Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a complex chronic pain disorder that causes widespread migrating pain. The literal translation of the word fibromyalgia is pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. But Fibromyalgia is much more than just pain. It can cause many other symptoms that vary from person to person. Along with the pain, other common symptoms can be fatigue, stiffness, sleep disturbances and memory problems just to name a few. The disorder is estimated to effect 3 – 5% of the population.

The exact causes of Fibromyalgia are to date unknown and so far there is no known medication to cure the illness. The disorder cannot be detected by blood tests or x-ray. This makes Fibromyalgia an “invisible” disorder, which may be one reason why patients often report feeling stigmatized und misunderstood by health care practitioners and others. Persons with Fibromyalgia often suffer for years, going from doctor to doctor, before receiving a proper diagnosis. Cultural attitudes and stigmatization of people with chronic pain issues in general often cause sufferers to withdraw from family and friends, who are often helpless in dealing with the illness. This can lead to psychological problems such as depression and anxiety, which are highly prevalent amongst fibromyalgia patients.

Stress often worsens the related problems and symptoms.  Almost all patients report a worsening of pain and other symptoms when faced with stress. Some studies have shown that there is a certain personality profile which is common amongst Fibromyalgia sufferers. These are often people who are very sensitive to the needs and wants of other people, thereby not acknowledging their own needs and body signals. For this reason psychological aspects are vital in the treatment of the disorder.  Multi-disciplinary approaches including medications, psychotherapy and gentle exercise can be helpful in managing the pain.

Based upon over 11 years of experience in treating fibromyalgia patients at the Day Clinic for Fibromyalgia at the University Clinic of Munich, our psychotherapeutic approach focuses on body-oriented techniques to regulate the pain and nervous system (see Somatic Experiencing), stress management, resource building and strategies in setting proper boundaries.