Fibromyalgia gets a helping hand

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Today is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day and Best Doctors hopes that today’s post might contribute towards the awareness of this disease. Depending on the country, it is estimated that 2 to 5% of adults suffer from fibromyalgia. Of those affected, 80% to 90% are women between 20 and 50 years of age.

Fibromyalgia is a non-inflammatory, chronic musculoskeletal syndrome of unknown origin that is mainly characterised by generalised pain throughout the body, extreme fatigue, sleep disturbances and emotional changes. It can also cause severe physical and emotional disability.

Fibromyalgia is currently believed to be a form of rheumatism associated with increased sensitivity to a painful stimulus. The term “rheumatism” can be justified by the fact that fibromyalgia involves muscles, tendons and ligaments. Joints and bones, however, are not affected. Although fibromyalgia may be extremely painful and disabling, it does not cause deformation.

Symptoms

Pain – chronic and diffused throughout the body, varying in intensity according to the time of day, intensity of strain, weather, quality of sleep the previous night and emotional aspects or stress. The so-called “pain points” are areas that are sensitive to pressure and are located in well-defined locations of muscle, tendons and fat tissue, distributed in a generally symmetrical fashion.

Fatigue – affects more than 90% of patients, often reported as being more intense in the morning and then again mid-afternoon. Fatigue does not go away with rest, as is the case in other conditions and the lack of energy for carrying out simple, daily tasks leads to exhaustion.

Sleep Disorders – fibromyalgia sufferers do reach the deepest stage of sleep, yet constantly awaken during the night for unknown reasons. These disturbances can be classified as quantitative changes (insomnia, constant waking during the night or short periods of sleep), or qualitative changes (not waking up in the morning feeling rested, sleep is not restful even after many hours).

Rigidity – mainly reported on waking up in the morning or after long periods in the same position, sitting or standing.

Cognitive disorders –may include difficulty concentrating, poor memory and confusion.

Gastrointestinal disorders – between 40% and 70% of patients report gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, gas and nausea.

Headaches – reported in more than 50% of cases, as are migraines, which may limit daily activities.

Chemical hypersensitivity – intolerance and hypersensitivity to certain smells, noises, intense light, medication and food, as well as cleaning and hygiene products.

Treatment and physiotherapy

Although there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, intervention by a multidisciplinary team using combined therapeutic approaches that include medication, patient education, stretching, aerobic exercise and cognitive behavioural therapy help to improve symptoms and quality of life.

Physiotherapy in fibromyalgia helps to control symptoms, improve musculoskeletal and cardiovascular conditions and promote patient education with regards to the most suitable form of physical activity, as well as the correct bodily positions for facilitating daily activities. Treatment sessions can be held 2 to 4 times a week, with treatment directed towards alleviating symptoms.

Therapeutic resources used by the physiotherapist

  • Exercise- planning of physical exercise programmes tailored to each patient, including aerobic exercises such as walking and cycling.
  • Education: home exercise programmes as a complement to treatment, as well as self-help programmes to resolve and minimise symptoms.
  • Hydrotherapy – water allows for exercise with a greater range of movement, reducing pain and fatigue, and improving the quality of sleep.
  • Massage – promotes muscle relaxation, improves quality of sleep, combats fatigue and reduces pain.
  • Muscle stretching exercises: promote relaxation, muscle mobility and flexibility.
  • Electrotherapy – appliances such as TENS or biofeedback, which can be used to reduce pain in fibromyalgia pain points and improve circulation.

Until there is a cure for fibromyalgia, Best Doctors supports both research which will help us to better understand this condition, as well as treatment, such as physiotherapy, which provide relief. Always consult with your doctor before beginning any physiotherapy treatment.

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