This is quite topical at the moment as more and more research is being conducted into the cause and possible treatments for Fibromyalgia, which for many is significantly debilitating and affects every aspect of life.
Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.
As well as widespread pain, people with fibromyalgia may also have:
- increased sensitivity to pain
- fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- muscle stiffness
- difficulty sleeping
- problems with mental processes (known as “fibro-fog”) – such as problems with memory and concentration
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating
What causes fibromyalgia?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it’s thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes pain messages carried around the body.
It’s also suggested that some people are more likely to develop fibromyalgia because of genes inherited from their parents.
In many cases, the condition appears to be triggered by a physically or emotionally stressful event, such as:
- an injury or infection
- giving birth
- having an operation
- the breakdown of a relationship
- the death of a loved one
Read more about the causes of fibromyalgia.
Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although it affects around 7 times as many women as men.
The condition typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but can occur in people of any age, including children and the elderly.
It’s not clear exactly how many people are affected by fibromyalgia, although research has suggested it could be a relatively common condition.
Some estimates suggest nearly 1 in 20 people may be affected by fibromyalgia to some degree.
One of the main reasons it’s not clear how many people are affected is because fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose.
There’s no specific test for the condition, and the symptoms can be similar to a number of other conditions.
How fibromyalgia is treated
Although there’s currently no cure for fibromyalgia, there are treatments to help relieve some of the symptoms and make the condition easier to live with.
Treatment tends to be a combination of:
- medication – such as antidepressants and painkillers
- talking therapies – such as hypnosis, CBT and counselling
- lifestyle changes – such as exercise programmes and relaxation techniques
Exercise in particular has been found to have a number of important benefits for people with fibromyalgia, including helping to reduce pain.
Some mental illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress, Depression and Anxiety are more prone to individuals developing symptoms of Fibromyalgia and you are happy to share your experiences of how it affects you, what you’ve tried in terms of treatment and what’s worked and hasn’t worked for you and why you think that is. All this may help someone who has been newly diagnosed and is struggling.
Study 1: Hypnosis for Fibromyalgia Management and Related Sleep Problems
Hypnosis for Management of Fibromyalgia
Results: Compared to the control, the hypnosis group reported better improvement on Patient Global Impression of Change (PGIC) (p = .001 at M3, p = .01 at M6) and a significant improvement in sleep and Cognitive Strategy Questionnaire (CSQ) dramatisation subscale (both at M6). (The PGIC uses a 7-point Likert scale that varies from 1 “very much improved” to 7 “very much worse” to quantify patient global response to treatment. The PGIC is a standard assessment in clinical trials regarding fibromyalgia.)
Notes: This randomised, controlled trial contrasted the effects of 5 not-standardised sessions of hypnosis over 2 months in 59 women with fibromyalgia who were randomly assigned to treatment (n?=?30) or a wait-list control group (n?=?29). Patients in the treated group were encouraged to practice self-hypnosis. Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ), MOS-Sleep Scale, Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory (MFI), Cognitive Strategy Questionnaire (CSQ), and Patient Global Impression of Change (PGIC) were administered at baseline, 3 months (M3), and 6 months (M6) after inclusion.
Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2013 Jan;61(1):111-23
By: P. Picard, C. Jusseaume, M. Boutet, C. Dualé, A. Mulliez, B. Aublet-Cuvellier, CHU Clermont-Ferrand, Pain Clinic, France
Study 2: Meta-Analysis/Review of Research on Hypnosis and Fibromyalgia
Efficacy of hypnosis/guided imagery in fibromyalgia syndrome – a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials
Results: Pain was assessed in all studies, sleep in two and fatigue and depressed mood in one study each by visual or numeric scales. Two studies reported that hypnosis was superior to controls in reducing sleep disturbances at final treatment. Two studies reported that hypnosis/guided imagery was superior to controls in reducing pain at follow-up. One study reported that hypnosis was superior to controls in reducing fatigue at final treatment and at follow-up. The researchers conclude that regular home training by audiotapes with hypnotic suggestions and guided imaginations could be useful, but that more study is needed.
Notes: The authors performed a systematic review with meta-analysis of the efficacy of hypnosis/guided imagery for fibromyalgia syndrome. Six controlled trials with 239 subjects were analysed. Four studies were conducted in Europe and one study each in USA and Mexico. Patients were recruited by registers of hospitals, referral (general practitioner, rheumatologist, departments of hospitals) and local self-help groups. Five studies were conducted in hospitals (university, district hospital) and one study in a general practitioner office.
Five studies offered hypnosis: Three studies with direct hypnosis of which one was combined with cognitive-behavioural therapy, two studies with indirect [Ericksonian] hypnosis). One study offered guided imagery. Four studies with hypnosis explicitly mentioned the use of mental images. All but one study used suggestions and/or images which were directly addressed to the pain experience. All studies used pain-related suggestions. The study with guided imagery used suggestions. Hypnosis/guided imagery were delivered in five studies as individual therapy and in one study as group therapy. Hypnosis/guided imagery were offered in five studies by face-to face (life), in one study by audiotapes. Three studies recommended daily training at home with audiotapes. The median number of sessions with a therapist was nine (range 7-12). The median of hypnosis/guided imagery delivered by a therapist was 390 (range 300-1080 min).
BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2011, 12:133
By: Kathrin Bernardy, Department of Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care and Pain Therapy, Saarland University Hospital, Kirrberger Straße 100, D-66421 Homburg/Saar, Germany), Nicole Füber, Department of Differential Psychology and Psychodiagnostics, Saarland University, Im Stadwald, D-66123 Saarbrücken, Germany), Petra Klose (Department of Internal Medicine V (Integrative Medicine), University of Duisburg-Essen, Kliniken Essen-Mitte, Am Deimelsberg 34a, D-45276 Essen, Germany) and Winfried Häuser, Department of Internal Medicine I, Klinikum Saarbrücken, Winterberg 1, D-66119 Saarbrücken, Germany, Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Technische Universität München, Ismaninger Straße 22, D-81675 München, Germany
Study 3: Hypnosis to Help Fibromyalgia Issues – Pain, Fatigue, Sleep and Global Assessment
Controlled trial of hypnotherapy in the treatment of refractory fibromyalgia.
Results: Compared with the patients in the physical therapy group, the patients in the hypnotherapy group showed a significantly better outcome with respect to their pain experience, fatigue on awakening, sleep pattern and global assessment at 12 and 24 weeks. At baseline most patients in both groups had strong feelings of somatic and psychic discomfort as measured by the Hopkins Symptom Checklist. These feelings showed a significant decrease in patients treated by hypnotherapy compared with physical therapy, but they remained abnormally strong in many cases. We conclude hypnotherapy may be useful in relieving symptoms in patients with refractory fibromyalgia.
Notes: In a controlled study, 40 patients with refractory fibromyalgia were randomly allocated to treatment with either hypnotherapy or physical therapy for 12 weeks with followup at 24 weeks.
J Rheumatol. 1991 Jan;18(1):72-5
Haanen HC, Hoenderdos HT, van Romunde LK, Hop WC, Mallee C, Terwiel JP, Hekster GB, (Department of Rheumatology, Sint Antonius Ziekenhuis, Nieuwegein, The Netherlands)
Study 4: Hypnosis When Added to Conventional Medical Treatment for Fibromyalgia
Hypnotic treatment synergizes the psychological treatment of fibromyalgia: a pilot study.
Results: The results suggest that psychological treatment produces greater symptom benefits than the conventional medical treatment only, especially when hypnosis is added. The study authors conclude that hypnosis may be a useful tool to help people with fibromyalgia manage their symptomatology.
Notes: This pilot study compared the efficacy for fibromyalgia of multimodal cognitive behavioural treatments, with and without hypnosis, with that of a purely pharmacological approach, with a multiple baseline N = 1 design. Six hospital patients were randomly assigned to the three experimental conditions.
The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (impact factor: 0.53). 04/2008; 50(4):311-21
By: Consuelo Martínez-Valero, Antonio Castel, Antonio Capafons, José Sala, Begoña Espejo, Etzel Cardeña, Centro de Aplicaciones Psicológicas, Valencia, Spain
Study 5: Hypnosis to Control Fibromyalgia Pain
Fibromyalgia pain and its modulation by hypnotic and non-hypnotic suggestion: An fMRI analysis
Results: Patients claimed significantly more control over their pain and reported greater pain reduction when hypnotised. Activation of the midbrain, cerebellum, thalamus, and mid-cingulate, primary and secondary sensory, inferior parietal, insula and prefrontal cortices correlated with reported changes in pain with hypnotic and non-hypnotic suggestion. These activations were of greater magnitude, however, when suggestions followed a hypnotic induction in the cerebellum, anterior mid-cingulate cortex, anterior and posterior insula and the inferior parietal cortex. Our results thus provide evidence for the greater efficacy of suggestion following a hypnotic induction. Pain relief was significantly greater when suggestion followed a hypnotic induction.
Notes: Suggestion following a hypnotic induction can readily modulate the subjective experience of pain. It is unclear whether suggestion without hypnosis is equally effective. To explore these and related questions, suggestions following a hypnotic induction and the same suggestions without a hypnotic induction were used during functional magnetic resonance imaging to increase and decrease the subjective experience of fibromyalgia pain. The patients were informed that hypnotic suggestions would be given to allow the dial to move up and down, producing a concomitant change in their fibromyalgia pain sensation. They were then hypnotised individually using an induction described in detail elsewhere (Whalley and Oakley, 2003). Following the hypnotic induction, patients were asked to bring the dial to mind and to notify the experimenter of its current position. Suggestions were given for the dial and the corresponding fibromyalgia pain sensation to be turned up as high as the patient could allow it to go, dial ratings were then recorded. Suggestions were then given to turn the dial down as low as possible and dial ratings were again recorded.
European Journal of Pain 13 (2009) 542–550
By: Stuart W.G. Derbyshire, Matthew G. Whalley, David A. Oakley, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT, UK Department of Psychology, Hypnosis Unit, University College London