Fibromyalgia affects as many as 1 in 25 people in the UK. It can occur in anyone – male or female, young or old. It most commonly develops between the ages of 30 and 50, and is seven times more likely in women.
It produces a wide range of complex symptoms, so immediate, precise diagnosis can be difficult. The chief characteristics of the condition are persistent and often debilitating pain and stiffness, plus severe fatigue. Other common symptoms include trouble sleeping, headaches, problems with memory and cognitive function, and irritable bowel syndrome. Because symptoms are so varied and can resemble those associated with a number of other conditions, reaching a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is often a lengthy process. Certain blood tests help point towards this diagnosis by ruling out other possible causes for symptoms such as an under active thyroid or rheumatoid arthritis.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition and there is no magic ‘cure’ as the muscles and soft tissues become very sensitive to pressure and fatigue quickly. Often prescribed medicines can help in calming the intensity of symptoms but the sufferer is left with pain, stiffness and loss of movement that affects their activities of normal daily living. However, there are ways in which sufferers can manage the condition and take control of their symptoms. Function can be improved and pain levels reduced further.
How Bridgeham can help…
Consultants and GP’s often suggest physical therapy to help reduce pain and recover function.
We view every patient as an individual and take plenty of time to assess and record current signs and symptoms. After a thorough clinical examination we put together a progress pathway. This is likely to involve osteopathy to help gently mobilise stiff joints and muscles and address any postural issues that may be exacerbating problems. Some gentle therapeutic massage or acupuncture may be used to help lymph drainage and increase vitality.
Our rehab Pilates studio is well equipped with machines that will help you recover movement and improve movement patterns. Often pain causes us to change the way we move and this can maintain problems or even drive them deeper. We find the assisted movement machines help you move well again.
Nutrition plays a vital part in health too. We are what we eat, and certain foods may irritate painful tissues or even drain our energy levels further. Reviewing dietary habits and possibly introducing supplements can make a huge difference. And let’s not forget our foot health too. Often the stiffness and pain means that sufferers cannot even bend down to cut toenails or tend to painful corns or callouses, so we’re happy to take care of these too. Minimising stress is key and so taking advantage of massage and acupuncture can be a big help with relaxation and with improving sleep.
At Bridgeham we can help in so many ways. Progress is continually monitored and we have a common care pathway so healthcare therapies are truly integrated. As fatigue is so often part of fibromyalgia we take things at a considered pace. When you’re ready, we might suggest you join a small group class of simple Pilates class. Classes are deliberately kept small to focus on correct technique so that you get the most out of the effort you put in.
Although fibromyalgia has no panacea, it is possible to make certain lifestyle changes that can help you cope with the symptoms and offer some relief from what can seem like a life sentence.
At Bridgeham, practitioners will work with you to draw up a treatment pathway plan to help you track the progress of your personalised course of therapies. This will enable you to see how your condition is improving as well as helping you to avoid overdoing things as you take gentle steps on the road to fitness. Goals will be set along with staged markers to check on progress eg, “Walk 20 minutes to shops pain free”. We may start with a 5 minute walk and build on that, or combine it with some other exercise to increase endurance. In practice, every sufferer is different which is why each program is too.
Many Fibromyalgia sufferers find it daunting – even upsetting – dealing with a condition for which there is no obvious cure. However, drawing up a personalised programme of therapy can go a long way towards encouraging a positive – and ultimately beneficial – attitude towards managing your symptoms.
"Having first encountered Bridgeham Clinic in 2001 after long term lower back problems, a whiplash injury in 2000 and a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, I remain a firm believer in all that they do and am very grateful for all that I have learned about how my body works. The practitioners not only provide a range of expertise and experience between them, but they tell you what you need to know and understand to improve your daily life. A visit to Bridgeham Clinic can be a life enhancing experience, made enjoyable by the friendly atmosphere and the genuine desire of everyone to help you get better. The rest is down to you!"
Janet Boniface, December 2014