Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition, causing widespread pain all over the body. It affects nearly one in 20 people worldwide, yet the exact cause is still not fully understood. Treatments such as lifestyle changes, alongside medication, are paramount in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
The most common Fibromyalgia Symptoms UK is pain at multiple sites of the body. For some people, this starts in the lower back and can spread down the legs. However, the pattern of pain is different for each person and may just appear as pain all over the body. This pain is often felt in the bones and the muscles (musculoskeletal pain) and may cause tender areas in different regions of your body.
These areas are known as ‘trigger points’ and are found frequently at the back of the head, top of the shoulders, upper chest, and hips. People experience this to varying levels; from a mild ache to a debilitating pain that stops you from being able to carry out your normal activities.
Another frequent effect of fibromyalgia is having trouble sleeping. This can lead to a bad sleep pattern, waking up without feeling rested, and difficulty in staying focussed on tasks during the day. Fatigue leads to a feeling of depleted energy levels which do not improve with sleep or rest. This may lead to a feeling of brain fog – patients may struggle to concentrate or have difficulty remembering things.
There are many other symptoms of fibromyalgia and each person experiences something different. The main other symptoms include headaches, pins and needles in fingers and toes, anxiety and depression, irritability, and needing to use the toilet more frequently. Women may find that the menstrual period also becomes more painful.
What Causes Fibromyalgia?
Scientists are not sure about the exact cause of fibromyalgia. It is likely that it is a mixture of your genetics and an environmental trigger, such as an illness or stress. This means that you cannot tell if somebody will get fibromyalgia just by looking at their family history, but a family history of fibromyalgia does increase the chance of developing the condition. The flu, pneumonia, and stomach bugs have all been linked to being a trigger for fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia also has a connection with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis. In these diseases, your body’s immune system attacks your own cells, as opposed to only attacking organisms that cause diseases such as bacteria and viruses. People with autoimmune diseases are at higher risk of developing fibromyalgia. Similar to autoimmune diseases, the majority of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are also female, making this a risk factor.
Studies have shown that those living with fibromyalgia respond to a pain signal more than most people do. This may be due to the nerves in your central nervous system sending more signals to the brain in response to pain – this is known as hyperexcitability. Or, this may be due to the correct signals traveling to your brain, but these are then interpreted differently, leading to an increased perception of pain.
Managing Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia
As the exact cause of fibromyalgia is not known, there are currently no medicines that can cure it. However, there are lots of different options available to help deal with the symptoms. Unlike many diseases, chronic pain is much more difficult to treat with medication alone, so lifestyle changes and psychological therapies are often the keys to treating the symptoms. It’s important to remember that each person experiences something different, so any combination of treatment options might be best for an individual.
Exercise is highly recommended for those living with fibromyalgia; however, it is important to be undertaking the right types of exercise to avoid causing further pain. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling are the best. It is most effective if patients start with low levels of exercise and build up their regime. It is important to speak to a physiotherapist or other healthcare worker to discuss which exercise is best for you before starting. Other forms of exercise such as resistance training and yoga have also been shown to be beneficial. All of these exercises not only improve pain, but also the overall quality of life.
New guidelines on the management of chronic pain were released in April 2021. The most recent evidence suggests that some drugs which have previously been prescribed are not effective; these include opioid medications, anti-epileptic drugs, and benzodiazepines. It has been found that other, non-pharmacological treatments are more effective. However, antidepressants are still prescribed. These are able to help with the pain, quality of life, sleep disturbances, and mental well-being. They are useful even if the patient has not been diagnosed with depression.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talking treatment that is often used in chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia. This goal-oriented psychotherapy has been shown to help both the experience of chronic pain and minimizing the negative effects of pain on a patient’s quality of life. CBT focuses on altering somebody’s reaction to pain in small, manageable steps which also helps to reduce stress.
Leva Clinic is the UK’s first fully registered online clinic for chronic pain management. Leva provides a personalized care package with a dedicated pain team including doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, and clinical psychologists. Leva clinic is currently offering a free eligibility phone call. For more information, go to
Chris is a 5th-year medical student at Imperial College London and has been working with LEVA for 6 months. Having lived with chronic back pain since the age of 13, Chris works as a patient inclusion advisor and blog writer at LEVA as well as co-hosting ‘The Pain Podcast’.