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There are over 200 types of rheumatic disease and over nine million people in the UK have some form of arthritis. Arthritis means inflammation of the joints. Most people with arthritis will experience pain and some difficulty in moving around.

Arthritis affects people of all ages, including children. It is not clear what causes it and there is no cure at present. However, treatment can largely alleviate the symptoms and enable people to continue to live an active life, although some modifications may be necessary.

Rheumatic Conditions FAQs

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Fibromyalgia is a common condition in which there is widespread pain in the tendons, ligaments and muscles, accompanied by fatigue. The symptoms may last for months or sometimes years, but do not lead to lasting damage or disability. The joints are unaffected. Diagnosis is made by examining and applying pressure to various points around the body – in fibromyalgia there is extreme tenderness in specific areas.

The main symptoms of fibromyalgia are aching and stiffness of the muscles around the joints, as well as tiredness and sleep disturbance. Occasionally other symptoms may occur; these include poor circulation, headache or irritability, loss of concentration and diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Fibromyalgia is a condition involving both the body and the mind. Research has shown that sleep disturbance may produce fibromyalgia, although often there is more than one cause. Pain or stiffness following injury or other illness; emotional stress, anxiety and/or depression are all thought to be possible contributory factors. 

Treatment is aimed at helping you to find ways of coping with the condition: usually analgesia (pain relief medication) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful. Amitriptyline has been found to be effective, both for long-term (chronic) pain and to help improve the sleep pattern. Physiotherapy and/or occupational therapy may also be helpful, and exercise is known to reduce the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia, as well as improving fitness. One of the best forms of exercise for this condition is swimming. 

However, the single most important fact to accept is that you yourself are the most effective therapist. There are a number of things you can do to help yourself, such as avoiding alcohol, tea and coffee late at night to avoid sleep disturbance; learning effective relaxation techniques; eating a healthy diet and keeping your weight down.  Counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy can be useful in some cases.

Further advice and information about local and national support groups is available from Fibromyalgia Association UK