Fibromyalgia is a disorder associated with widespread musculoskeletal pain, pressure-sensitive pressure points, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, headaches, depression and cognitive difficulties – known as “fibro fog”. Other symptoms include abdominal pain, urinary incontinence, tendinitis and temporomandibular joint disorders. Symptoms often begin after a traumatic episode, giving birth, surgery, infection or a period of stress but there may be no recognisable triggering event.
The cause is unknown. People with fibromyalgia have been found to have abnormally low levels of serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine in their brains, leading to reduced effectiveness of the body’s natural endorphin painkillers. They also have increases of a chemical known as “substance P” which has been shown to amplify pain signals.
Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men, and there is often a family history, or a history of another rheumatic condition e.g. osteoarthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis.
Management involves a number of modalities, and drug treatments are either aimed increasing serotonin levels, or at managing specific symptoms. Both localised and whole body cryotherapy are widely used in the management of fibromyalgia.
Benefits of cryotherapy treatment for fibromyalgia
- Analgesic effects
- Reduction in the number of painful pressure points (Nestler EJ et al, 2002)
- Decreased intensity of local and generalised pain
- Reduction in muscle rigidity
- Improvement of fatigue
- Improved sleep
- Improvement in mood
- General improvement of state of wellbeing (Zagribelny Z et al 1999)
Protocol for management of fibromyalgia
Between 20 and 30 treatments of between two and three minutes at a time, combined with gradually increasing exercise routine or physiotherapy leads to lasting improvement of symptoms.