Living with Fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain is not only painful, but it can also be debilitating. Daily pain can also cause depression.
In this post I’m going to talk about Fibromyalgia, what it is, and what it’s like living daily with the pain. I will also talk about a few other forms of chronic pain. I will also talk about ways that I personally have found to cope with a daily life of chronic pain.
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What is Fibromyalgia
According to the Mayo Clinic website, “Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.”1
So not only does Fibromyalgia cause widespread pain, but it also causes you to be tired, have sleep disturbances, poor memory and mood disorders. Not a pleasant condition to live with by any means!
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The above mentioned article went on to say that symptoms usually begin after a trauma, surgery, infection or even psychological stress. Sometimes the symptoms accumulate gradually.
Women tend to have fibromyalgia more often than men. Those who suffer from fibromyalgia usually also suffer from tension headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, TMJ disorders, anxiety, and depression.
The Fibro Patient Education & Support Website listed the following symptoms.
- Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms, or tightness
- Moderate or severe fatigue and decreased energy
- Insomnia or waking up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep
- Stiffness upon waking or after staying in one position for too long
- Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and performing simple mental tasks (“fibro fog”)
- Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation alternating with diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Tension or migraine headaches
- Jaw and facial tenderness
- Sensitivity to one or more of the following: odors, noise, bright lights, medications, certain foods, and cold
Feeling anxious or depressed
- Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs, or feet
- Increase in urinary urgency or frequency (irritable bladder)
- Reduced tolerance for exercise and muscle pain after exercise
- A feeling of swelling (without actual swelling) in the hands and feet
- Fibromyalgia symptoms may intensify depending on the time of day — morning, late afternoon, and evening tend to be the worst times. Symptoms may also get worse with fatigue, tension, inactivity, changes in the weather, cold or drafty conditions, overexertion, hormonal fluctuations (such as just before your period or during menopause), stress, depression, or other emotional factors.
If the condition is not diagnosed and treated early, symptoms can go on indefinitely, or they may disappear for months and then recur.2
Living with Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia affects about about 2% of the US adult population, which is roughly 4 million US adults. We have not yet found the cause of fibromyalgia, but, thanks to research, there are effective treatments that can help you keep it managed.3
Because Fibromyalgia causes fatigue and disturbance in sleep patterns, self-care is vital to help with your daily living. The chronic pain is bad enough, but the pain only worsens when you are fatigued and not sleeping well.
Rheumatology.org gives the following tips for self-care and living with fibromyalgia.
- Make time to relax each day. Deep-breathing exercises and meditation will help reduce the stress that can bring on symptoms.
- Set a regular sleep pattern. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Getting enough sleep lets your body repair itself, physically and mentally. Also, avoid daytime napping and limit caffeine intake, which can disrupt sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant, so those fibromyalgia patients with sleep problems should stop smoking.
- Exercise often. This is a very important part of fibromyalgia treatment. While difficult at first, regular exercise often reduces pain symptoms and fatigue. Patients should follow the saying, “Start low, go slow.” Slowly add daily fitness into your routine. For instance, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or park further away from the store. As your symptoms decrease with drug treatments, start increasing your activity. Add in some walking, swimming, water aerobics and/or stretching exercises, and begin to do things that you stopped doing because of your pain and other symptoms. It takes time to create a comfortable routine. Just get moving, stay active and don’t give up!
- Educate yourself. Nationally recognized organizations like the Arthritis Foundation and the National Fibromyalgia Association are great resources for information. Share this information with family, friends, and co-workers.
- Look forward, not backward. Focus on what you need to do to get better, not what caused your illness.4
Treatments for Fibromyalgia
While there is no cure for Fibromyalgia, there are some treatments that do help.
First and best treatment is exercise! Not strenuous exercise that would make your muscles sore, but more low impact exercise. You want to keep your muscles from getting stiff. So keep moving daily!
Also, therapy can help with understanding what is happening to your body, as well as helping with the depression and anxiety that comes from living with fibromyalgia and chronic pain.
Third treatment is medication. There are some medications that do help with the symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
Medications for Fibromyalgia
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved three drugs for the treatment of fibromyalgia. They include two drugs that change some of the brain chemicals (serotonin and norepinephrine) that help control pain levels: duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella). Older drugs that affect these same brain chemicals also may be used to treat fibromyalgia. These include amitriptyline (Elavil) and cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril). Other antidepressant drugs can be helpful in some patients.4
The other drug approved for fibromyalgia is pregabalin (Lyrica). Pregabalin and another drug, gabapentin (Neurontin), work by blocking the over activity of nerve cells involved in pain transmission. These medicines may cause dizziness, sleepiness, swelling and weight gain.4
Personally living with Fibromyalgia and chronic pain
I personally have lived with Fibromyalgia for 30 years now. I also suffer from several other conditions that cause chronic pain. Including osteoarthritis, Spondyloarthritis, degenerative disc disease, narrowing of the cervical spine, and bone spurs all along my spine.
All of these conditions combined keep me in continuous pain. However, with therapy and a lot of mind over matter, I get through each day. I have to admit that blogging helps to keep my mind off the pain sometimes.
It hurts to sit very long at a time, and it always hurts to stand or walk. Although the Fibromyalgia causes the muscles to get stiff and hurt if I lay down too much. So I must continually move from one position to another. Always on the move!
More than just pain living with Fibromyalgia
Each day, living with Fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain is a struggle. Each task is not always just about the pain.
Fibromyalgia also causes tenderness, so even my skin is sensitive to touch. Sometimes a simple hug is painful. As humans we need to feel love, hugs, and human touch from others. Depression can worsen without it.
This is where my little dogs are so beneficial to me! They give me unconditional love and support! Read more about them here!
Of course, my kids and grandkids always offer plenty of love and support too! Sadly my daughters understand my suffering all too well, as they suffer from chronic pain also.
With the degenerative disc disease and two kinds of arthritis, I have to be very careful not to fall. The least little fall can easily shatter bones for me. My life is but an obstacle course, and I will keep living through it!
No matter how many obstacles that are thrown in our path, there are ways to except them and to live through them.Robert Zemeckis
Now it’s your turn!
Leave me a comment and tell me what’s along your daily obstacle course! Are you a fibro warrior too? I’d love to hear your comments!
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Until next time,
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