Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition – so there is no cure.

Occasionally, if the trigger for the condition is resolved, the fibromyalgia symptoms also improve. Read more on the triggers here.

Unfortunately, many of the triggers for fibromyalgia don’t have a ‘quick fix’.

There is no pill you can take to change your genes or erase the memory of a traumatic experience.

As with most chronic illness, people with fibromyalgia have good and bad days.

With holistic treatment for your body, mind and social or spiritual well-being you can improve your outlook.

Everyone is unique, and so too are the triggers and relievers for fibromyalgia.

It’s essential to arm yourself with a toolkit of strategies you can rely on to manage your symptoms.

For more information on a holistic treatment strategies click here.

Typically, fibromyalgia pain will come back. Fibromyalgia symptoms can get worse during periods when life is stressful.

Over time you will learn what helps you work through the painful periods and how to prevent them in the first place.

If you can stay socially and physically active (despite your pain) – you will do much better.

 

Types of fibromyalgia painHow bad can the pain from fibromyalgia be?

The pain from fibromyalgia is very real. It can be constant and intense.

The pain from fibromyalgia can be severe enough to stop you doing your normal activities – like work or socialising.

A survey of people living with fibromyalgia found that 87 percent reported having pain on most days of their life.

The survey also found that 70 percent of people with fibromyalgia also had regular tension headaches or migraines. These were often severe.

Fibromyalgia is unusual in that it can cause pain in many areas of the body.

Acute pain is your body’s warning system.

If you touch a hot kettle the pain acts as a warning. The pain is a signal ‘stop touching this hot kettle – it is causing damage’.

The pain of fibromyalgia is more complex.

Your body has developed a ‘pattern of pain.’

We all recognise – not all pain is the same.

Experts generally agree there are several types of fibromyalgia pain.

By understanding what type of pain you’re experiencing – you can work out what strategy might help it to go away.

 

Types of Fibromyalgia Pain

 

Myofascial pain

Myofascial pain comes from tight muscles.

It is often described as a deep, aching pain or stiffness and throbbing all over the body. Common areas affected include:

  • Low back pain (this can spread out to legs and buttocks)
  • Neck and shoulders (this may lead to a tension headache)
  • Chest wall pain (around the breastbone and rib cage)

Like a spring it takes more energy for muscles to relax than contract.

Think about it…nobody ever finished a work out and said “my muscles are so loose.”

As the muscles shorten, they can become tight and painful. This can cause pain both locally and distally.

The tight muscles pull on your tendons. This can feel like joint pain, chest pain or even organ pain.

A common example is the tension headache from a sore neck or back.

In the case of fibromyalgia when there is fatigue – you may experience myofascial pain throughout your body.

Some strategies shown to help with myofascial pain include:

  • Physical therapy – gentle stretching and posture training
  • Massage
  • Heat
  • Acupuncture
  • Exercise – such as a gentle walk or swim
  • Relaxation – particularly meditation

 

Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain comes from damage or dysfunction of nerves due to trauma, disease, surgery or chemotherapy.

Carpal tunnel is a well-known syndrome that may develop neuropathic pain.

The pinched nerve may cause numbness, pain and weakness.

Many people with fibromyalgia describe neuropathic pain. It causes odd nerve sensations including crawling, tingling, burning and itching – as well as pain and numbness.

Nerve damage is not always evident but may be measured through strength, reflexes and sensations.

Some strategies shown to help with neuropathic pain include:

  • Herbal treatments – including capsaicin cream
  • Vitamin B12
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Physical therapy

 

Types of fibromyalgia painJoint Pain

Joint pain and a sensation of swelling are commonly reported with fibromyalgia.

Specifically pain around the temporomandibular joint. It is located at the side of your face and connects your jaw to your skull.

This pain is usually described as a persistent, dull ache around areas including the ear, temple, eyes, lower jaw and back of neck.

Unlike inflammatory arthritis there is no actual swelling in the joint. This is one of the main ways doctors distinguish fibromyalgia from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Some strategies shown to help with temporomandibular joint pain include:

  • Heat or cold packs
  • Simple jaw stretches
  • Avoid hard foods
  • Relaxation – particularly meditation
  • Herbal remedies – including willow bark and cloves

 

Hyperalgesia

Hyperalgesia is the increased excitability of the neurons that carry the pain signals.

“Hyper” means excess and “algesia” means pain.

For people with fibromyalgia the pain signals are amplified making the pain more severe than it would normally be.

Frighteningly, opioid pain medication has been shown to induce hyperalgesia.

Some strategies shown to help with hyperalgesia include:

 

Allodynia

Does the lightest touch feel painful on your skin?

Allodynia, is pain caused by mild pressure such as clothing or gentle massage (stimulation that does not usually cause pain).

The pain originates from special nerve receptors called nociceptors. Nociceptors sense information like temperature and painful stimuli from the skin.

The hypersensitive reaction is thought to be a result of neuroplasticity. Your body has developed a pattern of pain.

The processes that regulate pain signals are thought to distort and amplify the sensations.

The body releases more neurotransmitters and creates a ‘positive feedback loop’ which can cause excruciating chronic pain.

Some strategies shown to help with allodynia include:

 

Pelvic pain

People with fibromyalgia commonly experience pelvic pain.

This may come in the form of either pelvic floor pain or bladder linked pain.

Pelvic pain syndromes also include pain with sexual intercourse.

The pelvic pain from fibromyalgia is often associated with the symptoms of interstitial cystitis. These include the frequent need to urinate.

Some strategies shown to help with pelvic pain and interstitial cystitis include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Dietary interventions – includes eliminating acidic foods, alcohol and caffeine
  • Stay hydrated – drink lots of water
  • Neuroplastic techniques – designed to rewire the brain. For more register for our free short course.
  • Relaxation – particularly meditation

 

Abdominal pain

People with fibromyalgia are 70 percent more likely to develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Symptoms of IBS include painful stomach cramps, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea.

Some strategies shown to help with abdominal pain and IBS include:

 

Headaches

Headaches are a very common in people with fibromyalgia.

One study of people who suffered with tension headaches found 35 percent also have fibromyalgia.

Of people who suffer from migraines around 24 percent also have fibromyalgia.

Tension headaches commonly feel like a dull pressure around the head. Although painful they are not debilitating.

Migraines on the other hand typically occur on one side of the head and cause excruciating pain. Migraines may also cause light sensitivity and vision changes such as flashing or shimmering lights.

Anxiety and poor sleep are both known to contribute to headaches. As both sleep disorders and anxiety are common in people with fibromyalgia it is not surprising headaches are so common.

Some strategies shown to help with headaches and migraines include:

 

Types of fibromyalgia painFibromyalgia Death Rate

Fibromyalgia is a non-fatal disease.

A study by the Centre for Disease found that the fibromyalgia death rate was comparable to the general public.

Although fibromyalgia alone is not linked to an increased death rate – the condition is linked to a higher incidence of suicide and accidents.

Many people with fibromyalgia suffer from a mental health disorder such as anxiety or depression.

The CDC found people with fibromyalgia were 3.4 times more likely to be diagnosed with depression.

Another study of adolescents with fibromyalgia found that 57.5% also suffered from anxiety.

These sad statistics are not exactly surprising.

Living with fatigue, painful symptoms and changed personal circumstances would challenge even the most resilient of people.

The increased suicide risk for people with fibromyalgia is very real and should be taken seriously.

If you live with fibromyalgia it is critical that you take steps to manage all areas of your health.

Your body, mind and social well-being.

 

What is the best way to treat fibromyalgia?

The best way to treat fibromyalgia is by taking a holistic approach.

The complex nature of fibromyalgia affects you physically, mentally and very often socially.

The people who achieve the best outcomes with fibromyalgia take an inter-disciplinary approach.

What is an inter-disciplinary approach?

An inter-disciplinary approach is an integration of knowledge from different disciplines. It synthesises many approaches to work on healing all areas of your life.

Your body, mind and social or spiritual well-being.

Studies of inter-disciplinary fibromyalgia treatment have found impressive results. These treatments combined psychological, educational and physical therapies

For more information on an interdisciplinary healing program for chronic pain and fibromyalgia click here.

 

How do I explain fibromyalgia to my husband?

Fibromyalgia is a debilitating chronic condition that causes pain and fatigue.

Many women feel like fibromyalgia is damaging their relationships as well as their health.

A Swedish study found that many husbands felt they lacked knowledge and understanding of their wive’s condition, fibromyalgia.

If you struggle with ‘how to explain fibromyalgia to my husband?’ – you might find a 3 part strategy helpful.

Stage 1: The Science – What is actually going on in your body when you have fibromyalgia?

Stage 2: Types of fibromyalgia – How bad does fibromyalgia pain get? What are the different types of fibromyalgia pain? What can you do to reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia and improve your quality of life?

Stage 3: The Relationship – What impact is fibromyalgia having on you as a couple? What impact is fibromyalgia having on your husband? What can you do to reduce the impact of fibromyalgia on your marriage?

What next? 

Next week we will publish ‘Stage 3: How to explain fibromyalgia – Relationships’