Treatment tends to be a combination of medication, counselling and lifestyle changes – such as exercise programmes and relaxation techniques.
Several drugs may help with the symptoms of Fibromyalgia:
- Paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NASIDS) may relieve pain.
- Sleeping tablets may be used in the short-term if your sleep is disrupted.
- Drugs such as amitriptyline are often used for depression, to reduce muscle pain and improve sleep patterns in Fibromyalgia. Amitriptyline must be started at a low dose and slowly built up to the required level.
- Antidepressants, such as fluoxetine or paroxetine, may be prescribed if depression is a particular problem.
- Newer drugs such as pregabalin, gabapentin and duloxetine may help to reduce pain by altering levels of chemicals within the brain and nervous system.
Physical Therapies for Fibromyalgia
Physiotherapy and Osteopathy can help you to improve your posture, stretch and relax your muscles, and gradually help you to become more active. They can also advise you about relaxation and exercise techniques and general tips for helping you to manage your pain, such as pacing yourself and getting you to change the way you work.
Occupational therapy can help you to manage your everyday jobs without increasing your pain or wearing yourself out – by using labour-saving gadgets.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has some evidence to show that it may be helpful for Fibromyalgia sufferers.
Self-help for Fibromyalgia
There are many ways in which people with Fibromyalgia can make their daily lives easier:
If you have Fibromyalgia your muscles will often be tense making them more prone to sprains and strains, so it's important to reduce muscle tension by stretching regularly. A physiotherapist or an osteopath will be able to advise on the stretching exercises that will be best for you.
Aerobic exercise improves fitness, reduces pain and fatigue, and helps to reduce excess weight. It should also improve your sleep. By ‘aerobic’ we mean increasing the circulation of oxygen through the blood, so any exercise that gets you breathing heavily and your heart beating faster is aerobic. Swimming and walking are particularly recommended for people with Fibromyalgia.
Increasing your exercise little by little will improve your fitness, flexibility and stamina.
2. Diet and nutrition
No particular diet has been proven to help Fibromyalgia, but we recommend keeping your weight within a healthy range by eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.
Poor sleep and developing specific painful points on the body are key features of Fibromyalgia. Research has revealed that people with Fibromyalgia often lose deep sleep. A study has shown that when healthy people were repeatedly woken from deep sleep, they started to develop the typical symptoms and tender points of Fibromyalgia.
So getting enough proper sleep appears to be important in the development and treatment of Fibromyalgia. The severe tiredness that often goes with Fibromyalgia is also due to this poor sleep pattern.
Dealing with sleep disturbance may also help with the physical symptoms.
Stress has a negative effect on pain, so when the stress levels rise, your pain will rise too. But equally, when the stress levels are reduced, then the pain is likely to be less severe and easier to manage.
There are also a range of complementary therapies such as aromatherapy, reflexology, indian head massage and acupuncture. All of these therapies may help as an adjunct, by improving your general well-being and therefore making you feel like looking after yourself and taking more self-care.
5. Support network
It is important with any chronic disease like Fibromyalgia that you have a good support network to call on. This might involve family, friends, your GP, any therapists that you know may help, and also any local Fibromyalgia support groups. Research has shown that having a good network that will provide advice and support is important in the management of Fibromyalgia. So let family members and friends know of the condition, so they can provide support if necessary.