By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic painful condition that leads to pain at specific tender points or all over the body. The condition is associated with extreme fatigue and other symptoms such as sleep disturbances, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, muscle pain and stiffness etc.
Although men may be affected by this condition, women are seen to be seven times more likely to develop fibromyalgia. The condition develops commonly between 30 and 60 years of age but may affect children and the elderly.
There is no cure for this painful condition and treatment aims at reducing and alleviating the symptoms to as much extent as possible. The symptoms vary in severity among individuals and sometimes may disrupt the daily functioning of the patient.
Due to the worldwide prevalence of 3 to 5% of the total population a large proportion of the population has to live with this painful and debilitating condition. Apart from treatment that revolves around symptom alleviation, several lifestyle changes may be made in order to improve the quality of life of the patients and improve their functions.
Some of the changes that may be adopted in the lifestyle include:-
Exercise is one of the most important measures to deal with widespread pain conditions. With extreme fatigue, it may be difficult for most persons to exercise. However, an exercise programme specially suited for the patient’s needs and requirements may help.
Exercises include strengthening exercises and aerobic exercises. Aerobic activities are moderate-intensity exercises that use the large muscles and increase the cardiovascular functioning and breathing. Examples include swimming, cycling and walking.
Strengthening exercises focus on specific muscle groups and include lifting weights etc.
Relaxation, medication and stress reduction
Stress has been shown to be directly associated with fibromyalgia symptom severity. Relaxation and stress reduction may be achieved by meditation, counselling and effective stress management.
Improving sleep related practices
Going to bed at the same time each day, not reading or watching television before bedtime, avoiding caffeine, nicotine, heavy meals and alcohol before bed and sleeping in a dark and comfortable room are good sleep habits.
Maintaining these habits may help sleep problems to a certain extent even without medications.
Seeking fellow sufferers, support and support groups
Seeking other patients with the same condition and help talk out the problems and ways to cope helps many patients with fibromyalgia.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)