Approximately six million people in the U.S. suffer from fibromyalgia pain. I was diagnosed with this horrible condition when I was just a teenager, and throughout the past few years I have worked very hard on managing and reducing the pain.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that is still a mystery to the medical community because it consists of:
- Pain throughout the body
- Symptoms of arthritis without having arthritis
- Severe pain at specific tender points, usually in the joints
- Gnawing or burning sensation in the body, especially the joints
- Severe fatigue
- Painful muscle twitches
Someone with fibromyalgia may only suffer from certain symptoms and only some of the time as the symptoms may come and go. In addition, some people will feel pain only in certain areas of their body and not others. Many doctors believe that their patients suffering from fibromyalgia are just imagining the pain because there are no tests that come back conclusive for anything else. These doctors rarely treat patients with this condition.
There are a few steps to manage the pain of fibromyalgia:
- Find a doctor who is willing to work with you to treat the symptoms - this is really all they can do at this time since medical research has not found anything that will cure this condition.
- Possible meds - there are nerve blocking medications that won't knock you out, such as Gabapentin. There are several other medications, but the basic way they work is that they block your brain from thinking that there is pain when there really isn't. This has worked well for me.
- Get as much rest when you can - for many of us this is the hardest thing for us to do. But, we do need to listen to our bodies and ensure that we are getting the rest that we need for our bodies to feel rejuvenated in the morning.
- Try new things - just laying around can't be good for a person (my doctor told me to lay around and not do anything). Just laying around all the time will give you even more joint problems. Your joints are meant to move around, so move them. I hit the gym as much as possible and I have found that it works quite well for me to manage the pain since I feel much less pain after a good workout. This may not work for everyone, so start slow and stay just outside of your comfort zone. I have had many nights where I have skipped the gym because I was just hurting too bad. Try going on walks, try swimming, or any other physical activity possible to keep you active and help move your joints.
- Lose weight / keep the weight off - the more we weigh, the harder it is on our joints in general. Maintaining a healthy weight will allow your joints to have the least amount of stress from everyday movement as possible. This will also help reduce the risk for other joint issues.
- Don't get hooked on the pain pills - I have had a few visits with doctors who just want to shove Vicodin or some other pain killer down my throat. I'm sorry, but I'm just too busy to be a functioning pill popper. I'd rather get rid of the pain without pain killer. By the way, if it truly is fibromyalgia, then you'll get a feeling of being high from the pain killers, but it won't take the pain away.
- Plan for downtime - I listen to what my body is telling me. I know when I have a really big day (i.e. moving, cleaning out the garage, etc.) that I need to schedule in a day or two for some good downtime. I'll be spending the next several hours, up to a day or two, in bed just sleeping or watching TV on the couch. My entire body will be exhausted and every joint and muscle in my body will ache. Scheduling this time in will help in ensuring that your schedule for other things is not interrupted.
These are a few things I have learned throughout my journey with fibromyalgia. I am currently a fully-functioning mother, wife, employee, and blogger. I am able to work full-time and rarely have to take a day off because of my pain. Getting ahead of the pain is key, anticipating it's next strike by listening to your body and realizing patterns, will assist in managing the pain that you will likely, yet quite unfortunately, suffer from for the rest of your life. Learning how to manage it now will help you to live a normal life with this condition.
What tips have you learned along your travels with pain management?