Oh, the pain!

I had been having every test under the sun after my trip to the ER in 2013. The doctors had been working diligently to figure out what was causing the excruciating widespread pain I was

I had been having every test under the sun after my trip to the ER in 2013. The doctors had been working diligently to figure out what was causing the excruciating widespread pain I was experiencing. After numerous tests, they were able to rule out many other conditions and I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

According to Mayo Clinic, Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. In people who have fibromyalgia, the brain and spinal cord process pain signals differently. As a result, they react more strongly to touch and pressure, with a heightened sensitivity to pain. It is a real physiological and neurochemical problem.

In denial

After I received the diagnosis my mind went back and forth about it. I had heard it was just the diagnosis you get when they’ve run out of ideas, and that it wasn’t even real. Is it real? Did the doctor just give up? Am I just hysterical (one doctor’s words)? I really didn’t know what to think at that point, and the doctors comments left me paralyzed.

The top misconception is that people think fibromyalgia isn’t a real medical problem or that it is “all in your head”. I learned very quickly how real this illness is. When I look back, I suppose I was in denial about what the diagnosis meant if it were real. I just didn’t want to believe it.

According to Mayo Clinic, there is no cure for Fibromyalgia. In general, treatments for fibromyalgia include both medication and self-care. The emphasis is on minimizing symptoms and improving general health. No one treatment works for all symptoms.

Recommended treatment options for managing Fibromyalgia

  • Medications – pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications are used to help reduce the pain.
  • Therapy – physical therapy, occupational therapy, and counseling can help reduce the effect that fibromyalgia has on your body and your life.

Lifestyle and home remedies

  • Reduce stress – Develop a plan to avoid or limit overexertion and emotional stress. Allow yourself time each day to relax. That may mean learning how to say no without guilt. But try not to change your routine completely. People who quit work or drop all activity tend to do worse than do those who remain active. Try stress management techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises or meditation.
  • Get enough sleep. Because fatigue is one of the main characteristics of fibromyalgia, getting sufficient sleep is essential. In addition to allotting enough time for sleep, practice good sleep habits, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time each day and limiting daytime napping.
  • Exercise regularly. At first, exercise may increase your pain. But doing it gradually and regularly often decreases symptoms. Appropriate exercises may include walking, swimming, biking and water aerobics. A physical therapist can help you develop a home exercise program. Stretching, good posture and relaxation exercises also are helpful.
  • Pace yourself. Keep your activity on an even level. If you do too much on your good days, you may have more bad days. Moderation means not overdoing it on your good days, but likewise it means not self-limiting or doing too little on the days when symptoms flare.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eat healthy foods. Limit your caffeine intake. Do something that you find enjoyable and fulfilling every day.
Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

Alternative medicine

Complementary and alternative therapies for pain and stress management aren’t new. Some, such as meditation and yoga, have been practiced for thousands of years. Several of these treatments do appear to safely relieve stress and reduce pain, and some are gaining acceptance in mainstream medicine.

  • Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a Chinese medical system based on restoring normal balance of life forces by inserting very fine needles through the skin to various depths. According to Western theories of acupuncture, the needles cause changes in blood flow and levels of neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord. Some studies indicate that acupuncture helps relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, while others show no benefit.
  • Massage therapy. This is one of the oldest methods of health care still in practice. It involves use of different manipulative techniques to move your body’s muscles and soft tissues. Massage can reduce your heart rate, relax your muscles, improve range of motion in your joints and increase production of your body’s natural painkillers. It often helps relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Yoga and tai chi. These practices combine meditation, slow movements, deep breathing and relaxation. Both have been found to be helpful in controlling fibromyalgia symptoms.

After nearly 6 years, there are still more bad days than good as I still don’t have my pain completely under control. Like I said, it’s a daily fight, but it’s one that I haven’t thrown the towel in on yet!

What treatment options have you tried? What worked for you, and what didn’t?

4 thoughts on “Oh, the pain!

  1. Great post Sierra! Learning what works and what doesn’t is an ongoing process, isn’t it? The good news is that the longer we live with it, the more we’re able to find those things that do work for us. Blessings to you!

    1. Back at you Terri! Yes, it is a process! I have tried many things from massage to cutting dairy from my diet. Still hoping to find the right mixture.

  2. Well done! Informative post, Sierra. So many tests to get our diagnosis. FYI, Fibro wasn’t even recognized as a disease until October of 2015. I should say it became “legit” and was entered into the International Classifications of Diseases Classification Manual. (The ICD-10-CDM) This manual is used worldwide by physicians. Up until this was formally entered, fibromyalgia was considered an abnormal diagnosis, yes, the “garbage can” disease. So fibro is only 4! Again very informative post! Thanks for sharing. ~Kim

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