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Fibromyalgia, also called Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.

It is characterised by the presence of 18 tender points in the body and can be hard to diagnose. Your Doctor will have to rule out other conditions, using blood tests and imaging, before a diagnosis can be made. 

As well as widespread pain, people with Fibromyalgia may also have:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Problems with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog”) – such as problems with memory and concentration
  • Headaches
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating

What causes fibromyalgia?

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it’s thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes pain messages carried around the body.

It’s also suggested that some people are more likely to develop fibromyalgia because of genes inherited from their parents.

In many cases, the condition appears to be triggered by a physically or emotionally stressful event, such as:

  • an injury or infection
  • giving birth
  • having an operation
  • the breakdown of a relationship
  • the death of a loved one

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Treatment tends to be a combination of:

• medication – such as antidepressants and painkillers

• talking therapies – such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling

• lifestyle changes – such as exercise programmes and relaxation techniques

Some people find that acupuncture, massage and manipulation treatments help them to relax and feel less stressed, allowing them to cope with their condition better.