This will help to narrow down the options.

Typically, your doctor will carry out blood and urine tests to check for other conditions and may then use x-rays or CT scans to confirm any suspicions.

You will then be subject to the diagnosing criteria of the state or country you reside in, dependent on their guidelines.

To give you an example, NHS England cite the following criteria for fibromyalgia –

“you either have severe pain in 3 to 6 different areas of your body, or you have milder pain in 7 or more different areas

your symptoms have stayed at a similar level for at least 3 months

no other reason for your symptoms has been found”

Another diagnosis accepted on a more global scale and developed in the 70’s before being accepted in the 90’s, also relies on ruling out all other likely conditions and then defines fibromyalgia as –

  1. widespread pain for more than three months together with
  2. pain in at least 11 out of 18 tender point sites when they are pressed.

Widespread pain is defined as pain about and below the waist, while the ‘tender points’ are recognised by chart and are unlikely to be clearly noticed by the patient in isolation.

Then in 2010, The American College of Rheumatology challenged the use of tender points and redefined the diagnosis as –

  • pain and symptoms over the previous week, out of 19 identified body parts, plus levels of fatigue, unsatisfactory sleep, or cognitive problems
  • symptoms that have been ongoing for at least 3 months
  • no presence of another health problem that would explain the symptoms

This was then felt a bit too non-specific and so was revised and made more detailed in 2016. Details of which can be found here.

As you can see, all definitions are loosely the same, but such are the vagaries of fibromyalgia, that different guidance can present different inclusion levels. The most recent change has been the general ditching of tender points in favour of more general areas.

These tender points used to be specific areas on the back of your head, inner knees, outer hips, outer elbows and shoulders. The old method of diagnosing fibromyalgia would then be to push hard on these points and assess your reactions.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

1. Widespread Pain. Likely to be either a sharp stabbing pain, a burning sensation or (during quieter periods) a very painful ache. The pain is likely to be spread throughout your body, although your back and your neck tend to be the worst affected.

The pain itself is likely to be continuous with little or no relief unless you can find successful treatment.

2. Stiffness. Sitting or sleeping in the same position for a considerable period of time is likely to result in a feeling of stiffness all over. A perfect example of this is waking up in the morning.

Similarly, trying to stretch out after sitting can cause muscle spasms (like cramp), when the muscle squeezes tight causing even more crippling pain.

3. Difficulty Sleeping. Sufferers will frequently feel tired even after a long nights’ rest, because the fibromyalgia prevents the deep sleep that is required for body healing and feeling refreshed.

4. Fibro-fog. Problems with memory and concentration that may ultimately lead to slow or confused speech.

5. Extreme Fatigue (Tiredness). Ranging from mild tiredness to extreme exhaustion, even after a night of sleep, sufferers are often exhausted because their body is still at war and did not achieve the deeper, healing state of sleep needed.

6. Increased Sensitivity To Pain. This symptom has essentially two parts –

a) Allodynia (You feel pain from things that should not be painful, such as a loved one’s gentle touch.)

b) Hyperalgesia (Very sensitive to normal pain ie you feel low level pain much more acutely).

You can also be overly sensitive to other triggers such as particular foods, bright lights or smokey atmospheres. All of those may trigger a flare up in your fibromyalgia symptoms.

7. IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Stomach pain and diarrheoa/ constipation.

8. Headaches. IF you experience stiffness and/ or pain in neck and shoulders, then it is also very likely you’ll suffer with headaches as well. In more extreme cases, these headaches can end up developing into full blown migraines (as covered here)

Image of a fibromyalgia headache
‘Yet Another Fibro Headache’

9. Depression. Not surprisingly, the constant pain can get anyone down and that feeling of being helpless as well as the fibromyalgia ruining many of the things you used to enjoy is enough to make anyone depressed.

10. Urination. An Urgent Need To urinate. This is especially true at night

11. Allergies. Becoming more sensitive to outside stimuli can both develop allergies or make the reactions more severe.

12. Increased Sensitivity To Environmental Changes. This could be changes in weather, bright lights or atmosphere (particularly a smokey environment)

13. Pins and Needles. Poor circulation can lead to tingling or numbness  in areas away from the heart such as hands and feet.

14. Joint Pain. Similar to that with rheumatoid arthritis, but not caused by inflammation.

15. Dry Eyes. Sometimes this may be caused by your Fibromyalgia, sometimes by Sjögren’s syndrome.

16. Jaw Pain. Specifically pain where the jaw connects to your skull. This can cause pain both in the jaw and surrounding face. (the technical term for it is ‘temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJD)

17. Pelvic and Urinary Problems

18. Nausea

19. Weight gain

20. Dizziness

21. Cold or Flu like symptoms

Image of Cold and Flu Remedy in a cup
Fibromyalgia – When Flu Isn’t Really Flu

22. Skin Problems

23. Chest Symptoms

24. Breathing Difficulty

25. Excessive Sweating

26. Itchiness

27. Restless Leg syndrome

28. Burning sensation of the skin

Symptoms may vary from day to day and will vary often according to factors such as your stress levels, changes in the weather or how much physical activity you’ve done.

These are the general symptoms. However, there are a number of more specific symptoms, depending on whether you are a man or a woman. Please check out our article on ‘Fibromyalgia Symptoms In Women’ or ‘Fibromyalgia Symptoms In Men’ for greater detail.

What Type Of Doctor Treats Fibromyalgia?

This is a very complicated question because there is no single recognised specialty doctor that is regularly dealing with all the different symptoms that fibromyalgia can present. That is why I’ve included it here rather than at the bottom, in frequently asked questions’.

Many sufferers choose to meet a number of different doctors, and even ‘shop around’ within a particular discipline (seeing 3 or 4 different pain specialists for example) until they find a group that fully understand fibromyalgia and that they feel comfortable with. It is vital going forward that you full confidence in your ‘team’ of doctors and support staff to fully understand you and your condition.

In essence there are six types of ‘doctor’ you should consider taking advantage of –

1) Rheumatologist. This is the most obvious because fibromyalgia is considered a rheumatoid disease. They deal every day with muscle and joint pain.

2) Your Family Doctor. Fighting fibromyalgia is an ongoing and draining battle. Having a good relationship with your local doctor is essential as there will be plenty of times when you need them (and hospital doctors aren’t available)

3) Neurologist. These consultants work with any condition of the CNS (central nervous system)

4) Pain Specialist. Many hospitals now have specialist pain consultants who can help with managing your pain.

5) Psychologist. The sheer weight of having to deal with fibromyalgia is likely at some point to cause both anxiety and depression. Talking to people and especially a trained psychologist can really help.

6) You. I debated long and hard about including this, but I feel on balance it is a point that needs to be made. You are ultimately the manager of your body and your condition. You are effectively your bodies’ best doctor.

Fibromyalgia will affect different people in different ways. Treatments for Fibromyalgia affect different people in different ways too. Ultimately, the decision around what works (and should be continued) and what doesn’t work (and should be stopped) comes down to you.

No-one can make that decision for you – only you. And the six options above are not ‘either/ or’ options. You would be well advised to try all of them and then decide on the combinations that work best for you.

For example, you may find two of the treatments from a pain specialist worked really well and you felt better after discussing your condition either in a support group like ours or to a professional psychologist.

This could still be done at the same time as seeing a rheumatologist and getting treatment for your underlying joint pain.

It is also worth asking many of the doctors that you might visit after being diagnosed with Firomyalgia, what experience they have of your disease, what medications they typically recommend for Fibromyalgia and what they think of alternative treatments.

If nothing else, asking these questions should give you a clue as to how genuinely interested and passionate your doctor is about helping with fibromyalgia. Given the length of the battle ahead, it is essential you are surrounded by people willing to ‘go to war’ with you.

What Is A Fibromyalgia Flare?

Symptoms with Fibromyalgia will fluctuate all the time, based on a whole range of environmental factors. When these symptoms increase in intensity, it is known as a ‘flare’.

Such flares can happen without warning, unless you know the signs or what might cause a flare-up of your symptoms.

The main accepted reason for fibromyalgia flares are increases in your stress levels. Stress is well known to tighten muscles and is probably the number one reason for most increases in chronic pain.

Within that however, there are a number of factors that are likely to quickly heighten your stress levels (even unconsciously) and lead to a fibromyalgia flare-up.

Typical triggers for a flare-up (as opposed to actually developing the disease which we covered earlier) include –

  • Lack of sleep
  • A Busy Schedule
  • Stress (either physical through over-working or psychological such as pressure)
  • Diet
  • Hormonal Fluctuations
  • Weather
  • A Change in Treatments

It is important to try and recognise what might cause your fibromyalgia to flare up – because it is much easier to prevent that to treat it. The best way of learning what these are for sure is to keep a diary that records everything you do (or cant do) and what your pain levels are on a scale of 1-20.

Common Myths Of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that is still not that well known amongst large parts of the general population. Knowledge is growing, but many people still do not know much or anything about it at all, until they meet someone suffering.

This unfortunately creates a number of myths that sufferers back up against –

1. ‘It’s all in your mind, there’s no proof you have anything wrong’. 

Fibromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose, there is no hard and fast x-ray or blood test that gives you a definitive ‘yes or no’.

As a result, those that know nothing about the disease can assume sufferers are ‘milking it’ or even making it up completely.

Even some doctors are not as knowledgeable in recognising Fibromyalgia as they should be. This is one of the reasons, that support groups can be so valuable – because they are among the few that truly understand.

2. ‘The Pain Can’t Be That Bad. Just Suck It Up And Get On With It’.

Again this comes down to fundamental ignorance (mostly unintended) around the sheer destructive capability of the disease. IT is quite common for employers to struggle with truly understanding what constant pain is and why sometimes you just can’t make it out of bed.

3. ‘Fibromyalgia Only Affects Older Women.’

Not true at all. Yes you are far more likely to get Fibromyalgia if you are a women, but the average age for developing Fibromyalgia is just 30-50 years old.

Furthermore, there are plenty of ladies much older being diagnosed as well as children as young as 10. Fibromyalgia really can strike down anyone.

Fibromyalgia Treatments

Sadly, there is no cure for fibromyalgia – the only option is better management of your condition. This typically aims at achieving two main goals – reducing pain and increasing deep, restorative sleep.

In essence then, it is the symptoms of fibromyalgia that are treated rather than the condition itself, because not enough is known about how to treat it.

Treatment varies but typically includes a combination of medications and other treatments, both of which can be equally valuable. The key is to find the right combination that works for you. We cover in detail the types of medications that you be offered here.

In order to get the most out of these drugs, you will need strict guidance from a doctor following a face to face consultation.

Many doctors recommend trying other treatments in combination with medications. However, since time is of the essence, few clinicians have the time to research other options and speak to patients that have tried them. Since that is part of the reason for HelpRelievePain, we have assembled your other treatment options here.

Image of medications taken by Fibromyalgia sufferers

Medications

Painkillers. There are plenty of over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin or Ibuprofen. Some of these may be effective, but if not, your doctor can give consideration to prescribing something stronger. Eventually, you may end up on opioid painkillers (discussed in our article Severe Pain Medication).

Unfortunately, many of the over-the-counter painkillers are actually anti-inflammatories and work to stop pain by reducing the inflammation. Fibromyalgia however, while it is a rheumatoid disease (meaning it damages body tissue), it is not an inflammatory disease.

Recent research has now backed up the fact that using NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen on Fibromyalgia are very likely to be completely useless.

Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of the disease from many family doctors leads to these being recommended and when they don’t work, and the pain is still intense, their natural route is on to the much stronger opioids.

There are many dangers with taking these, particularly with Fibromyalgia as it unlikely you’ll ever be stepping down and as your body builds up further tolerance to their impact, the dosage is going to have to keep increasing just to achieve the same level of pain control.

Given how addictive opioid painkillers are (such as tramadol, morphine or codeine) and that depression is often a key symptom associated with fibromyalgia, the likelihood of becoming addicted is very high.

The only exception then is if the potential ‘quality of life’ impact of fibromyalgia, is decided to outweigh the very high risks with severe painkillers, such that the only important factor is rescuing some manageability.

However, the reality of being addicted, depressed and fighting fibromyalgia is even worse and should only ever be an absolute last resort.

That said there are 3 opioids now specifically approved in America for treatment of Fibromyalgia

This is where you and your doctor(s) need to find a sensible balance between the need for pain reduction and the ability to try other non-pharmaceutical solutions.

Antidepressants

Antidepressants boost levels of neurotransmitters that deliver messages to the brain. People with fibromyalgia have very low levels of these transmitters, so it follows that increasing these can help reduce the fibromyalgia and therefore the pain levels.

They may also treat depression if you are suffering with it, but you do not have to have clinically diagnosed depression to benefit.

There are four different classes of anti-depressant –

  1. a) Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Paroxetine or Prozac (Fluoxetine) are potential examples.
  2. B) Serotonin-Noradrenaline Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs). These include Venlafxine and Duloxetine
  3. C) Tricyclic Antidepressants. One example is Amitriptyline
  4. D) Pramipexole. Developed for Parkinson’s Disease and Restless Leg Syndrome.

Unfortunately, while painkillers may have a long list of potential side effects, the list for anti-depressants is no less daunting.

Any Drug Designed To Affect Your Brain Will Not Be Risk-Free

Typical side effects with anti-depressants include-

  • Weight gain
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Sickness
  • Dry Mouth
  • Addiction
  • GI Issues (Constipation)

Muscle Relaxants

Depending on whether your fibromyalgia symptoms include muscle spasms or stiffness, then you may be offered a course of Diazepam. Be warned though, this is another strong drug but it may also help you sleep because it can also act as a sedative.

Just be very careful if driving or operating heavy machinery.

Anti-Seizure Medications

Some anti-seizure drugs commonly used for epilepsy have also been found to be effective in controlling fibromyalgia pain.

The most likely to be selected are carbamazepine, gabapentin and pregabalin.

Pregabalin was actually trialled in 2017 by Davis et al and found to be effective for pain relief when used in association with an opioid.

Indeed, it is one of 3 drugs (along with Milnacipran and Duloxetine) approved by the FDA in America for use in the specific treatment of fibromyalgia.

Anti-seizure or anti-epilepsy drugs also carry a considerable number of potential side effects, similar to those with anti-depressants but also adding in Oedema (swelling of hands and feet) as another common one.

Antipsychotics

This class of drug has little research behind it’s use in patients with fibromyalgia, but there is some empirical evidence linking them to pain reduction in fibromyalgia.

They also need to be prescribed by your doctor, and may be referred to as ‘neuroleptics’. Their more unique side effects can include tremors and restlessness.

Sleep-Inducing Medication.

One of the options your doctors may look in to is the potential for using drugs to help you sleep. It is proven that poor sleep is both a trigger for fibromyalgia and something that makes it worse.

It is not so much the hours you sleep, but the quality of that sleep. Fibromyalgia sufferers often struggle either to sleep at all or to attain the deep sleep that our bodies need to regenerate.

Anyone who doesn’t get the deep sleep required is likely to experience heightened feelings of pain and this is amplified in fibromyalgia patients.

Many of the medications above have a side effect of inducing sleep and may be tried purely from the perspective that if they help you to get a good nights sleep then that in itself will reduce your sensitivity to pain and help to relieve your pain.

Side Effect Suppressors

Sometimes because pain killers and other drugs you may be taking for your fibromyalgia have a high likelihood of particular side effects, then your doctor will prescribe something to counter them in advance.

For example, many painkillers have heartburn as a side effect, so a doctor will prescribe something like Lansoprazole or Omeprazole to counter the heartburn.

Similarly, if another symptom of your fibromyalgia (sometimes as a side effect of the drugs) is Irritable Bowel Syndrome, then other drugs such to counter either the constipation or the diarrhoea, depending on which you are suffering from, can be offered.

Caution. Unfortunately, as noted in this review by the Arthritis Foundation, an awful lot of doctors try to treat Fibromyalgia with a range of drugs that just don’t work.

What is lacking then is the progressive management to try a drug and, if it’s not working after a month, to take you off the drug.

The best treatment for Fibromyalgia is to use non-pharmaceutical solutions wherever possible and try with a combination of drugs that are regularly reviewed and altered to find the best combination for your pain.

Other Treatments

Outside of the world of drugs, there are a whole range of other treatments that may be effective in controlling your fibromyalgia.

You will have to see a doctor to get most of the drugs above, and they can advise you in more detail on the pros and cons of each medication after a face to face diagnosis and listening in detail to the individual symptoms.

As mentioned at the beginning, we’ve dedicated a separate page just to looking at all the non-pharmaceutical treatments, therapies and foods that have genuine claims to help relieve the pain of your fibromyalgia.

Just click here to view or click on the side bar to your right (if you’re on computer or tablet) when you’ve finished this article.

In short, your potential options for treating your fibromyalgia include –

  • Non-weight bearing exercise such as aqua therapy to improve flexibility and health.
  • CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) to help you deal with daily tasks
  • Relaxation Techniques to help achieve deep sleep
  • Mindful techniques
  • Acupuncture
  • Manipulation (Be VERY careful if you try this. Make sure you read our guide first)
  • Psychotherapy – Talking to an expert and learning to deal with issues through process building
  • Psychological Support – discussing issues with other sufferers
  • Talking Therapies (CBT) or face to face counselling
  • Lifestyle Changes (exercise and relaxation)
  • Diet. There are also a range of foods and supplements that are believed to help with Fibromyalgia. These are discussed in detail under ‘A Fibromyalgia Diet’
  • Essential Oils. A number of essential oils have been identified as having made a proven difference to the pain of fibromyalgia. These include Lavender, Clove, cedarwood and Capsicum.

Again, due to the lack of general knowledge in the medical community about the potential pain-reducing benefits of various essential oils, I have put together a much more thorough guide here ‘Essential oils for fibromyalgia pain’

Living With Fibromyalgia.

Living with fibromyalgia is normally most successfully done by trying a whole range of potential pain/ sleep treatments. Gradually you will be able to narrow it down to the best combination of solutions that provide you with the most pain relief and plenty of sleep.

Some of the relaxation techniques discussed in our page on ‘Fibromyalgia Treatments’ have been proven to be particularly successful. As is a combination of heat treatments and exercise where possible. The heat (either applied through pads of other methods) is great for loosening up stiff muscles and stopping them from contracting even tighter when you get up.

Whatever treatments you choose and however well they work (and some wont, it just depends on a combination of trial and error with good luck), there will be good days and bad days. As mentioned previously, Fibromyalgia symptoms are highly sensitive to environmental triggers, so highs and lows are almost guaranteed.

It is vital however to keep in mind that, even on your good days, you have fibromyalgia. It is all too easy to get carried away by the low levels of pain and take on more activity than you would normally. The result then is crippling pain the next day.

It is also key to get involved with support groups where possible – either here at HelpRelievePain or at a range of other great places full of people to learn from and provide support on your low days.

Fibromyalgia And Relationships

Fibromyalgia can cause problems for you and your partner if you are not very careful. It can be easy to see your condition as your problem and unwittingly close the door to partners who just want to understand, to help and to be involved.

It is absolutely vital to your well-being that your partner supports you, but they are only able to do that if you are willing to sit down and talk with them.

Share your fears with, tell them how it makes you feel and the type of pain you get. Studies have proven (as if they needed to), that you’ll feel better if you visit a doctor together with both of you understanding how fibromyalgia affects you.

It is also vital to work together to get the most out of your life – discussing what is most important so that you both work around attending important events like school plays etc (which may mean you doing nothing the day before to make sure you’re as good as you can be).

Similarly, it is likely your sex drive will plummet, either through a lack of desire on your part or difficulty with the physical challenges it presents.

Again however, this can be overcome if you discuss things openly with your partner and then potentially with your doctor.

A number of medications carry risks of lost libido (sex drive) and could be changed. Similarly, just getting a better control of your symptoms may help you to feel more like physical intercourse.

Discussing this with your other half will also mean you could try new positions such as side-on or with cushions for support, to find more comfortable methods.

Even little preparations like having a hot bath beforehand can loosen muscles and soothe pains to help with any form of physical activity.

Fibromyalgia And Pregnancy.

Being pregnant causes a huge surge in the level of hormones in your body. Besides the obvious weight gain that can unbalance your skeleton and cause back pain in even the healthiest of women, you will also naturally experience nausea and severe fatigue.

It is quite possible then that once again confusion can abound and if pregnancy triggers the development of fibromyalgia, it’s symptoms (and therefore diagnosis) will be hidden and considered a normal part of pregnancy.

It is accepted however, that the stress of pregnancy combined with the surge in hormones can be a trigger for fibromyalgia.

If you already have fibromyalgia and are on medication for it when you fall pregnant, it is absolutely essential that you go back to your doctor as soon as you find out. Many medications (particularly the anti-depressants and anti-seizure drugs) are contraindicated for pregnancy and will need to be changed or most likely stopped while you are pregnant.

Similarly, if you want to start a family and are thinking about trying, you should speak to your doctor first. There is no physical reason why someone with fibromyalgia can not have children, but you will most likely need to look carefully at your medications first.

Currently no fibromyalgia medications are recommended for use during pregnancy, so it may come down to managing with the diet and alternative therapies discussed in other articles.

Image of a pelican delivering a baby wrapped in a shawl
If Only Pregnancy Was That Easy

Fibro Support Groups

While we at helprelievepain try to be an online support group for our members, there is also substantial benefit in meeting face-to-face with other sufferers. This is particularly true if you are suffering with depression as a result of the fibromyalgia.

By becoming a member here, you’ll be kept abreast of all the latest developments in fibromyalgia and any new studies/ treatments as they become trialed.

However, it is also worth checking for national phone support groups so that if you feel the need, you can talk to someone as well.

In the UK, the charity Fibromyalgia Action UK  can be contacted on 0300 999 3333. Alternatively ask a question below and we’ll always find an answer for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

It is quite possible, but no-one can make a fair diagnosis online. Your best option would be to see your family doctor and, if they can’t resolve it, ask to see a rheumatologist as well or a pain specialist.

In short, yes it can. According to a study by Laniosz, Walter and Godar in 2014, only 3.4% of Fibromyalgia patients suffered with itching without and obvious cause.

Why this happens at all is open to debate, although the fact that one side effect of many painkillers is itchy skin, may be one possible reason.

The Final Word –

What is Fibromyalgia? Perhaps the biggest problem for current sufferers is that three quarters of the world still don’t seem to know. Many trials have been conducted in the past that show up to 60/70% of defined Fibromyalgia sufferers did not get the correct diagnosis first time.

Furthermore, sympathy can be low amongst family, and particularly friends, who do not understand a condition with no clear diagnosis, that has frequent good followed by very bad days and can leave sufferers completely exhausted with no obvious explanation.

However, in Dr Don Goldenberg’s editorial as recent as February 2019, Diagnosing Fibromyalgia as a Disease, an Illness, a State, or a Trait?he concludes that

“the diagnostic gold standard for fibromyalgia will continue to be the rheumatologists expert opinion, not classification criteria, no matter how well-refined and intentioned” 

So, even though Fibromyalgia is an often poorly diagnosed condition, it is still always best to see clinicians face to face and trust their opinion (within reason).

However, it is also essential to get the right group around you. With no cure, your best chance of living a full and productive life is to find the right combination or drugs and other therapies that give you the best pain control.

This will not be the same for everyone, so you will benefit from trying different approaches until you are happy that you have found the best combination.

To do this, it is essential to have a good support group around you – don’t be afraid to change doctors if you feel unsupported and to reach out to support groups and charities like ourselves or the ones linked above.

Fellow sufferers are the best sources of help and information and just as I’ve spoken to an used a range of group members in writing this, so you will benefit from a big network of friends that understand what you are going through.

Hopefully the information in the guide and the others on treatments and essential oils will be of help and you can always join us (if you haven’t already) and head over to our closed facebook group for further community discussion.

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References –

1. The National Institute Of Arthritis And Musculoskeletal And Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/fibromyalgia
 
2. NHS England. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fibromyalgia/diagnosis/
 
3. Wolfe F, Clauw DJ, FitzCharles M, Goldenerberg D, Häuser W, Katz RS, Russell IJ, Mease PJ, Russell A, Walitt B. (2016) Revisions to the 2010/2011 Fibromyalgia Diagnostic Criteria [abstract]. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2016; 68 (suppl 10).
 

4. Fred Davis MD  Mark Gostine MD  Bradley A. Roberts MS  Rebecca Risko RN, BSN Joseph C. Cappelleri PhD  Alesia Sadosky PhD (2017) Interpreting the Effectiveness of Opioids and Pregabalin for Pain Severity, Pain Interference, and Fatigue in Fibromyalgia Patients. The World Institute Of Pain.

5. Jennifer Davis (2013) Fibro Medications are Not a Cure All. The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org)

6. Don L. Goldenberg (2019) Diagnosing Fibromyalgia as a Disease, an Illness, a State, or a Trait? Arthritis Care And Research.

7. Valerie Laniosz, David A. Wetter, Desiree A. Godar (2014) Dermatologic manifestations of fibromyalgia. Clinical Rheumatology.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Dee

    Wow. Huge detail here. I think I may be a fibro case, but my doctor is still messing me around. Need to push him to read this!

  2. Fred Licken

    Real nice style and good content material, practically nothing else we require : Lovely to see more being written about Fibromyalgia : D.

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