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What is chronic widespread pain?

Chronic widespread pain, also known as fibromyalgia, is a condition that causes widespread pain in the muscles and joints, and general fatigue (tiredness). It is thought that up to 1 in 25 people in the UK may be affected by the condition.

The pain itself is often centred around 18 tender points around the neck, elbows, hips and knees. Symptoms need to affect 11 or more of these 18 tender points for a diagnosis to be made.

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What are the common causes of chronic widespread pain?

It is not clear why some people develop chronic widespread pain, but a number of factors may be involved. One of the main theories is that abnormal pain signals are sent to the brain, causing constant feelings of, and extreme sensitivity to, pain.

Other factors that may contribute include problems with immunity, being female, a strong family history of the condition and psychological factors such as stress.

Unfortunately, due to severe pain and fatigue, people with chronic widespread pain find it difficult to exercise and this can makes things worse. The muscles and joints decondition, leading to a vicious cycle of pain and reduced function.

What symptoms are associated with chronic widespread pain?

Chronic widespread pain is strongly associated with fatigue, stiffness and sleep disruption. The type of pain can vary from person to person. It ranges from an aching or burning sensation, to a sharp, stabbing sensation.

Some people also experience increased sensitivity to lights and gentle touch (allodynia). Symptoms can change depending on stress, physical activity and changes in the weather.

Chronic widespread pain also has links to other health conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Raynaud’s disease (a condition of poor blood circulation), heat and cold intolerance, and depression or anxiety.

How is chronic widespread pain diagnosed?  

For people experiencing symptoms of chronic widespread pain, it is important that a doctor rules out any other causes of the pain and fatigue. Our expert specialists will ask detailed questions about the symptoms and general health before examining any specific areas of pain. Further tests may be required, such as a urine test, a blood test and sometimes an X-ray.

What treatments are available for chronic widespread pain? 

There is currently no cure for chronic widespread pain, but there are a number of ways to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. For each person, the combination of treatments may be different.

Medical treatments, physical therapies, and lifestyle modifications all have a role in treating chronic widespread pain:


Medications include painkillers, antidepressants, muscle relaxants and for some people, short courses of sleeping medication.

Tailored exercises

Tailored exercises, including aquatic therapy or exercising in a warm pool, can help to reduce the wasting of the muscles seen in chronic widespread pain. It is well documented that physical activity is a very effective way to manage the symptoms.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a specific type of therapy that helps to change the outlook on problems like chronic pain. It aims to find constructive, positive ways to manage symptoms and causes of stress.

Psychological therapy

Psychological therapy is a form of talking therapy. It can be very helpful, particularly in managing symptoms of anxiety and depression, which often occur alongside chronic widespread pain.

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapies include acupuncture, massage and aromatherapy. Some people find that these can be useful in addition to their treatment to help them manage stress and the burden of their symptoms.

Why choose The London Clinic?

Here at The London Clinic, we are committed to offering a comprehensive care package that will support each patient’s healthcare needs. We invest in the latest technologies to ensure we can offer cutting-edge innovations in the management of acute and chronic pain conditions.

Our specialised pain and therapies teams include access to some of the leading consultants in pain management. We also offer the following services:


  • A multidisciplinary therapies team, including: physiotherapy (physical therapies), aquatic therapy (hydrotherapy pool), occupational therapy, dietetics, and speech & language therapy
  • Bespoke one-to-one assessments and treatment programmes incorporating exercise therapy, bespoke hand splinting, acupuncture, fibroendoscopic evaluation of swallow (FEES), video fluoroscopy assessment, Ai Chi, vestibular rehabilitation, falls prevention, electrotherapy, osteopathy and specialist dietary advice and nutritional support
  • A wide range of rehabilitation equipment including the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill , Isokinetic Biodex apparatus, and extracorporeal shockwave therapy.


Read more about the array of physical therapies available at our facility.

What The Experts Say...

Chronic pain affects a large proportion of society. We take a holistic approach, offering pain management programmes, psychotherapy, physical therapy and neuromodulation approaches including spinal cord stimulation only when appropriate, selecting patients carefully for best outcomes.