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Fibromyalgia

Produced by Louise Abbott, Bupa Health Information Team, February 2012.

This section contains answers to common questions about this topic. Questions have been suggested by health professionals, website feedback and requests via email.

Can children get fibromyalgia?

Answer

Yes, you can get fibromyalgia at any age. However, in younger people the condition is more likely to get better with time.

Explanation

Some GPs won’t make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia in people under 18. One reason for this is that the symptoms of fibromyalgia can be similar to those of many other childhood or ‘growing up’ conditions. Your child’s GP may need to offer your child further tests or refer him or her to a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in children’s health) before a diagnosis and treatment plan can be decided. Once fibromyalgia has been diagnosed and other conditions ruled out, you and your child can start to do a lot to help manage their symptoms. This may involve pacing your child’s activities so that he or she doesn’t do too much of one thing on any one day because this can lead to muscle strain and tiredness.

It’s important to talk to your child’s school so that they understand that he or she has a condition that causes symptoms of pain and tiredness. Your child may need to have alternative arrangements made for attending school. Possible solutions to problems of tiredness and poor concentration at school include:

  • a shortened day or smaller timetable
  • planned rest breaks in a quiet area
  • work that can be done at home
  • using a laptop if his or her hands are too painful for much writing
  • having more lessons arranged in classrooms that are near each other so he or she doesn’t have to walk so far

If I have severe fibromyalgia, can I work? If I can’t work, can I apply for any welfare benefits?

Answer

Working can be challenging if you’re often in pain and tired. However, if you have fibromyalgia, working can be beneficial for maintaining your physical abilities, self-esteem, confidence and social relationships. If you feel your only option is to stop working, you can apply for welfare benefits that are based on how much fibromyalgia affects your ability to work and take care of yourself.

Explanation

Before you decide that you have to stop working, it’s important to consider all your options and weigh up the pros and cons of not going to work anymore. A lack of routine, social interaction, physical and mental stimulation that can occur if you’re at home more can lead to other stresses that could make your symptoms worse.

People with fibromyalgia who stop working may be more severely affected by their symptoms than people who continue to persevere in their jobs.

Continuing to work may mean you need to talk to your employer about adaptations that you need. You may feel uncomfortable approaching your employer in this way, but if they are able to be flexible, you will be able to see the benefits. Staying in work may be difficult, but it could still be the best option.

However, if fibromyalgia is severely affecting your daily life so that you’re unable to work, you may be eligible for welfare benefits.

At present, there are a number of different types of benefits. These all have different criteria that you will need to meet. Current benefits you can apply for are:

  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance
  • Attendance Allowance

If you’re already on Incapacity Benefit, you can continue to claim this, so long as you still satisfy the requirements. However, if you have recently been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you won’t be able to claim Incapacity Benefit because in January 2011 this benefit was replaced by the Employment and Support Allowance.

Disability Living Allowance is also due to change to a different system called Personal Independence Payment in 2013.

For more information about welfare benefits, see the Department for Work and Pensions website, your local job centre or Citizen’s Advice Bureau. They can all help with providing and completing the necessary forms.

Won't exercise just make my pain from fibromyalgia worse?

Answer

Not usually. It has been shown that certain types of exercise can help to relieve some of the symptoms of pain that fibromyalgia causes. You may need to get advice about this from your GP or a physiotherapist (a health professional who specialises in maintaining and improving movement and mobility).

Explanation

Exercise is recommended if you have fibromyalgia. It may take a little while to find the type of exercise that brings you the most benefit. However, you may find that starting with some gentle stretching and building up to some short distance walking or water-based exercises are things you can do without aggravating your pain or making yourself more tired.

A particular exercise regime that has been studied in people with fibromyalgia is t’ai chi. This low-impact, meditative form of exercise has been shown to improve symptoms in small groups of people who have fibromyalgia. You may need to pace your activities so that your pain or tiredness don’t become overwhelming. If you pace your exercise by doing a little every day, even on the bad days, you’re likely to feel fitter, more mobile and have more energy.

Is it possible to have both depression and fibromyalgia?

Answer

Yes, you may find you feel depressed alongside your other symptoms of fibromyalgia because these two conditions may be linked.

Explanation

Fibromyalgia has a range of symptoms, which can affect different aspects of your health and wellbeing. If you find it difficult to manage your symptoms, you may feel isolated by the condition, which may lead to depression. It’s also possible that whatever is causing your fibromyalgia also causes depression, such as low levels of certain brain chemicals. Visiting your GP for advice on ways to manage fibromyalgia or getting in touch with a support group may help you to find better ways of coping.

You may find it difficult to stay positive when you’re in pain and feeling tired. You may find a short course of antidepressants helps to bring back some balance, but you will probably need to make some changes in the way you do things so that you can manage your fibromyalgia better in the long term.

 

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  • This information was published by Bupa's Health Information Team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. Photos are only for illustrative purposes and do not reflect every presentation of a condition. The content is intended only for general information and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional. For more details on how we produce our content and its sources, visit the about our health information page.

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  • Publication date: February 2012

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