Fibromyalgia affects approximately 2.8 million people in the UK, according to Arthritis Research UK.
Symptoms of the condition include chronic pain across the body, aches and difficulty sleeping.
You can diagnose the condition by touching pressure points on your body, found on the large muscles. Sufferers will have five to six of these somewhere on their body, usually their legs, arms, back or chest.
Treatment for pain caused by the condition includes keeping moving, staying hydrated and using medication.
Dr Roger Henderson, a GP in Shropshire, has advised how sufferers can manage the condition and shared his four top tips for alleviating symptoms.
Don’t stop moving if you have pain
If people find movement painful they tend to try to avoid movement. Dr Henderson says this is the exact opposite of what you should be doing.
“A lot of people with chronic pain are afraid to do more because they say they feel worse.
“What happens is if they have a good day, they’ll do more, then their pain will get slightly worse for a few days, so they’ll do less, so the next good day they have they’ll do a bit less, and then they’ll slowly suffer for it. What happens is all the time, bit by bit they’ll feel they can do less and less.
“We always used to say just do what you can, but that’s now changed.”
Getting a massage could also help to relax muscles and soothe the symptoms.
“Massage helps some people. Even with fibromyalgia aches and pains a massage can be helpful”, he said.
“Having a ‘hot soap’ every day can help with muscle tensions.
Take some exercise
Dr Henderson helped one fibromyalgia patient relieve her painful symptoms by encouraging her to cut down to one medication and exercise twice a week. After twelve weeks of this treatment, she barely needed to see him again.
“The principles about trying no to let pain dominate your life and still being able to do what you would normally do are important.”
“I had one patient who had been through all the local pain clinics. In seven years she’d been through the whole cycle, and people had either said she was depressed or she had arthritis. She had quite a cocktail of treatment and she was overweight because she didn’t want to do too much because it hurt.
“I spent ten minutes talking with her from the start of her pain to where it was now, and she said no one had sat down and done this with her before.
“I said to her – we’re going to get you off those painkillers. I took her down to paracetamol with a bit of codeine and we also set up some exercise where she went swimming twice a week. She did that for twelve weeks and came back a different person.”
These can help reduce painful symptoms, helping you do more, but they should be taken carefully and following prescription advice.
“Current guidelines are really going back to basics and saying ok you start with paracetamol at therapeutic levels.”
“It’s still the number one preferred drug across the board in all specialities. There’s very good evidence it is safe long term.”
Refering to how he treated a fibromyalgia patient, Dr Henderson says, “That wasn’t clever medicine, it was just explaining what her pain was, getting rid of a shed load of painkillers that weren’t doing any good, and actually causing a load of side effects, and saying to her ok this is what else you can do yourself.”
The NHS adds on its website that “simple painkillers that are available over the counter from a pharmacy, such as paracetamol, can sometimes help relieve the pain associated with fibromyalgia.”
“However, these aren’t suitable for everyone, so make sure you read the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the medication before using them.”
Solpadeine MAX tablets, which contain paracetamol and codeine, can be purchased from Boots for £6.99