Fibromyalgia, (FM) Explanation of FM and FM flare, Symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and management of FM. My experience and management of FM.
In this article I will discuss,
What is Fibromyalgia?
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and of Fibromyalgia 'flare'
Causes, diagnosis and medical treatments of Fibromyalgia and,
How I manage Fibromyalgia.
What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a term taken from Greek and Latin words,
Fibra (Latin) meaning fibrous tissue with painful ligaments and tendons,
Myos (Greek) meaning muscles,
Algos (Greek) meaning pain.
Fibromyalgia, also known as FMS or FM, is an invisible, chronic condition that results in wide spread pain and stiffness all over the body. Pain is often felt in the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints in all four quadrants of the body.
Despite a growing amount of research with overwhelming data that proves FM is real there are still some doctors that do not believe that it is a true illness. Many have difficulties with symptoms for years before they get a diagnosis and so many sufferers are told it is all in there head.
Every part of your body feels pain. Daily living is often affected as a result of feeling in constant pain and having to deal with stiffness and fatigue. People might find that their career or relationships are affected as a result of FM. Feeling and managing constant pain can be life changing as everything we do has to adapted to deal with FM.
FM is a condition that is still misunderstood even though it is the second most common rheumatic disorder with Osteoarthritis being the first.
It can be an emotional strain, trying to cope with, and come to terms with being in constant pain and feeling totally exhausted. Sometimes with FM there is a background pain going on. You know the pain is there but you can have a fairly normal day with background pain and stiffness but when the pain turns in a FM 'flare', life can get a little more difficult to cope with.
Symptoms Of Fibromyalgia
Memory problems are part of the syndrome and many who live with FM find that they often have difficulties thinking, remembering and concentrating. This thinking and remembering problem is called 'Fibro fog'. According to a 2015 study of Fibro Fog, some sufferers find that dealing with the loss of mental clarity can be more distressing than all the pain and stiffness that is experienced.
Insomnia. Pain of FM can be accompanied by sleep problems either not being able to sleep or only managing sleeping for a couple of hours at a time. Without much sleep the body cannot rest and restore itself. Lack of restorative sleep can affect everything you do as the brain and body struggles with exhaustion. With a lack of sleep you can be left feeling drained of energy and drained of the life force that keeps us moving and living. Severe fatigue or any fatigue disrupts day to day life.
Many sufferers of FM might also experience anxiety and depression as this is a distressing condition. Some lose their jobs and careers because of difficulties due to FM. Some are unable to work and are afraid of what the future holds.
IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome, is chronic pain of the stomach. If you are diagnosed with FM you are more than likely to be experiencing IBS. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, constipation and diarrhoea. IBS is not fully understood but more women than men experience IBS. The treatment of IBS would need to include lifestyle changes and changes in diet.
Chest pains can be a symptom FM and this can be caused by a condition called Costochondritis. This can be an added worry for FM sufferers as many feel like they could be having a heart attack. It is important that those with FM do not assume that chest pain is a result of Costochondritis. Always seek urgent medical help, by ringing emergency services if experiencing chest pain.
The symptoms of FM can vary quite a lot from person to person, and may be severe one day but mild the next. FM pain can also mimic other conditions such as, Rheumatoid arthritis, Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) Lupus erythematosus, Osteoarthritis, Hypothyroidism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, (CFS) Sjogren's Syndrome (SS) and Carpel Tunnel Syndrome, so it is important to get the right diagnosis.
Symptoms Fibromyalgia Flare
Some may have FM symptoms so severe and debilitating that they are virtually incapacitated for long periods of time and are often unable to work. Painful muscle spasms and leg cramps can make walking difficult for some. Some find, like I did, that they might need to use a walking stick.
Pain is felt most days but 'Fibro flares' take the pain to another level and the pain becomes excruciating.
Fibro Flares are when pain throughout the body intensifies and symptoms are exasperated. A flare feels dreadful and the whole of the body, from the toes to the head is in pain. A flare can be triggered by a change in weather, any kind of stress, over exertion, insomnia or an infection like a cold.
A flare can last days, weeks, months and in some cases years. At times the pain can be incapacitating and leave you feeling totally drained of energy, fatigued and unable to function properly.
Causes Of Fibromyalgia
Why some people develop FM is not yet clear and the exact cause is unknown, it is thought to be related to changes of how our nervous system processes pain. FM can develop gradually over time and it's likely that a number of factors are involved which can include,
Genes. Fibromyalgia is said to run in families.Often our parents can pass on genes that can cause us to feel more sensitive to pain.
Physical and/or emotional abuse in childhood. Childhood abuse is thought to be a trigger as the child's brain struggles to deal with physical and emotional pain.
Gender. More women than men are diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The reason for this is, according to some doctors, could be related to how men and women react to pain or how society dictates how men and women should respond to pain..
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) When an individual experiences a traumatic event such as a car accident, an assault or abuse, a rape or any other terrible event, FM can be triggered.
It has been found that those with autoimmune disorders such as Lupus, multiple sclerosis (MS) and Rheumatiod Arthritis can be more susceptible to developing FM
Other possible triggers can include, arthritis, surgery, illness and emotional distress
Research now show us that the condition is associated with a central nervous system disorder, which is responsible for the feeling of what can be described as amplified pain that shoots through the body in those who suffer from it. Daniel Clauw, M.D., professor of anesthesiology, University of Michigan,
Brain anatomy studies actually show structural differences between the brains of healthy individuals and Fibromyalgia patients. Brain imaging also confirm that there are pain related activations within the brains of FM sufferers that corroborates patients complaints of increased sensations of pain. Neurotransmitter studies have found that patients with FM have abnormalities in dopaminergic, opioidergic, and serotoninergic systems.
Diagnosis Of Fibromyalgia
Previously, FM diagnosis depended on 18 tender points around the body which are trigger points. Tender point’s locations can be found in hips, back, neck and shoulders and can be painful when pressure is applied.
Up to recently FM diagnosis was based on at least 11 out of 18 of these points being extra tender. This way of testing did not take into consideration other symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, depression and many other symptoms.
Since 2010, guidelines have suggested that health care professionals do not put full reliance on tender points in order to make a diagnosis. Now they should take into consideration features such as widespread pain that has lasted three months or more, sleep problems and/or waking up feeling unrefreshed and often exhausted, cognitive problems such as memory problems and difficulties with the thought process.
Medical Treatments of Fibromyalgia
Those diagnosed with FM are typically treated by their doctors with anti-depressants, pain medicines, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory drugs and sleep medicines.
Lyrica (pregabalin) became the first FDA-approved drug for specifically treating Fibromyalgia and symptoms of pain, fatigue and depression. Now the FDA have approved another 2 medicines, Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Savella (milnacipran).
Narproxen comes from the group of NSAID's, which means non-steroidal anti inflammatory drugs. It is a drug often prescribed for FM pain and some find that these drugs help even though FM is not a inflammatory condition.
Narproxen is a drug known for irritating the lining of the stomach causing bleeding of the stomach and ulcers. They can cause severe stomach pain and should be taken with caution.
Doctors often prescribe Omeprazole which is a along with Narproxen to try and combat the damaged caused. However, even with Omeprazole, it is not a good idea to take Naproxen if you have an history of allergic reaction in the past to Asprin or other NSAID'S. or suffer existing stomach problems such as ulcers.
These treatments might not suit everyone. They did not suit me. I had side effects with medication including feeling drunk when I took Pregabalin. I felt flat, emotionless and numb. On the positive side, Pregabalin did help with my insomnia. Whenever I took Nsaid's I experienced excruticating pain in my solar plexus. Camera investigation found inflammation of my stomach and eventually I was told that gave me severe stomach pain.
How I Manage Fibromyalgia
I adapted my life to deal with FM and to deal with those that did not believe or want to believe that FM is a real and painful condition. So many times I have heard others say to me. "You look really well", or, "Things cannot be that bad because you look okay". I used to feel so embarrassed about having FM because I felt that others thought me to be a hypochondriac when I knew I was in terrible pain. These days I have come to terms with my condition and I do not let what others think affect me.
The first thing I did in adapting my life was reduce the stress I felt by of trying not to look like I was in pain so that I would not be negatively judged by others. I stopped spending time with negative people who were dismissive of my problems and I stayed away from negative environments. I reduced stress and the possibility of stress as much as possible.
After twenty years of medication that did not help me and that only caused other problems such as a bad stomach or other medical problems, I stopped taking any medication to deal with FM. I find that medication usually has an adverse affect on me. I was just a zombie on meds and I fell down a lot and injured myself in other ways. Medication for FM pain made me feel drunk. I have heard from others that medication has helped them. We are all different and I glad that, for them medication has helped.
I adapted my diet and cut out dairy products and bread because eating any of these caused a severe pain in my stomach. I was never advised by my Doctor that these foods and others could be the cause of my constant stomach pains. By cutting out dairy and gluten I have reduced a lot of my stomach problems and wish I had known years ago that gluten and dairy were having such an impact on my stomach. FM sufferers are often told that IBS is the cause of stomach problems and that we need medication to deal with it. This I have found is not always the case as my life has changed so much by adapting my diet.
I found that FM can mess up your life unless you stay focused which is not always easy to do. Now, I set goals, short and long term goals in every aspect of my life that are going to give me some pleasure. I try to focus on my goals and I am kinder to myself when I do not achieve my goals quicker than I would like.
I use a goal planner to plan my goals and keep me focused. I write a plan for each day and a to do list. I find that a to do list keeps me on track, keeps my brain active and keeps me organised.
I cannot work so I think of other ways I can be of service to others in need by writing about my experiences.
I listen to inspirational speakers', relaxation video's, meditation video's on YouTube because FM can leave me feeling low in mood, depressed and anxious. I practice meditation whenever I can. Meditation helps to quieten the conscious mind of negative chatter and stress. When my mind is calm and free from stress my body and mind can deal with the pain in a more relaxed way.
I learnt to focus on myself and not run around after other people. I have learnt to take care of my needs and to love myself enough to be easy on myself
I put down the guilt, embarrassment and anger about suffering from FM
I keep a journal and if I am in pain I write down in my journal. I write about how I am feeling and how I want to feel in my journal and it helps. Journal-ling helps me to take the focus from the pain that I am experiencing and shift it to focusing on a goal.
I rest when I need to and not when it is convenient to others.
I keep active when I am capable of being active. Some days I cannot stand and walk a few feet because the pain is so intense and my legs wont hold me up. I take advantage of when I can get around by taking an early evening walk which is good for the mind and body. It helps to settle and relax the mind which helps to reduce the pain. I have to pace myself and know my limits in any kind of exercise program.
FM has taught me that I need to love myself which is something that I have learnt to do in recent years. I know I did not choose to have FM and I do not understand why I am the only one in my family to experience it but, whatever the reason I have FM I have come to terms with it.
I know that knowing more about the condition can help to reduce the fear I often feel especially when I have chest pains and feel like I am having a heart attack.
According to fibromyalgianewstoday.com there is a simple blood test called FM/a that has been developed by an American company which can quickly diagnose Fibromyalgia. FM/a is a highly sensitive tests that analyse our immune system looking for Cytokine and Chemokine protein patterns. FM sufferers show irregular patterns of these proteins and the degree of irregularity is scored from a range of 1 to 100. A score of 50 or higher is a confirmation that FM is being experienced by the sufferer. Now, instead of taking months or even years to find a diagnosis a blood test can give results within a week.
The manufacturer of the FM/a test state that, " FM/a ® reveals that this disorder, whether called Fibromyalgia, Fibrositis, the chronic fatigue syndrome or Fibromyocitis, among other names is really an immune system dysregulation disease. Patients who test positive for FM/a ® will no longer be labeled neurotic, hypochondrical chronic complainers. Their’s is an actual illness with objectively measurable traits".
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Thanks for reading.
Update On Fibromyalgia
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.