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Osteopathy for Fibromyalgia: Alleviating Pain and Discomfort

If you’ve ever wondered,” ‘‘what is fibromyalgia?” and “is fibromyalgia real?”, then this article is here to answer your questions! Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide, causing significant discomfort and impacting daily life. While the exact cause remains unknown, fibromyalgia is very real, and there are effective strategies to manage its symptoms.

This article explores fibromyalgia, its symptoms, and how osteopathy can be a valuable tool in your fibromyalgia pain management plan. We’ll delve into:

  1. What is fibromyalgia?
  2. Causes of fibromyalgia
  3. Traditional treatment of fibromyalgia
  4. How osteopathy can help with fibromyalgia hip pain and other symptoms

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a complex disorder characterised by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and cognitive difficulties. Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) affects up to 5% of the world’s population, with a high female predominance; between 80 and 96% of fibromyalgia cases are from women.

The pain associated with fibromyalgia can be widespread, affecting various areas of the body, including the hips, back, neck, shoulders, and legs. It can manifest in various forms, ranging from a dull ache to a sharp, stabbing sensation. 

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a complex condition characterised by a variety of symptoms that can significantly impact daily life. While the exact cause remains unknown, these symptoms can cause considerable discomfort and disrupt sleep patterns. 


Widespread pain: This is the hallmark symptom of fibromyalgia. The pain is often described as a dull ache, throbbing, or burning sensation that affects various areas of the body, including the hips, back, neck, shoulders, and legs.

Tenderness: Many people with fibromyalgia experience tenderness to touch, particularly in specific areas known as tender points. These tender points are usually located on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.


Overwhelming tiredness: Extreme fatigue is another prominent symptom of fibromyalgia. This fatigue can range from mild tiredness to a debilitating exhaustion that persists even after getting enough sleep. People with fibromyalgia often describe feeling constantly drained of energy.

Sleep disturbances

Difficulty falling asleep: Falling asleep and staying asleep can be challenging for people with fibromyalgia. Pain and discomfort can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to unrefreshing sleep and daytime fatigue.

Non-restorative sleep: Even after sleeping for long periods, individuals with fibromyalgia may still feel tired due to the poor quality of their sleep. This can be caused by frequent awakenings due to pain or restless sleep.

Cognitive difficulties

Fibro fog: This term refers to a cluster of cognitive challenges commonly experienced by people with fibromyalgia. It can manifest as problems with memory, concentration, focus, and word-finding difficulty.

Other symptoms

Headaches: Migraines and other types of headaches are frequent occurrences for many individuals with fibromyalgia

Mood problems: Anxiety and depression are often coexisting conditions with fibromyalgia. The chronic pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia can significantly impact mood and emotional well-being.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): Digestive issues like IBS, characterised by abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, and diarrhoea or constipation, can also occur alongside fibromyalgia.

Numbness and tingling: Tingling, prickling, or burning sensations in the hands and feet are sometimes reported by people with fibromyalgia.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS): This condition can cause an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, especially at night, further disrupting sleep in individuals with fibromyalgia.

Sensitivity to temperature or light: Some people with fibromyalgia experience increased sensitivity to temperature changes or bright lights.

It’s important to note that fibromyalgia symptoms can vary significantly from person to person. Some individuals might experience all or most of these symptoms, while others may only have a few. Additionally, the severity of symptoms can fluctuate over time.

Causes of Fibromyalgia

The exact cause of fibromyalgia remains a mystery, however research suggests a combination of factors. Central sensitisation proposes that the central nervous system, specifically the brain and spinal cord, become overly sensitive to pain signals. Even minor stimuli can be perceived as intense pain. Studies have also shown a genetic predisposition to fibromyalgia, with a higher prevalence among certain families.

There’s also the thought that imbalances in brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, which regulate mood, sleep, and pain perception, might play a role. And while not a direct cause, stressful life events or physical trauma can sometimes trigger the onset of fibromyalgia symptoms.

Traditional Treatment of Fibromyalgia

There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia. However, various treatment approaches can help manage symptoms and improve overall well-being. Traditional treatment options typically include:

  • Medication: Medications like antidepressants, pain relievers, and sleep aids can be prescribed to address specific symptoms like pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances.
  • Exercise: Regular physical activity, including low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or yoga, can improve pain, stiffness, and fatigue.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT can help individuals with fibromyalgia develop coping mechanisms for pain, stress, and negative thoughts that can worsen symptoms.
  • Self-care techniques: Practising relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing exercises can promote better sleep and reduce stress, both of which can impact fibromyalgia symptoms.

How can Osteopathy help fibromyalgia?

Osteopathy offers a holistic approach to managing fibromyalgia symptoms, focusing on improving musculoskeletal function, promoting circulation, and reducing pain. Here’s how osteopathic treatment can be beneficial:

1. Pain management

Osteopathic techniques, such as soft tissue manipulation, myofascial release, and gentle stretching, can help alleviate musculoskeletal pain. These techniques aim to reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and enhance the body’s natural healing processes.

2. Improving range of motion

Osteopathy can improve joint mobility and flexibility. By addressing restrictions in the musculoskeletal system, osteopathic treatments can help patients move more freely and comfortably, which is often impaired in fibromyalgia patients.

3. Enhancing circulation

Osteopathic treatments can improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage. Better circulation helps in delivering essential nutrients and oxygen to tissues, and more effective removal of waste products, which can help reduce pain and inflammation.

4. Reducing stress and promoting relaxation

Osteopathic care includes techniques that can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. Given that stress can exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms, osteopathic treatments can contribute to an overall sense of well-being and reduce the intensity of symptoms.

5. Addressing secondary symptoms

Fibromyalgia often comes with secondary symptoms like headaches, digestive issues, and sleep disturbances. Osteopathic treatments can help manage these symptoms through techniques that improve overall body function and support the nervous system.

6. Personalised treatment plans

Osteopaths often create individualised treatment plans tailored to the specific needs and symptoms of the patient. This personalised approach ensures that each aspect of the patient’s condition is addressed, providing more effective relief from fibromyalgia symptoms.

7. Education and self-management strategies

Osteopaths also educate patients on lifestyle changes, exercises, and ergonomic adjustments that can help manage fibromyalgia symptoms. This holistic approach empowers patients to take an active role in managing their condition.

Given the range of symptoms involved with fibromyalgia, an individualised approach to treatment like osteopathy, can be particularly beneficial for managing this condition. If you suspect you have fibromyalgia, why not contact our team of trained Osteopaths today?

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