What is Fibromyalgia? Common symptoms and treatments explained!
by Rowan Bailey
The Silent Struggle: Unveiling the Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Image Source: Unsplash
What is Fibromyalgia?
The term "fibromyalgia" often brings to mind a vague image of unexplained pain, fatigue, and discomfort. However, these vague symptoms are a very real and challenging part of my daily life. As a fibromyalgia patient, I am intimately familiar with the silent struggle that comes with managing this condition.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that affects millions of people worldwide. Its symptoms are often invisible to others, leading to misunderstanding and misdiagnosis. In this blog post, I aim to shed light on the realities of living with fibromyalgia, in hopes of promoting awareness and understanding about this often misunderstood condition. Though it is important to remember that everyone experiences their symptoms, and effectiveness of management in different ways. This is my experience, and shared feedback from the support groups we have given talks to over the years.
Understanding Fibromyalgia: What is it and What Causes it?
So, what exactly is fibromyalgia? This medical condition is characterised by chronic widespread pain and tenderness. The pain can be severe enough to interfere with daily activities, making it difficult for those with fibromyalgia to lead a normal life. For many, this pain is a dull ache, where as others it can come in sporadic waves. Whether the pain is felt daily, or in 'flare ups' is another variable that can vary from patient to patient. Alongside these aches and pains comes severe lethargy and mental fog that can make even the easiest tasks a chore. I for one appear quite well, and on good days can take on many physical tasks and enjoy being active in the outdoors. So many wouldn't believe that often underneath my calm complexion, i'm actually masking varying levels of pain, and actively planning my following day to compensate for elevated pain and lethargy levels. Although in recent years I have managed to get my quality of life back and take charge of my condition, it still fights back and can take me down out of the blue on a bad flare up day. So it is more a case of managing, and planning around my condition to keep my functional at the level that I need to be. This however, isn't an option for all fibromyalgia patients, and i'm well aware that overtime, I may not be able to keep this up either, only time will tell.
The exact cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, but it is believed to involve a variety of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Some research suggests that fibromyalgia could be related to abnormalities in the way the brain processes pain signals, or that it can be caused my trauma or other triggers. One thing for sure is that it's a challenging condition, and i'm glad to say that there is a lot of on going research into this condition, so i'm holding out hope for some leaps in the coming years with regards to managing it and treatments.
Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The most common fibromyalgia symptoms include pain all over the body, extreme fatigue, and cognitive difficulties often termed as 'fibro fog'. The pain can vary from a dull ache to a sharp, burning sensation, and is often accompanied by stiffness.
This pain is often described as a constant dull ache, typically arising from muscles. To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.
When talking at support groups for fibro, it's apparent that the level of pain, and volume of occurrence can vary greatly. Some are successful at keeping this at bay using a combination of hydrotherapy, CBD/ Medical cannabis products and localised massage therapy. So if you're looking for ways to start managing fibromyalgia, these would be a great place to start!
Common Symptoms of Fibromyalgia in Females
Fibromyalgia affects more women than men, and the symptoms can be particularly debilitating for females. Women with fibromyalgia may experience additional symptoms like painful periods, increased sensitivity to cold, and symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Unfortunately, many of these symptoms overlap with other conditions, which can make fibromyalgia difficult to diagnose. It's essential for women experiencing these symptoms to seek medical advice and get the appropriate diagnosis.
How Do You Get a Fibromyalgia Diagnosis?
Fibromyalgia is notoriously difficult to diagnose. There's no specific test to identify the condition, and its symptoms mimic those of other conditions, leading to misdiagnosis.
To diagnose fibromyalgia, doctors generally check for certain criteria — widespread pain throughout your body for at least three months and no underlying medical condition that could cause the pain.
Common Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Treatment for fibromyalgia aims to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. This often involves a combination of medication, exercise, and lifestyle changes. Medications can help reduce pain and improve sleep, while regular exercise can help manage pain and improve overall health.
However, medication alone is not enough. Lifestyle changes, including stress management and a healthy diet, can also play a crucial role in managing fibromyalgia symptoms.
Rare Symptoms of Fibromyalgia to Watch Out For
While the symptoms mentioned above are the most common, there are also rare fibromyalgia symptoms to be aware of. These may include dizziness, difficulty swallowing, and sensitivity to smell, noise, and light.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to inform your healthcare provider as they can be indicative of fibromyalgia or other underlying conditions.
Diagnosing Fibromyalgia: How is it Done?
As mentioned earlier, diagnosing fibromyalgia is a challenge. Doctors usually rely on patient histories, physical examinations, and, in some cases, a blood test known as FM/a.
The FM/a test measures the concentration of immune system biomarkers, which tend to be higher in people with fibromyalgia. However, this test is not definitive and should be used in conjunction with other diagnostic methods. Ultimately there isn't a standard diagnostic protocol for fibromyalgia, and as such diagnosis can be difficult at times.
Fibromyalgia Self-Care: Tips for Managing the Condition
Managing fibromyalgia involves a comprehensive approach that includes medication, exercise, stress management, and a healthy diet. However, self-care plays a crucial role in managing fibromyalgia symptoms, including ensuring a positive mindset, reducing stress and prioritising healthy sleep to give your body it's best chance of avoiding flare ups.
Self-care could involve anything from taking time each day to relax, practicing mindfulness and meditation, or simply making sure you're getting enough sleep. Remember, it's okay to ask for help and take time for yourself when you need it.
Can Fibromyalgia Be Managed With Exercise?
Regular exercise is a critical part of managing fibromyalgia. Exercise can help reduce pain, improve sleep, and boost overall health. However, it's important to start slow and gradually increase your activity level, as doing too much too soon can worsen symptoms.
A combination of aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility exercises can be beneficial. However, it's essential to find a type of exercise that you enjoy and can stick with long-term.
Fibromyalgia Pain Relief: Therapies and Treatments
In addition to medication and exercise, other therapies and treatments can help manage fibromyalgia pain. These may include physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT can be particularly beneficial as it helps you learn how to manage your thoughts and emotions around pain, which can improve your ability to cope with fibromyalgia symptoms.
Can CBD Help Manage Fibromyalgia?
Cannabidiol (CBD) is becoming increasingly popular as a natural remedy for various conditions, including fibromyalgia. While research is ongoing, some studies suggest that CBD may help reduce pain and improve sleep, which if true, could be great at managing the lifestyle and mindset aspects of your management routine. We suggest keeping up to date with all research around CBD and fibromyalgia/ medical cannabis to see what the latest findings are!
However, it's crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new treatment, including CBD. It's also important to remember that what works for one person might not work for another, so it may take some trial and error to find what works best for you.
Can Your Diet Help Fibromyalgia?
Certain dietary changes may help manage fibromyalgia symptoms. While there's no specific diet for fibromyalgia, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can improve overall health and energy levels.
Some people with fibromyalgia find that certain foods trigger their symptoms. Keeping a food diary can help identify any potential food triggers so you can avoid them in the future.
Coping With Sudden Extreme Fatigue and Body Aches
Sudden extreme fatigue and body aches can be particularly challenging for those with fibromyalgia. It's important to listen to your body and rest when needed.
Learning to manage stress and practicing good sleep hygiene can also help manage these symptoms. If your symptoms persist or worsen, it's crucial to seek medical attention.
Seeking Support: Fibromyalgia Resources and Communities
Living with fibromyalgia can be isolating, but you're not alone. There are numerous fibromyalgia resources and communities available both online and offline that can offer support and advice.
Connecting with others who understand what you're going through can provide comfort and help you feel less alone. Remember, it's okay to reach out and ask for help.
What CBD Products Work Best for Fibromyalgia?
If you're considering using CBD to manage fibromyalgia, it's important to choose high-quality products. CBD oils and tinctures are the most popular forms of CBD, but edibles, capsules, and topical creams can also be effective. Over the years through our talks at fibromyalgia support groups, we have found that consistency of dose, and a combination of CBD Drops/ Capsules with targeted CBD topicals to be the most effective as part of your management routine for fibromyalgia.
Remember, everyone is different, so what works for one person might not work for you. It's best to start with a low dose and gradually increase until you find what works for you.
What Strength CBD Oil Drops for Fibromyalgia?
The strength of CBD oil you need for fibromyalgia can vary depending on various factors, including your weight, overall health, and the severity of your symptoms.
As a general rule, it's best to start with a low dose and gradually increase until you find what works for you. It's also important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment.
Debunking Fibromyalgia Myths: Is There a Cure?
One of the most common myths about fibromyalgia is that it can be cured. Unfortunately, there's currently no cure for fibromyalgia. However, symptoms can be managed with a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and self-care.
Remember, it's okay to have bad days. The important thing is to stay hopeful and remember that you're not alone. Using online as well as local communities can be a great resource for networking with others who understand your daily struggles.
Can You Get PIP (UK Personal Independence Payments) Support for Fibromyalgia?
In the UK, those with fibromyalgia may be eligible for Personal Independence Payments (PIP). This benefit is designed to help people with long-term health conditions or disabilities.
The application process can be challenging, and it's important to provide as much evidence as possible about how your condition affects your daily life. If you're considering applying for PIP, it may be helpful to seek advice from a support group or charity.
You can find out more about PIP for Fibro HERE.
Conclusion: Living with Fibromyalgia
Living with fibromyalgia is a constant journey of managing symptoms, navigating treatments, and coping with the emotional impact of the condition. It's a silent struggle, but it's not one you have to face alone.
With the right support and resources, you can manage your symptoms and lead a fulfilling life. Remember, you're stronger than fibromyalgia, and you're not alone in this journey. Don't be afraid to reach out for more info, some advice on CBD products, or anything else let us know!