Many who live with chronic pain may not realize that they have fibromyalgia, a disease affecting nearly 4 million Americans. Learn the symptoms so you can get the necessary relief.
Besides a doctor’s care, you should learn all you can about the disease to better take charge of your condition and lessen the severity of your symptoms.
All About Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a mysterious painful illness affecting the muscles and nerves of the body. Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic, flu-like pain in the muscles, tendons and ligaments; tender spots throughout the body that are very sensitive to the touch; restlessness, numbness and/or tingling in the extremities; sleep difficulty due to pain; chronic fatigue; and occasional headaches, abdominal bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.
Fibromyalgia has long been believed to be an emotional problem brought on by anxiety and depression, but by the 1970s that theory was proven false. In actuality, most people who suffer with fibromyalgia do not have emotional problems.
Those who do have emotional problems are believed to have them as a result of having to live with chronic pain, rather than chronic pain being the result of emotional problems. Fibromyalgia does, however, appear to be associated with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a disorder that does have connection with emotional problems.
Up to 80 percent of CFS patients also have fibromyalgia. Some researchers even believe that CFS and fibromyalgia are one and the same; and because neither syndrome is well understood, it’s hard to know for certain.
The disease tends to run in families and begins with a mild, flu-like infection or localized pain, which then spreads to other parts of the body. Fibromyalgia is neither crippling nor degenerative. Though the pain may “kill” you in a figurative sense, the illness won’t. There is no known cure, and it’s a lifelong battle of managing symptoms and suppressing the pain. Painkiller drugs are usually intense in order to be effective enough at alleviating the pain and include Elavil, Ambien, Sinemet, Ultram and lidocaine.
What Can You Do?
If you suspect that you have fibromyalgia, see your doctor immediately. You can also take the following steps to make your condition more bearable:
Stress Relief – Physical and emotional stress can trigger pain and exacerbate symptoms, so fibromyalgia patients should practice fluid movements (some of which can be learned through a physical therapist), avoid repetitive motions (like typing) for extended periods of time, and engage in stress reduction and relaxation exercises whenever possible (like warm baths, massages, soothing music, prayer and meditation).
Exercise – Either extreme of too little or too much exercise can make your symptoms worse, but again gentle, fluid movements (such as can be achieved through water aerobics) will be beneficial. A good pace is 20 minutes of aerobics three times a week.
Support Groups – Active participation in a support group seems to be beneficial to fibromyalgia sufferers. It helps to know that you’re not alone and draw energy and support from others in your shoes. The Arthritis Foundation can provide information and access to support groups in your area.