How to Soothe Fibromyalgia Pain

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What is fibromyalgia?

I've suffered from fibromyalgia for over 12 years and I know how painful and debilitating this condition can be. In order to soothe my own pain, I not only changed my life style a little, but also found out more about the condition in order to understand what I was experiencing. Basically then we're not looking for a cure - there isn't one - but testing and trying a combination of things that can help to relieve the symptoms.Therefore, we'll start by looking at what fibromyalgia is, the indications and what can be done to relieve the pain and other sensations associated with the condition.

Fibromyalgia is often called 'Fibromyalgia Syndrome' and the exact cause is not yet known. The word itself is made up from three others:

  • 'Fibro' - this means 'fibrous tissue' of the body such as tendons and ligaments.
  • 'My' - this means 'muscles'.
  • 'Algia' - means pain.

However, with this condition the pain is not just felt in the fibrous tissue but all over the body. Although research continues to find out the exact cause, there are changes in the body of a person suffering from this condition such as:

  • Sleep problems.
  • Low hormone levels
  • Pain messages sent within the body are disturbed

Sleep Problems

This condition can stop people from getting a good depth of sleep therefore leaving them still tired in the mornings. In addition, a poor night's sleep will make any pain experienced feel much worse.

Low Hormone Levels

Although there is no specific test verifying a person has fibromyalgia, people suffering from the condition have shown to have very low levels of certain hormones such as:

  • Serotonin - regulates mood, sleep and appetite
  • Noradrenaline (norepinephrine) - contributes to responses made during stress.
  • Dopamine - assists with mood control, behaviour and learning.

The hormones mentioned above are thought to play a key role in causing fibromyalgia as they assist with body processes.

Disrupted pain messages

Medical researchers feel that one of the most likely causes of fibromyalgia is because of a disruption or a disturbed pattern with pain messages when they are being either sent or received. This is thought to be one of the main reasons why people with fibromyalgia not only experience widespread pain but why they tend to be more sensitive to touch and pressure as well.

Other contributing factors that may lead to fibromyalgia developing are genetics - in other words it can run in families. There are also a number of 'triggers' that are either thought to develop fibromyalgia or lead to a flare up, such as physical injury to the body, psychological disturbance or trauma, depression and viruses.

People can also develop what is known as 'secondary fibromyalgia'. This happens due to another ailment the person has. Conditions such as metabolic disorders, for example thyroid problems or inflammatory ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the NHS UK, research points to the likelihood of several combined reasons leading to fibromyalgia developing, rather than one specific cause.

Many areas of the body are affected by fibromyalgia.
Many areas of the body are affected by fibromyalgia. | Source

Do you or anyone you know suffer from fibromyalgia?

  • Yes. I suffer from this condition
  • No I don't suffer from this condition, but I do know people who have it.
  • I haven't heard of this condition before.
See results without voting

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

There are a number of symptoms indicating the presence of fibromyalgia. The NHS UK and UK Fibromyalgia.com, lists several of the most common:

The two main indicators of fibromyalgia are:

  • Extreme fatigue - the tiredness experienced can range from mild to severe. In addition, this fatigue may come on at short notice and leave the person drained of all energy. When this fatigue is particularly bad, it is very difficult to function normally.
  • Widespread pain - the pain can be worse in certain areas such as the back or neck or overall pain in various areas of the body. The pain has often been described as - an ache, a burning sensation or sharp/stabbing. In addition fibromyalgia can also make you much more sensitive to pain - the medical term for this is hyperalgesia. This can lead onto another symptom called allodynia - this is when pain is felt when you shouldn't feel it, such as a very light touch.
  • Stiffness - muscle and joint stiffness tends to be more severe when sitting for long periods in the one position, or on first getting up in the morning.
  • Sleeping problems - it is thought that fibromyalgia doesn't allow the body to experience a deep enough level of sleep that is restorative to the body. Even although people feel they have had adequate hours in bed they can still wake up feeling tired.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome - quite a number of people who have fibromyalgia also develop irritable bowel syndrome that causes pain and bloating in the gut. It can also cause either constipation or loose stools.
  • Skin problems - in particular dry and/or itchy skin are the most common. However, people also report tender areas on the skin and rashes. Why people with fibromyalgia should suffer a higher incident of skin problems is still a mystery.
  • Headaches - are often the result of the pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders due to fibromyalgia. In addition, these are not always mild headaches but can range in severity from slight pain to extreme migraines that also cause nausea.
  • Cognitive issues - often referred to as 'fibro-fog' - mental processes are often sluggish due to the fatigue and other symptoms of the condition. People often find that their concentration, attention span, learning new things and memory can be affected.
  • Depression and irritability - this is caused not only by the extreme fatigue and pain, but due to the low levels of certain hormones such as serotonin.
  • Other symptoms - research has found that people with fibromyalgia can also experience conditions such as anxiety, restless leg syndrome, feeling hot and cold, tinnitus and in women, painful periods.

As stated previously, the symptoms can vary but people have also experienced some factors that can either make the condition worse or bring an attack on:

  • Changes in the weather
  • Stress levels
  • Amount of physical activity taken

Why these situations should have an affect on fibromyalgia is still unclear to medical researchers. However, awareness of the condition has grown significantly. According to UK Fibromyalgia, both primary care and rheumatology clinics in the UK are now treating many more people and this is largely due to a publication produced by the American College of Rheumatology.

Exercises and diet tips for fibromyalgia

Relieving the pain of fibromyalgia

To relieve the pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia you may need to combine a few techniques in order to get the most benefit. The reason for this is that there are a number of symptoms and what may help one, will have no effect on another. For example, with my own fibromyalgia I use a combination of pain relief, exercise and relaxation. I also find that trying to maintain a good weight and diet is also beneficial. However, below is both the recommended medical advice and self-help strategies that you can try and see what works best for you.

Medical help:

  • Pain relief - general over the counter medicines may be enough to relieve the pain, but if you find that it doesn't, then see your doctor who may prescribe stronger medicine.
  • Anti-depressants may also be prescribed in order to boost hormone levels that are low such as serotonin. Many people who have taken this medication have reported feeling better.
  • Other medications that may be prescribed to help relieve the symptoms could be to promote better sleep, to relax your muscles or even anti-convulsants used to treat epilepsy have been found to be beneficial.
  • In addition to getting support from your doctor you may also be referred to other health care professionals such as a physiotherapist who can give exercises to help with pain etc. People are often now referred to a rheumatologist who specialises in conditions such as fibromyalgia. Many people also attend cognitive behavioural therapy or a psychotherapist. This can help you to develop a more positive outlook and so manage your illness much better.

Other treatments:

  • Many people have found great benefit by using alternative treatments such as acupuncture, reflexology and massage. However, herbal remedies haven't as yet proved to be a convincing therapy for most people with fibromyalgia. However, if you want to try them then check first with your doctor.

Self-help:

There are a number of things that can be done to help manage the condition better. Below are some of the most common self-help techniques:

  • Support groups. There are many support groups for this condition in most developed countries. You can find these groups on the internet as well as in the community. I have found them not only beneficial by being able to talk to other people with the condition, but the groups also give information on the latest findings from medical research as well as new therapies that people can try. They are also excellent for advising people newly diagnosed with the complaint.
  • Exercise - although fibromyalgia can cause not only fatigue but exhaustion, there might be days when you feel you just don't have the energy to exercise. However, the benefits of exercising can't be over emphasised. Now I'm not talking about 2 hours in a gym every day. Exercise could be anything from gentle stretching to walking, cycling, swimming or any other activity you enjoy and feel you could do. In addition many forms of exercise not only increase the oxygen intake into the body so reducing fatigue, but also strengthens the body. This has been found to not only make you feel better but helps to relieve pain.
  • Relaxation. It's never that easy to find time to relax in today's hectic world. However, when you have fibromyalgia it is essential that you find the time to relax in anyway you enjoy. Stress makes the pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia much worse, therefore any relaxation that you do will help to combat the discomforts of the condition. You can use a hobby or interest to relax and/or use a relaxation technique from the thousands of books and tapes available - look around as well since many of these relaxation exercises are often free.
  • Pacing your life. It's never easy to do this as I've said previously. However you - and those around you - need to understand that when you have fibromyalgia it is essential that periods of activity are interspersed with periods of rest. Once you are better at managing your condition, you'll probably find that your activity level is increasing and your need for rest reduces. However, keep in mind that fibromyalgia can flare up even if you are managing it well and at these times you need to ensure that you don't over do it.
  • Try and ensure that your sleeping habits are geared towards helping reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. For example go to bed at the same time and rise at the same time. Do a little relaxation before retiring for the night. Try to avoid large meals, nicotine, caffeine before going to bed. Keep your bedroom dark and the environment not too hot or cold.

Fibromyalgia is not an easy condition to live with. However, taking the time to review your lifestyle and making a personal plan on how to manage it can make all the difference between being in constant pain and exhaustion and getting a good quality of life back again. Ensure that you are for the most part, on top of the condition, rather than fibromyalgia dictating to you what you can and can't do.

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Comments 30 comments

steveso profile image

steveso 4 years ago from Brockport, NY

Very intersting Hub. Thank you. I have had the same symptoms you have described, but the doctors here in Malaysia are not too familiar with fibromyalgia. I also have IBS and GERD and feel that this is connected with my muscle pain and stiffness. I exercise 3 times a week, but only a few hours after exercise I am as stiff as I was before. The only thing that seems to help is ibuprofen, massage and heat application. I guess I just have to learn to live with it.


Ghaelach 4 years ago

Hi Helen.

I am one of many that has never heard of your illness. The same is with my illness "Chronic Osteomyelitis" not many people know what it is.

I can only say the pain that you suffer along with the other conditions is no laughing matter.

The information of your illness is well put together, and your readers become a better insight into an illness they knew nothing about.

There is not a lot people can say to you that can comfort you in your hours of pain and suffering. We can only pray that your days don't get any worse.

Take care Helen and I hope you have a day with a little less pain.

LOL Ghaelach


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

thank you Seeker for this well.. useful share.... voted useful and well organized...:) Frank


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

Don't give up. Find whatever works for you, then keep doing that plus increasing movement. The more sedentary you become, the worse it gets. You would think it gets better with rest, but just the opposite is true.

I have learned to take non-narcotic pain relievers before I exercise which seems to help.


Nettlemere profile image

Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

Very thorough, useful and well researched (and lived!) article.


kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 4 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Helen great and interesting and useful information which will help all those with this condition . Well done !

Vote up and more !!!


ruthclark3 profile image

ruthclark3 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

I suffer from fibro as do my children, my mother, and her mother. It is a family disease for lack of a better word. One of my daughter's has RA, we all suffer from insomnia, and myriad other little "niggling" ailments that you can't quite put your finger on. The specialist I went to told me that my "restless leg" syndrome was yet another symptom.

For a long time it was believed to be a disorder of the imagination but doctors are beginning to come around and admit that there really is a condition called Fibromyalgia. Thanks for writing about it.


catgypsy profile image

catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

Really informative hub, seeker7. I suspect I have this and you have offered some great tips to try to see if it helps. Sorry to hear you have it. It can really be hard to deal with and disrupt your life. Thanks for the great hub on it!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

I'm sorry that you have fibromyalgia, Seeker7. My sister suffers from the same problem, and a lot of what you say in this hub applies to her. I will let her know about this article - I know that she'll be interested in reading it!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Great deal of information on fibromyalgia and so well done. A good friend of mine has this and she deals with it daily. Your suggestions for relieving it are what she practices and it does help. Well done and voted up.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Steveso, sorry to hear that you probably have fibromyalgia - even the fittest of people don't seem to be immune to this condition. I have heard of a few people that do find good relief not just from their exercising, but as you are doing with ibuprofen and heat. If this works for you then that is great.

It is at the moment just a case of living with it until the medics can come up with more answers!!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Ghaelach, many thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a great comment.

Fibromyalgia can be painful, but Chronic Osteomyelitis can, so I understand, be extremely painful and for long periods of time! I think after many years in nursing, any condition that affected the bones always had an extreme level of pain attached to it. So I commend you on being able to live with this illness as well.

Today, the fibromyalgia is kind of in the background most of the time and for that I'm very greatful - to be honest, it was the tiredness that could be the hardest to cope with at times.

Once again, thank you so much for your feedback - much appreciated!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Frank - as always lovely to hear from you and glad that you found the hub useful!!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Austinstar, many thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a great comment - I hope lots of people read your feedback since you have hit the nail on the head. Being sedentary definately makes it worse even although your first instinct is to just lie down until it passes.

I have also taken pain relievers before exercise and I agree, it does help.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Nettlemere, many thanks for stopping by always a pleasure to hear from you. Glad that you found the hub useful!!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi K56 - always lovely to hear from you! Glad that you found the hub interesting and hopefully it will help a few!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi ruth, many thanks for stopping by and lovely to hear from you.

What a really interesting comment this is, although I am sorry that so much of this illness has affected many members of your family. I know one lady just from chatting online, she is one of five sisters and three other sisters including her Gran also have this illness. So it definately runs in families as you say.

That's sometimes typical of medicine that if it doesn't have a name for it, then it must be imagination!! I often think how much worse people must have felt who suffered from this condition - and others - only to be told it was all in their mind? How difficult would that have been!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

I catgypsy, lovely to hear from you!

It's really funny this - like me and so many others, we do suspect for quite a long time that something is not quite right, but tend to brush it off as being flu, a cold, a virus or whatever. It's not until it really gets a grip and flares up quite often that you realise that there has to be more to it.

I manage the fibro not too badly and compared to some folks I'm quite well off!

Many thanks again for stopping by and glad that the hub has helped!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi AliciaC, many thanks for stopping by. Sorry to hear that your sister has this awful illness as well. Hopefully she might find something useful here and she might even be able to tell us something that we have missed or not thought about!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi teaches12345, many thanks for stopping by, always a pleasure to hear from you.

It's always great to hear when someone else has this condition under control a bit. It is a daily routine aand when you stick to it it's amazing how much it does help to relieve the symptoms.


Beckkellogg profile image

Beckkellogg 4 years ago from New York

I found your hub to be very informative. It makes me feel much better to know that the symptoms I am experiencing are not just in my head. I especially liked how you included ways to self help.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and interesting. Thank you for sharing this informative and useful hub. Wasn't aware of this condition. Passing this on.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Beckkellogg, many thanks for stopping by and if it's any help, many of us who suffer from fibromyalgia often thought that it was just 'in our head'. It's not until you hear about other people that you realise that it is an actual condition. In many ways this is a relief to know that it's real rather than imagined.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi Gypsy, lovely to hear from you as always. Glad that you found the hub interesting and many thanks for the share - always appreciated!


Faith A Mullen profile image

Faith A Mullen 3 years ago

Awesome information for those struggling with this painful condition. My brother suffers from fibromyalgia and having seen the effects, I would not wish it on anyone.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hell oFaith A Mullen,

Many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub. That's a shame about your brother, it's an awful condition to have, but if he keeps trying things and changing one or two things, it amazing how much of a difference it can make to how you feel, although it can take a while.


JesadaB profile image

JesadaB 3 years ago from Home!

Hi Seeker,

I very much enjoyed your article and will have to try some of your tips. I have only had fibro for about 2 years but it has totally wrecked my life as I see it. I can't work, can't sleep, can't concentrate and feel awful most of the time. I do yoga, watch what I eat and try to do what I should, but nothing seems to work well for me. Mine seemed to come on about the time I found out I was a diabetic, wonder if that is some kind of trigger?? No one else in my family has this. Thanks for the article!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi JesadaB, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub.

There is research that shows that the two conditions - diabetes and fybromyalgia - are linked and many of the symptoms of diabetes are similar to fybromyalgia which obviously confuses the issue. So this must make it doubly hard for you to figure out if it's your diabetes causing problems or a flare up of fybromyalgia. Have you had a diagnosis of fybromyalgia from your doctor? If this hasn't been confirmed it might be your diabetes causing you problems and maybe another health check by your doctor would help you?


JesadaB profile image

JesadaB 3 years ago from Home!

Seeker,

I did not know the two were linked as none of the many doctors I have seen has ever said so, that's interesting. Yes I have seen two specialists, or (I always spell it wrong) rhumetologists, and the first was no help, she told me I didn't have lupus and I was like well thanks but what is it..lol..she ignored me and sent me on my way. Then I got two GP's who said it was fibro, then I went to another rhumetologist who did confirm it is fibro. Thank you for the info! Any is always appreciated!


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 3 years ago from Fife, Scotland Author

Hi JesadaB, what an awful time you've had with all this! It's really annoying and stressful when you get different messages from different doctors! If you look up diabetes and fibromyalgia then there are some good sites that explain the two conditions. Good luck!

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