What is fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) is a chronic and complex condition mainly characterised by mulitfocal or widespread musculoskeletal pain, that is to say, pain all over the body, fatigue, cognitive dysfunction and sleep disorders, among other symptoms. Although this illness may cause joint pain, is not a joint illness.
According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), fibromyalgia has been considered an illness since 1992, and affects 2%-7% of the population, especially women between the ages of 20 and 50. Fortunately, fibromyalgia is neither dangerous nor mortal, but it does affect quality of life and the work and family environment, and it can be debilitating, as people who suffer from this illness are more sensitive to pain.
According to studies, fibromyalgia has neurological origins, as the pain perceived is due to neurochemical imbalances in the central nervous system. This interferes with the way that the brain and spinal cord process pain signals.
Fibromyalgia syndrome is a complex illness and is difficult to treat, and it may have significant consequences on the health and quality of life of the patient, and symptoms may vary over time as the illness progresses.
Fibromyalgia and electrostimulation
The pain felt by people with fibromyalgia varies in terms of intensity and location. This chronic pain ends up causing changes to the body that cause the brain to lose the ability to correctly activate muscles.
It is also known that these patients have difficulty learning new exercises and that frequent changes of position during training sessions are not usually well-tolerated.
On the other hand, the fatigue and chronic tiredness associated with it normally hinder these people from carrying out physical exercise with the minimal intensity and for the duration needed to bring them benefits.
These and other factors hinder carrying out conventional physical exercise, and also reduce its effectiveness on health.
This is why highly skilled professionals in the exercise science sector have begun to incorporate whole-body electrostimulation as part of their treatment. In order to treat patients with fibromyalgia, we have applied electrostimulation in physiotherapy, that is to say, we use EMS physical therapy to improve the motor functions of people who suffer from this illness, stimulating their muscles and activating their body.
How electrostimulation improves the quality of life of people with fibromyalgia
We will tell you about the experience of Francisco Montero, a graduate of Sports Science from the University of Granada, personal trainer and founder of the company Green Gym Studio.
Since 2014, Francisco and his team have helped dozens of people with fibromyalgia to improve their quality of life by using electrostimulation as an important tool within their working method.
The main benefits that electrostimulation contributes to their training sessions are:
- Improved muscle activation and therefore, improvements in effectiveness of training sessions.
- Feeling of wellbeing after training sessions.
- Reduced feeling of tiredness or fatigue during and after the training session.
- Carrying out simple exercises that do not cause pain or discomfort.
- Joint care as the use of external loads is not required.
- Capacity for progression and individualisation of loads on each muscle.
We must understand that electrostimulation can be used in multiple ways, according to the needs of the person.
If we also use highly advanced technology such as that of Wiemspro, each muscle can be stimulated individually. Thus, we can adapt to the level of muscular activation in each area, and to its level of sensitivity or strength.
Causes of fibromyalgia
The main cause of an illness like fibromyalgia is the stimulation of the central nervous system, which causes an increased response to pain, reacting disproportionately to pain signals.
At present, the cause of this disorder is not known, however, there are certain things that may contribute to its onset:
- Traumatic or emotional events caused, for example, by a traffic accident, or prolonged psychological stress.
- Viral or bacterial infection.
- Genetic background. Fibromyalgia can be hereditary, and certain genetic mutations can make someone vulnerable to the onset of this disorder. It is passed down directly from parents to children, however, according to a study fibromyalgia is 8 times more common among members of the same family.
These triggers do not seem to cause the illness, but rather they arouse it in people who have a hidden defect in terms of regulating their ability to respond to certain stimuli, such as pain.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
As we saw in the previous point, the symptoms of fibromyalgia may appear after a traumatic, physical or emotional event, a viral or bacterial infection, or because of a person´s genetic background. These symptoms accumulate over time, until they “explode” and the disease is triggered.
Some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Pain and stiffness all over the body, including the face or jaw. It is also known as ankylosis or myalgia, and can last for more than three months.
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet, also known as paresthesia.
- Tiredness and fatigue. More than 90% of those affected have this symptom.
- Problems sleeping. Between 70-80% have sleep problems.
- Cognitive or memory problems.
- Depression and anxiety. Up to 25% may have this mental illness.
- Headaches or migraines. This can result in problems with vertigo and/or balance.
- Abdominal discomfort: digestive problems, abdominal pains, bladder infection, irritable bowel.
- Environmental sensitivity: hypersensitivity to light, noise, odours and temperature.
- Skin problems, such as itching, dryness or blemishes.
People who suffer from this illness describe it as a pain from their head to toes. The pain is usually intense and often difficult to describe. Symptoms may vary in relation to the time of day, climate, lack of sleep or stress, level of physical activity, or the state of advancement of the illness.
Diagnosis of fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that can be difficult to diagnose, and it is sometimes necessary to consult several healthcare professionals to obtain a firm diagnosis. This is due to the fact that its main symptoms, such as fatigue and pain, are common in many other conditions, and it may be confused with other illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, osteoarthritis and hypothyroidism.
The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is clinical, that is to say, it is not based on any laboratory tests. The doctor identifies the pain through a general history over a minimum of 3 months and, then, undertakes a physical examination which locates the pain points all over the body of the affected person, also known as tender points. When there is pain in 11 of the 18 marked points, it is determined to be fibromyalgia.
In addition to the physical examination, the following are taken into account:
- Medical history and details of symptoms.
- X-rays or blood tests in order to rule out other conditions.
- Pain history.
- Symptoms such as fatigue, tiredness and cognitive problems.
Types or levels of fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is not a degenerative illness, and its intensity and duration vary according to multiple factors (as we have previously seen); however, in order to help the medical professional to establish a treatment or more individualised and personalised guidelines, we can classify this illness into four groups:
- Idiopathic or primary fibromyalgia (Type 1). At this level it manifests itself as a normal illness profile. Headaches and sleep disorders are normally linked to this level. As there is no onset of psychiatric illnesses, or any other type of autoimmune or rheumatological diseases or others, the cause of this type is completely unknown.
- Moderate fibromyalgia or associated with a chronic illness (Type 2). In addition to what was mentioned above, it may be accompanied by pain or stiffness. The main hypothesis is the onset of fibromyalgia as the consequence of the chronic character of other previous illnesses.
- Severe and secondary fibromyalgia (Type 3). This level is more serious, as the immobility can be critical, and it can also result in depression, anxiety and other disorders. It is strongly linked to patients with psychopathological illnesses.
- Simulated or hypochondriac fibromyalgia (Type 4).
Obtaining a clear diagnosis in each of these four areas will make it possible to include each patient in each of these classifications.
Treatment of fibromyalgia
When talking about the treatment of fibromyalgia, we first need to take three factors into account:
- It is a chronic illness, but it isn’t degenerative.
- It evolves in outbreaks, that is to say, the affected person will have better and worse periods.
- There is no curative treatment.
Although there is no universally accepted cure for fibromyalgia, there are symptomatic treatments (that is to say, they act on the symptoms and not on the illness itself). These treatments are aimed at controlling or reducing pain and other symptoms, in order to improve the quality of life of the person affected. Some of these therapies or treatments are:
- Drugs: sedatives, painkillers, antidepressants and muscle relaxants.
- Lifestyle changes: eating and sleeping well, or doing regular exercise.
- Psychological therapy or support: talking to other people, and learning to manage stress. The way in which it is accepted and tackled is crucial.
- Complementary treatments: therapeutic massages, movement therapies, chiropractic, acupuncture or physiotherapy with electrostimulation.
Of all the measures taken in the treatment of fibromyalgia, experts recommend carrying out aerobic physical exercise in a progressive, gradual and ongoing manner.
At Wiemspro we have combined exercise with controlled electrotherapy, in other words, we apply physiotherapy with electrostimulation to patients with fibromyalgia.
WB-EMS can be applied in many different ways to meet each need related to this disorder. In upcoming publications, we will explain each of these strategies for the application of electrostimulation in greater detail.
If you wish to receive more information about fibromyalgia and electrostimulation, contact us here.