Fibromyalgia: diagnosis and treatments

Thursday 11th September

In our earlier article, Fibromyalgia: the symptoms, we gained a deeper understanding of some of the symptoms that sufferers of Fibromyalgia (FM) may experience.

In this third and final article of this series, we’ll take a closer look at how Fibromyalgia can be diagnosed, and some of the methods of treatment that are currently available.

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

Many cases of Fibromyalgia are diagnosed when other conditions that share its’ symptoms are ruled out (such as ME, arthritis or Multiple Sclerosis). As there are so many different symptoms and factors involved, FM can be easily overlooked during diagnostic tests. Thankfully though, a system for detecting the condition in patients has been adopted.

Pressure Point Test

In the Pressure Point Test, the patient is asked to respond to pressure applied to certain parts of the body, including the back of the neck, knees, upper back and chest. If the patient feels pain in at least 11 out of 18 of these “pressure points”, and they have been suffering from some of the other symptoms of the condition, are likely to be suffering from Fibromyalgia.

But once someone finally is diagnosed with FM, what can they do to combat the symptoms?

Treatment of Fibromyalgia

At the moment, there is no definitive or simple cure for Fibromyalgia. However, there are ways in which someone suffering from Fibromyalgia may be able to fight back against the symptoms and make life with the illness more manageable.

Pain management- As chronic pain is one of the most debilitating symptoms of FM, it is important that sufferers gain some control over it in order to lead as regular a life as possible. Painkillers such as Ibuprofen can be taken to help reduce pain and keep it in check. Anti-depressants are sometimes prescribed as they can help with the pain, as well as improve sleep.

Lifestyle- Often it has been found that changes in lifestyle can help alleviate the symptoms of FM. Gentle exercise (overexertion could be damaging) such as swimming, walking or yoga could prove hugely beneficial. Also maintaining a balanced, healthy diet is always recommended. This certainly helps with symptoms of IBS too.

Complementary therapies- Some FM sufferers may want to explore complementary or alternative treatments to accompany the painkillers and healthy lifestyle. Hydrotherapy has been known to help with pain, as have acupuncture and massage treatments.

Psychology- FM symptoms can be triggered by, and in turn cause, anxiety and stress. Sleep can be furthered disrupted due to these factors, creating a vicious cycle. Learning relaxation methods can not only help sufferers combat their anxieties, they can also strengthen their ability to mentally cope with their physical pain. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is often recommended, and Mindfulness techniques can be implemented to help further.

Everyone suffers from Fibromyalgia differently and must come up with a treatment plan that works best for them as an individual.

Much more research is now being directed at neural imaging, which uses techniques such as MRI scanning to more closely study the activity of the Central Nervous System (CNS) and brain. Medical researchers now suspect that brain functioning may hold the key to understanding Fibromyalgia, and, as awareness grows, they will come ever closer to developing more effective treatments.

If you feel that you are suffering from the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, please contact your GP.

If you are already a member of Benenden, and have any concerns regarding Fibromyalgia or its’ symptoms, you could call our 24/7 GP advice line on 0800 414 8247. Or, if you’d like to find out more about psychological treatments and techniques such as CBT or Mindfulness, dial the same number and speak to someone through our 24/7 counselling service.

If you’re a Benenden member you are always welcome to ask us for help in getting a diagnosis or treatment, when you feel you need it most. You can speak to our member services team about how we may be able to help you, on 0800 414 8100.

Want to find out more about Fibromyalgia? You may find these links useful: