LADY Gaga had to postpone part of her latest world tour because she has the painful condition known as fibromyalgia. Actors Michael James Hastings (aka Captain Mike on the TV series The West Wing) and Morgan Freeman have also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia – and it is estimated that nearly 1 in 20 people in the UK suffer with it. Yet it remains little known by the general population.
Dr Elizabeth Price, a Consultant Rheumatologist at Swindon’s private healthcare provider Shalbourne, explains what the condition is, and how symptoms can be relieved.
What exactly is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition where patients experience widespread pain, along with poor sleep pattern, fatigue and muscle tenderness and joint stiffness.
What are the symptoms?
As well as the pain, fatigue and tenderness, individuals often suffer from a variety of symptoms that at the moment are medically unexplained – though they are absolutely real.
Who is likely to develop it?
It can affect individuals of all ages, though it is commoner in women than men.
Is it hereditary?
At the moment there is no clear genetic basis for the condition.
Does anything trigger fibromyalgia?
There is a strong link with underlying stress and anxiety. It can be triggered by a traumatic emotional or physical event, such as a bereavement or an accident or injury.
How is it treated?
We try to manage any underlying stress the patient has, and recommend gentle, graded exercise to improve muscles which may have become deconditioned. We also help patients adopt a variety of different practices to help them achieve a good quality of night-time sleep, improve their sleep patterns and enjoy fuller daytime alertness.
Can I do anything to relieve my symptoms?
Adopting a healthy lifestyle will help. Make sure you eat a healthy diet, watch your weight, take regular exercise and ensure you get adequate amounts of sleep, and you should find that symptoms are relieved. Many individuals benefit from self-help strategies such as mindfulness. The outlook is generally better if individuals continue to work and remain physically active.
If you’re registered with a Swindon GP help is available via the LIFT service (https://lift-swindon.awp.nhs.uk) and most areas offer similar ‘talking therapy’ services. The arthritis research leaflet is free and contains a lot of useful advice. https://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/fibromyalgia.aspx
For more information on Shalbourne private health care – www.theshalbourne.co.uk