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Understanding Fibromyalgia

The term “Fibromyalgia” has only been around since the 1970s, although its history traces back much further, with other names given to it prior to then. 

Fibro is a challenging condition that goes beyond typical joint or muscle pains. It affects millions worldwide and is especially common in women. People with fibromyalgia experience widespread pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and are often more sensitive to touch than others.

Understanding Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is more than just its symptoms. It involves complex interactions between the brain, nerves, and body signals. In the past (and possibly still) it was often mistaken for other conditions related to joint and muscle pains but is now commonly labelled as a central nervous system disorder. This shift in understanding reflects deeper insights into how chronic pain works and how sensitive the body’s pain response can become.

Historically, doctors looked for specific tender points in the body to diagnose fibromyalgia. However, the diagnosis process has evolved to consider a broader range of symptoms to better capture the condition’s complexity. This change helps in recognising the condition earlier and more accurately, hopefully meaning that people get the right help sooner.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

The exact causes of fibromyalgia are unknown. There is a complex interplay of genetics, brain and nerve functions, and even the immune system that are considered to increase the risk of developing this somewhat hidden condition. Here’s a closer look:

  • Genetics: Just like many other conditions, fibromyalgia can run in families. Certain genes have been explored and it seems there are some genetic tendencies to make people more susceptible to developing it, especially when combined with environmental triggers like stress, injury, or illness. However families share lots of other things as well – diet, lifestyle, trauma, and microbiomes.

  • Nerve Signaling: People with fibromyalgia may have imbalances in brain chemicals that affect pain signals. For instance, low levels of serotonin and noradrenaline can disrupt how pain is perceived, making mild pressures feel painfully intense.

  • Immune System: There’s also been more recent evidence that suggests an immune system connection, although it’s not as straightforward as in autoimmune diseases. People with fibromyalgia might have subtle immune system changes that influence inflammation and pain.

  • Stress and the Body: The condition is closely linked with stress and trauma. While ongoing stress or traumatic events can trigger or worsen the symptoms, this is not a trigger in everyone.

How Is Fibromyalgia Managed?

Managing fibromyalgia requires a combination of strategies, tailored to each individual’s symptoms and needs. Here are some common approaches:


There are no proven treatments for fibromyalgia. People are often trialed on a range of different medications to see what helps.
  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain meds can sometimes help, but often, they’re not really effective and have a high side-effect risk.
  • Antidepressants: Medications typically used for depression can also help manage pain and improve sleep in fibromyalgia. For some people these enable them to cope better.
  • Anticonvulsants: Drugs designed for epilepsy may help reduce certain types of pain. 
  • Low dose naltrexone (LDN): this is increasingly used to help manage symptoms of fibromyalgia, though its exact mechanism of action isn’t fully understood. Patients often report improvements in pain levels, mood, and overall quality of life after starting LDN. However, it’s important to note that while promising, LDN is not a standard treatment and is considered off-label for fibromyalgia. 

Lifestyle Changes and Non-Drug Therapies

  • Exercise: Gentle, regular exercise like walking or swimming can significantly improve symptoms.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Improving sleep routines can help lessen fatigue and pain.
  • Stress Management: Techniques such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness can be particularly beneficial, especially for those who have stressful lives.
  • CBT: cognitive behavioural therapy can reduce the overwhelm of fibromyalgia through its effect on pain-related catastrophising, which involves intensified cognitive and emotional responses to things like intrusive thoughts.
  • Working with a Health Coach: a fibro coach can be an important ally for individuals managing fibromyalgia. Think of them as your advocate, one who can provide personalised support and motivation, keep you accountable and be a resource for understanding the condition and how to navigate health systems to get your needs met. Choose a coach who specialises in this condition.

Alternative Therapies

  • Diet: Big improvements can come with diet adjustments. Reducing caffeine, ultra-processed foods, sugar, and other inflammatory foods and increasing fibre, vegetables and wholegrains can help with symptom reduction. Working with a qualified clinician can help you understand food and navigate.
  • Supplements and Herbs: Things like turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties can be helpful, though they should be used under a doctor’s supervision.

New Research and Future Treatments

Researchers are continuously exploring new ways to understand and treat fibromyalgia. Advanced brain imaging, genetic studies, and even gut health are all areas of active research, providing new insights into how to manage and ptentially treat fibromyalgia in the future. Emerging treatments include new medications targeting specific brain processes involved in pain perception, the use of cannabinoids or CBD, and microbiome-directed approaches, including faecal microbiome transplant (FMT).


Fibromyalgia is complex and can be difficult to understand and manage, but with ongoing research and a growing variety of treatment options, there’s hope for better management and improved quality of life. People living with fibromyalgia can lead active, fulfilling lives with the right approaches and supports in place.

At House of Health, we understand fibromyalgia.

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