'Anyone is welcome': Mayor of Northampton announces first meeting of fibromyalgia support group

Councillor Rufia Ashraf, since opening up about living with fibromyalgia, says so many people have come forward to share their stories and there is a 'desperate need' for more support

By Megan Hillery
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 11:28 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 11:30 am

The Mayor of Northampton has set a date for the first meeting of the fibromyalgia Northampton support group.

Fibromyalgia, also known as fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.

Those who suffer from the condition typically experience increased sensitivity to pain, fatigue, muscle stiffness, difficulty sleeping, headaches and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating.

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Mayor of Northampton, Councillor Rufia Ashraf. Photo by Kirsty Edmonds

Councillor Rufia Ashraf opened up about living with fibromyalgia in an interview with The Chronicle & Echoa couple of months ago. Rufia has suffered with the condition for more than 13 years following the traumatic birth of her son, who needs around the clock care.

She talked about the 'heartbreaking' circumstances of her husband having to wash, feed and carry her whilst taking care of their three children and described the pain she suffers on a daily basis as 'very similar to child birth but worse because it does not leave your body.'

Councillor Ashraf said: "So many people got in touch with me after they read my article. I didn't realise so many people where suffering like me. Men and women shared their good days and bad days but, most importantly, said the condition is still not recognised by professionals.

"I said I would listen and I have set up the Fibromyalgia Northampton group."

Councillor Ashraf said that she was 'overwhelmed' by the number of people who reached out to her after reading her story and she said there is a 'desperate need' for more understanding about the condition.

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown but it is thought to be related to genes or it can be triggered by a physically or emotionally stressful event such as giving birth, the death of a loved one or having an operation.

There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia but it can be treated with anti-depressants and painkillers as well as talking therapies, exercise programmes and relaxation techniques.

A support group has been established in Daventry - called 'Daventry Fibromyalgia Support' - but Councillor Ashraf found there was no such support available in Northampton, which prompted her to set up this new group.

Rufia said: "It was necessary to set this group up. I need support and so does others."

The Fibromyalgia Northampton group is meeting for the first time on Thursday, February 10 from 9.30am to 11.30am in the Grosvenor shopping centre on the second floor next door to River Island.

Rufia continued: "Anyone is welcome. I plan to have professionals attend, students and to find out what research has been conducted so far.

"I want people to come forward because it's about time someone listened. Don't be under any illusion, it will take time to fit all the pieces; in the meantime let's find out how people want to be supported. So, if you think it will help tell others and let's see how we can change people's perceptions

"The first session is informal; we are here to listen, take away information and share stories to start with. So, let's meet and start the conversation."

For more information email [email protected]