Fibromyalgia: What Is It?

“Finty” said Jane in a very mothering sort of way, as she tried desperately not to laugh and make her dear friend feel like a compete fool.

“The Doctor did not suggest your body ached because you were into S and M, remember darling I was in the room with you”

“Honestly Jane he did, he said it was S and M and I should take it easy”

Jane reached across the table, gently pushing the Prosecco aside as she looked deep into Finty’s eyes. “Darling I think you may be a bit confused, what the Doctor actually said is you have F M, Fibromyalgia”


It’s a light-hearted introduction to the topic, but as sufferers will tell you, the condition itself is certainly no joke.

Fibromyalgia is more complex than one could imagine, so this month I’m covering what we do and don’t know about the condition.

Next time, I will give you some positive ways that have been show to help fibromyalgia sufferers, and how I have been helping patients with a treatment protocol I’ve developed.

What do we know about Fibromyalgia? 

Fibromyalgia may be something you have not heard of, but it has been around for a long time, in fact it was written about in 1869, albeit under a different term.

People with Fibromyalgia will often complain of experiencing chronic fatigue, to the point where the sufferer sometimes just want to lie down and sleep, often leading to it being confused with chronic fatigue syndrome, or ME.

Sufferers experience pain in the neck and points of localised tenderness on the back and body. Interestingly these point of tenderness are often found in the same places on different Fibromyalgia sufferers.

The name Fibromyalgia was first coined in 1990 after a group of rheumatologists noticed they were seeing patients presenting with the same symptoms.

From this a treatment protocol called ‘tender point examination’ came about.

This is where a Doctor pushes on certain point on the body and measures the patient’s reaction to pain. The number of points is eighteen, and if you have more than eleven out of eighteen tender points, then it is determined that you have Fibromyalgia.

The problem with this test is that it is not accurate, because it would need every Doctor to push exactly the same point with the same pressure. So as you can see Fibromyalgia is not easy to diagnose in this way.

The worry with modern technology, is that we often turn to Dr Google when we become unwell in an attempt to match our symptoms with a disease. The problem with this approach, is that Fibromyalgia shares many of its symptoms with other conditions, so I would encourage you not to self-diagnose.

How Is It Diagnosed

The first thing that your Doctor will do is ask you a series of questions, for example your symptoms have to have been consistent for three months.

You may need a physical examination. There is also a blood test you can talk to your Doctor about, used to identify markers which can be detected in the cells of people with fibromyalgia.

This is important, because as already mentioned, any other potential illnesses need to be eliminated. Examples of which are: multiple sclerosis more commonly known as M.S, Rheumatoid arthritis and ME.

Co-Morbid Conditions

In my experience as a Nutritional therapist and a Dr of Chiropractic, I have yet to see a patient with fibromyalgia that does not have one or all of the following as well:

  • IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • anxiety or depression.

Many researchers into the cause of Fibromyalgia also agree with this conclusion and believe its cause is multiple, with the root possibly lying in physical and emotional stress.

So the question is, what comes first, the stress caused by a modern world and frantic lifestyle or the Fibromyalgia which then exacerbates the other conditions?

I have observed that fibromyalgia patients who come to me for nutritional advice or back pain, appear to be more sensitive to pain, and after treatment usually need time to rest.

This may be because, as some believe, that Fibromyalgia suffers have a lower level of a compound called serotonin.

Serotonin is linked to making us feel relaxed and calm, along with this the reduction in the body’s natural pain killers called endorphins, and an increase of a substance which magnifies pain, called substance P.


Fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men, in fact six to ten times more likely, this may be because men make serotonin faster than women.

Serotonin is important in giving us a good night’s sleep so this is a vicious circle, because fibromyalgia patients often do not experience deep sleep and are therefore not fully refreshed, which in turn leads to more fatigue.

Fibromyalgia also has a tendency to run in families, which point to a possible genetic cause.

Advances in Understanding

Fortunately, new advances are being made on a daily basis and with modern scanning equipment like M.R.I scanners and complex tests, fibromyalgia has been shown to be a real condition. This is good news if you suspect you have fibromyalgia, because for a long time this condition was dismissed as being ‘all in the mind’.

The belief is that the central nervous system is over sensitive, so even when the brain has sensations that are not sensitive it still registers this as pain.

The hard part is that the cause of Fibromyalgia is still not known, but having chemical measurements and changes that can been seen with scans is a major leap forward in finding a cure.

Look out for next month’s article, where I will discuss my treatment protocol for fibromyalgia and the treatment of other therapists and Doctors.

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