Fibromyalgia Symptoms, Treatment & Causes: Everyday Changes to Make Life Easier

6th May, 2022

At HSL, we understand that medical conditions can interfere with our health as we get older and make it more difficult to live an active lifestyle. Fibromyalgia, for example, is a long-lasting condition that can cause pain and a range of other symptoms that could make it harder to live your everyday life.

Whilst there may not be a known cure for fibromyalgia, there are steps you can take to lessen fibromyalgia symptoms and help you to live with the condition. Here, we explain what fibromyalgia is, the signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia, and what day-to-day changes you can incorporate to make life easier.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes you to feel pain all over your body. This pain can be felt in multiple places, or across your entire body; the condition is long-lasting and can stay with you for years. However, the pain usually comes and goes, with periods of little to no pain (called remission) and periods of severe pain (called flares or flare-ups).

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

The main symptom of fibromyalgia is pain which can range from a low ache to more intense pain. Other symptoms and signs of fibromyalgia include:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Stiffness alongside the pain
  • Tiredness and fatigue that can become debilitating
  • Headaches, including migraines
  • Problems sleeping
  • Problems thinking clearly, concentrating, and with memory (called fibro-fog)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stomach problems, like bloating, abdominal pain, constipation and diarrhoea (irritable bowel syndrome)
The symptoms of Fibromyalgia

What causes fibromyalgia?

The exact cause of fibromyalgia isn’t known for certain; there may be more than one cause, as well as multiple triggers. Some researchers believe that fibromyalgia is caused by your body becoming too sensitive to pain signals. This may happen if you have abnormal levels of chemicals in your brain that transmit the pain signals.

There’s also evidence that repeated stimulation of your brain’s pain receptors can lead to your brain reacting to non-pain signals with pain. If this happens, any stimulation of your body may cause pain. Fibromyalgia may also be genetic – if a close relative has the condition, you’re more likely to develop it.

Events in your life may also trigger the condition, like:

  • An injury
  • An infection
  • A severe injury
  • Having an operation
  • Other conditions that may cause persistent pain, like arthritis
  • Chronic stress
  • Sudden stressful events

“The reality is that fibromyalgia is a complex condition that’s not fully understood. It’s likely there are multiple fibromyalgia causes. Your genetics may have made you more likely to develop fibromyalgia, and then specific events in your life could have brought the condition on.”
– Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC

Is there a cure for fibromyalgia?

No. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia. But, there are a range of fibromyalgia treatments that can ease your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

How is fibromyalgia treated?

Some fibromyalgia treatments will be more appropriate for you. You can also combine different treatments to make it easier to live with the condition. Fibromyalgia treatments include:

  • Pain medication, both over the counter and prescription
  • Sleep medication
  • Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications
  • Talking therapies, like cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Lifestyle changes, including exercise, eating a healthy diet and good sleep habits

The best place to get started with treating fibromyalgia is your GP. They can give you a fibromyalgia diagnosis and prescribe suitable medications that can help with fibromyalgia pain relief, as well as with sleep and depression and anxiety. Your GP could also refer you to various specialists, such as counsellors and therapists.

How to live with fibromyalgia

“Fibromyalgia can be long-lasting and can’t be cured with a simple treatment. It’s best to think of fibromyalgia as a condition you need to learn to live with rather than something that can be permanently fixed. And when it comes to learning to live with it, it’s key to adapt your lifestyle and keep a positive mindset.”
– Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC 

Try the following day-to-day changes to ease symptoms:

 

Exercise regularly

Exercise can help lessen fibromyalgia flares and can have a host of other benefits too, like helping you sleep and keeping depression and anxiety at bay. Intense exercise can make fatigue worse, so you may find that gentle exercise is most beneficial. Try light exercise like yoga, swimming, cycling and walking. If you find a form of exercise that’s manageable and enjoyable, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

 

Try to reduce your stress levels

Stress has been shown to worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia, so whilst it’s easier said than done, try to limit any causes of stress in your life. Creating time for enjoyable hobbies and pastimes such as painting, walking or singing can work wonders. Talking therapies, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be effective at reducing stress too.

 

Listen to your body

Fibromyalgia can be different from day to day, that’s why it’s important to listen to your body and take time out if you need it.

“Some days will be worse than others. On certain days you might find that the pain and fatigue can make even the simplest tasks difficult. Don’t try to fight through your fibromyalgia. Learn to take it easier on these days and don’t feel guilty about it. Also, don’t push yourself too hard on good days. It can be tempting to try and make the most of periods of remission, but if you overdo it, you can bring on a flare-up again.”
– Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings, Dip COT HCPC 

 

Eat a healthy diet

You may find your fibromyalgia symptoms lessen if you improve your diet. Try to focus on natural, whole foods – particularly vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grain carbohydrates, fish and lean meats. Cut out processed foods, and foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates. Some people with fibromyalgia find it helps to cut out stimulants like caffeine and alcohol too. Read our article on the best immune-boosting foods to add to your diet.

 

Look for support

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone if you have fibromyalgia. You can find support groups and online communities of people living with fibromyalgia that can be a great source of comfort and help. Take a look at Fibromyalgia Action UK and UK Fibromyalgia to find out more.

 

Get into good sleep habits

Getting a good night’s sleep can help reduce pain and fatigue, but, frustratingly, fibromyalgia often disrupts sleep. Give yourself the best chance of falling and staying asleep by adopting good sleep habits. Set a fixed bedtime and waking time, don’t drink caffeine in the afternoon or evening, don’t drink alcohol, keep your bedroom dark and quiet, and establish a relaxing bedtime routine.

Your bed can make a big difference too. Our adjustable beds change your sleeping position to support key areas of your body to help relieve pain in your back, neck, hip or legs. You can even adjust the angle of the mattress during the night, with the touch of a button. Plus, our handmade mattresses contour to the natural shape of your body, providing additional support and comfort.

Occupational Therapist Approved Beds

At HSL, your comfort and wellbeing are our top priority. Our furniture is ergonomically designed to support your body effectively and can be tailored to best suit your needs. Visit one of our stores, or arrange a free Home Visit to find out how we can help you.

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