Persistent widespread pain syndrome, also known as fibromyalgia, is a condition where joints, muscles and many other body tissues become painful and can be ‘oversensitive’.
Multiple bodily symptoms are often complicated by poor sleep, depression and anxiety.
It is thought to be due to a problem with the pain processing system rather than damage or inflammation in the tissues.
More on what we do
New research suggests an increased ‘connectivity’ between sensory, pain, attention and mood networks in the brain.
Sadly, fibromyalgia does not respond to medication very well. Often, there is only a 1 in 10 chance of improvement in symptoms.
It means few patients respond well to medication and patients with fibromyalgia are often more prone to side effects.
With that in mind, if strong medications (such as tramadol, amitriptyline, fluoxetine and pregabalin) are used, it is important to be realistic about their possible benefits, and withdraw them if there are no significant improvements.
Many patients still describe their pain score as 10/10, despite being on four medications for pain, and in addition experience a lot of detrimental side effects.
One of the best approaches is trying to get fit again – this is termed as a ‘graded aerobic exercise programme’ - and there are simple changes that can start this off, such as short walks, using stairs more and gentle exercise in a swimming pool.
An exercise programme using the principles of Tai Chi can also be helpful.
We don’t normally see patients with an established diagnosis of fibromyalgia in the rheumatology department because there are no specialist treatments available.
Sometimes patients with other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis develop fibromyalgia and we may discuss some of the medications above or direct them to the online resources below.
Our rheumatology team includes six consultants and a Staff Grade:
- Dr Earl
- Dr Haigh
- Dr Brown
- Dr Mascarenhas
- Dr Abusalameh
- Dr Cates
- Dr Murphy
We have five nurse specialists:
- Jill Moran
- Tracey Morey
- Gillian Hawkins
- Sharon Mulcahy
Where to find us
RD&E Wonford, Barrack Rd, Exeter EX2 5DW
Information for healthcare professionals
Further information can be found on the Devon formulary website