What is Fibromyalgia and How is it Treated?

Author: Henrik Aulbach



Lesezeit: 3 min

Fibromyalgia is a pain syndrome characterized by deep muscle pain. Exhaustion along with difficulties in concentration and sleep problems are among the most typical symptoms. The causes of fibromyalgia have not yet been uncovered. However, we do have treatment methods for symptom relief available.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a pain syndrome, and it can occur without identifiable changes in muscles and joints. Deep muscle pain characterizes this condition, with fibromyalgia pain potentially worsening at night. The following symptoms complement the presentation of fibromyalgia:

  • Exhaustion
  • Digestive problems
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches 

Another name for fibromyalgia is generalized soft tissue rheumatism because the pain can be diffuse and spread throughout the body. 80% of those affected are women in middle age.

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

Translated, fibromyalgia means fiber-muscle pain, which aptly describes the symptoms. In addition to pain, stiffness and a burning sensation, possibly accompanied by tingling, can occur. Pain often improves with warmth or moderate exercise. Restless legs and fatigue can occur as part of fibromyalgia.

Since no tissue changes occur, diagnosing fibromyalgia often takes a while. In addition to medical history collection, doctors often assess the 18 tender points associated with fibromyalgia pain. These are the transitions from muscles to tendons that can be sensitive to pressure in fibromyalgia. If 11 of the 18 points are tender, that indicates fibromyalgia. Diagnostic blood tests are also performed to exclude inflammatory rheumatic diseases. There are no changes in blood values due to fibromyalgia.

Treatment of Fibromyalgia

Treatment mostly focuses on alleviating symptoms since the organic causes are unknown and cannot be cured accordingly. Symptomatic therapy is therefore paramount. Visits to the following specialists and therapists are recommended, in addition to the general practitioner, of course:

  • Pain specialist
  • Neurologist
  • Psychologist
  • Physiotherapist

To alleviate muscle pain as permanently as possible, exercise therapy is recommended. In particular, moderate-intensity endurance training can help alleviate pain. The following fibromyalgia sports are often recommended:

  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Dancing
  • Aquajogging
  • Walking

Possible physical therapy methods include heat treatments and medicinal baths. Cold therapy and massages are not recommended. Other relaxation therapies like Yoga, Autogenic Training, and progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen can be helpful.

Medication for Treating Fibromyalgia

Often, those with fibromyalgia are also treated with medication. Antidepressants may be prescribed to mitigate the psychological effects of the condition. Antidepressants can have mood-lifting effects and potentially increase motivation while reducing fatigue. Cognitive behavioral therapy within this context can also be beneficial to enhance patients' quality of life.

Anticonvulsants originally developed for treating nerve pain and epilepsy are also quite helpful for fibromyalgia. Pregabalin is an anticonvulsant that is effective in many cases.

Other pain relievers like NSAIDs usually have little to no effect on fibromyalgia. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and paracetamol are not recommended. Even opioid analgesics are not very effective for treating pain in fibromyalgia. That's why alternative complementary medicine approaches have become increasingly popular recently.

Alternative Symptom Therapies

The following suggestions are not part of conventional medicine due to the lack of clear clinical evidence. However, since treatment options for fibromyalgia are quite limited, more and more people are turning to these alternative medicine methods for relief.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is increasingly being utilized. Methods like acupuncture or osteopathy are suggested for fibromyalgia, though their effectiveness is not proven.

Homeopathy can also be pursued in accordance with homeopathic principles. However, relevant remedies do not show clinically proven efficacy, so it's advisable to discuss such treatment with your doctor. Rhus toxicodendron is a homeopathic remedy occasionally used for fibromyalgia symptoms. 

While medical cannabis can be used for chronic pain, it's not recommended for fibromyalgia. 

There are also slight indications that a plant-based diet might help with fibromyalgia. Your doctor can assess and discuss the relevant research with you, as the evidence is rather weak. 

Fibromyalgia: Frequently Asked Questions

What helps with fibromyalgia?

Unfortunately, it's quite individual. Often, targeted exercise therapy with aerobic endurance training of moderate intensity can help. Physical therapies, psychotherapy, and relaxation techniques can also be helpful in alleviating symptoms.

Since conventional pain relievers are not very effective, medication options are limited. Besides antidepressants, anticonvulsants are often prescribed. More and more people are turning to alternative medicine methods to seek relief from their symptoms.

What to Do About Fibromyalgia?

If you suspect fibromyalgia, you should consult a doctor. They will guide you through the diagnostic process and determine if your symptoms are not due to another condition. Certain methods are available for this purpose. Since fibromyalgia does not cause tissue changes, the diagnosis can take quite some time.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia stands for muscle fiber pain. The main symptom of this condition is deep pain in muscle tissue, often located at the transition from tendons to muscles. The pain can be diffuse throughout the body and lacks tissue changes or other organic basis.

What Bread to Choose for Fibromyalgia?

Some doctors and therapists advise against white flour and recommend exclusively whole grain, oats, or quinoa. It's advisable to discuss this with your doctor again, as it's not clearly proven that other types of grains have a detrimental effect on fibromyalgia.

Who Diagnoses Fibromyalgia?

Contact your primary care doctor if you suspect fibromyalgia. They will guide you through the diagnostic methods. You might be referred to neurologists or pain specialists if needed, but typically, your primary care doctor makes the diagnosis.

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