By WENDY GREEN
PUBLISHED: 21:00 GMT, 15 September 2012
It is an illness that can lead to excruciating pain at points all over the body, numbness, crushing fatigue coupled with insomnia, and an inability to handle even mild changes in temperature or light.
Fibromyalgia is a neurological condition thought to affect 1.8 million Britons to varying degrees, and experts do not know what causes it.
In 2003, the Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, pictured right, revealed she was suffering from the condition, which caused her to put her career on hold for several years.
‘It’s the tiredness part that I have difficulty with, but you get to know your limits so you can work and plan around it,’ she said.
Fibromyalgia may not be curable, but it is manageable.
THE THEORY: Research has shown that meditation reduces pain. By concentrating on the ‘here and now’ rather than on negative thoughts, it is believed we can help reduce the body’s production of pain signals.
TOP TIP: Think of a colour that suggests wellness and one that represents pain. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. On each inhalation, imagine you are breathing in the ‘wellness colour’ and on each exhalation imagine breathing out the ‘pain colour’, with all the pain flowing out of your body.
THE THEORY: Exercising when suffering with fibromyalgia has been shown to have great psychological and physical benefits – if not done to excess.
UK Fibromyalgia, a support group for sufferers, recommends non-weight-bearing exercises such as swimming in warm water.
One study of 33 women with fibromyalgia found that those who swam three times a week in warm water had a significant reduction in symptoms.
When swimming, the joints and muscles are supported and the warm water helps to relax the muscles, which eases pain and stiffness.
You also have to focus on your breathing, rhythm and stroke, which distracts the mind from anxieties.
TOP TIP: Another low-impact aerobic exercise is rebounding – marching or bouncing on a rebounder trampoline. This boosts fitness and mood, and improves posture, balance and co-ordination.
Yoga has also been shown to reduce symptoms. Oregon University researchers found that sufferers who practised weekly noticed an improvement in energy, mood and ability to cope with the pain.
BOOST YOUR VITAMINS...
THE THEORY: Fibromyalgia sufferers are more likely to be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals. B vitamins are essential for normal muscle function, energy release, a healthy nervous system and the production of serotonin, the mood-lifting chemical.
Fibromyalgia has also been linked with high levels of homocysteine, an amino acid produced by the body. A study by the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg found that in 100 per cent of fibromyalgia cases, there were high levels of homocysteine and low levels of Vitamin B12.
A study published in Clinical Rheumatology found that 90 per cent of sufferers noticed an improvement when treated with Vitamin D supplements. It is thought to work by boosting levels of serotonin and the ‘sleep hormone’ melatonin.