Muscular pain, tingling, burning, and numbness are common symptoms of a repetitive strain injury. However, these symptoms are also common in a condition called Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia basically means pain in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. It affects mostly women and up to 4% of the general population.
The pain of fibromyalgia occurs in areas where the muscles attach to bone or ligaments and is similar to the pain of arthritis. The joints themselves are not affected, however, so they are not deformed nor do they deteriorate as they may in arthritic conditions. The pain typically originates in one area, usually the neck and shoulders, and then radiates out. Most patients report feeling some pain all the time; and many describe it as “exhausting.” The pain can vary, depending on the time of day, weather changes, physical activity, and the presence of stressful situations; it has been described as stiffness, burning, stabbing, sudden, radiating, and aching. The pain is often more intense after disturbed sleep.
The other major complaint is fatigue, which some patients report as being more debilitating than the pain. Fatigue and sleep disturbances are, in fact, almost universal in patients with fibromyalgia, due to lack of serotonin, and if these symptoms are not present, then some experts believe that physicians should seek a diagnosis other than fibromyalgia. Up to a third of patients experience depression, and disturbances in mood and concentration are very common.
Fibromyalgia patients are also prone to tension or migraine headaches. Other symptoms include dizziness, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, and gastrointestinal problems, including irritable bowel syndrome with gas and alternating diarrhea and constipation. Some patients complain of urinary frequency caused by bladder spasms. Women may have painful menstrual periods.
Several years ago Fibromyalgia was a disability categorized as “psychological”. It’s hard to understand how it feels to be told you are mentally having a problem when your body will not perform what you are asking it to do. How can that possibly be mental? Patients were, in effect, being told it was “all in your head”. Fortunately, the medical field has produced enough research to re-classify it as a true physical disability that is often paired with studies and treatments for arthritis and rheumatism.
People with FMS have the additional stress and frustration in their lives of trying to explain (all the time) why today they can do almost anything and the next day they can barely get out of bed. Depression is a frequent side-effect of FMS and who can question it? Living with a body-wide toothache-like pain constantly is something only fellow sufferers can truly understand. When we have “bad days” the pain can feel like there are hot curling irons jammed into our muscles. Can you even imagine that? Also imagine the fatigue of your muscles being so bad that it feels like they have turned to Jell-O. And no matter how much you try to exercise your muscles never feel normal again. It’s always like battling Jell-O to make your body perform.
Spouses, family and others in your life have a hard time figuring out how you feel when you have FMS or chronic fatigue syndrome. There are times when you were accused of not pulling your own weight, or just plain sand bagging it. Many are accused of wanting extra attention. After a while the Fibromyalgic doesn’t like talking about it and they sure don’t care for having to make excuses (can’t go to a restaurant (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), can’t go hiking; horseback riding; to the fairgrounds; the park and so on – while SOMETIMES the Fibromyalgic can’t be stopped!). This is why I strongly recommend support groups where you can feel that you are not alone in this condition.
There is simply no way for anyone to understand what is going on internally with the Fibromyalgic body. Because you look absolutely normal, yet you feel like you will never perform normally again. No one can see what the problem is. And since it is not such a known illness such as cancer it does not get the respect that people with cancer would get. No one would question a cancer patient about his or her illness because everyone has heard of it. If you have bad days because of your illness with cancer no one would question it. But because Fibromyalgia has not been classified as a disease or given notoriety (such as a famous person getting FMS) it is relatively unknown.
As for doctors – it’s very, common to end up with a FM diagnosis only after everything else is ruled out. Many people I’ve counseled with who have FMS also have now or have once had other problems such as herniated disks, degenerative disk disease, spontaneously fractured vertebrae or other bones, etc. that is why a Chiropractor is invaluable in treating Fibromyalgia. FMS is NOT known to cause these problems or to be caused by these problems. It’s just not rare to find such combination irregularities. FMS is often brought on (not caused by, but ‘triggered’ so to speak) by a trauma such as an accident/fall which causes what could be relatively minor physical pain, or major (doesn’t really matter); even childbirth can ‘trigger’ it or any number of other things. One of the biggest factors is people who have had Mono seem to find that this is where their first symptoms start to appear. Any illness that comes on suddenly seems to trigger Fibromyalgia if the person is genetically inclined toward this syndrome. I really feel syndrome is the wrong word for this condition it truly is a disease whether they can detect it medically or not does not matter, this condition is very real. Many people’s lives are being permanently changed because of the effects of fibromyalgia
Most of all – please stop thinking that one must be in a cast, using crutches or wrapped in bandages to “really be hurting”. Just because someone is not in a wheelchair or walker does not mean they are not in incredible pain. Fibromyalagia can even cripple a person like arthritis or even Multiple Sclerosis, its symptoms AND the feeling is very much the same! More and more cases are being reported of people who are becoming bedridden, having to use Walkers or wheelchairs due to Fibromyalagia. Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Chronic Pain/Myofascial Pain Syndrome are frequently found along with the FMS. It can get so bad that being hugged (a breeze!) can be painful! A cat on a lap can feel like bone grinding against bone. Your socks touching your toes can be a nightmare of pain. Your sheets and blankets touching your toes or legs can be so painful you are unable to sleep. Elastic touching you anywhere is pure hell. Imagine having even your clothes touching you your worst pain. It was so bad for one woman in her 30’s, with small children (and a husband) that she used Dr. Kevorkian to end her misery.
Here is a brief list of common symptoms of this disease:
o Chronic pain throughout the body
o Burning, numbness and tingling
o Tenderness when pressure is placed on or around the neck, elbows, hips, thighs and knees.
o Sleep disorders
o Chronic fatigue or exhaustion
o Facial Pain
o Jaw Pain (TMJ)
o Memory Loss
o Irritable Bowel
o Tension or Migraine Headaches
o High sensitivity to foods and medications (allergic type reaction).
o Minimal tolerance to heat and cold
o High sensitivity to bright lights and sounds
o Hair Loss
Because symptoms develop gradually, this disease is often misdiagnosed. It is often diagnosed as a repetitive strain injury; sleep disorder condition, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis or any other type of medical problem. Based on the American College of Rheumatology a person is diagnosed with Fibromylagia when he or she suffers pain throughout the body for at least three months and has 11 out of 18 tender points present.
Who Is Affected
Experts estimate that 3 million to 6 million Americans have Fibromyalgia. Of these, 80 percent are women. One of the main risk factors is being a woman between the age of 20 and 50. Another risk factor is having a rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or Sjogren’s syndrome. Fibromyalgia also seems to run in families, so a gene may be at least partly responsible for the condition. Most people with fibromyalgia begin to notice symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. But children and older adults may develop the condition. Women with fibromyalgia typically feel pain throughout their body.
Experts do not know what causes Fibromyalgia. There are several theories about possible causes or triggers. Inadequate sleep is a possible trigger. Another is suffering an injury or physical or emotional trauma that affects the brain, spine and nerves. Some experts believe that a viral or bacterial infection plays a part.
Abnormal production of pain-related chemicals in the nervous system also contributes to the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. It’s thought that any one of these factors may bring on the symptoms of Fibromyalgia in someone who is already genetically predisposed to the condition.
Treatment includes the following:
o Change in diet and nutrition
o Supplements geared toward Fibromyalagia
o Exercise: Gentle stretching such as warm water stretches and light aerobic activity, if possible.
o Physical Therapy under the guidance of a Chiropractor or Naturopathic
o Massage Therapy
o Avoidance of activities that over stress the body (Consider keeping a journal)
o Regulate sleep patterns
o Avoiding emotional stress
Nutrition is very important with this condition as with any serious physical condition. Avoid caffeine products, sugar, processed foods and fried foods. Low blood sugar (Hypoglycemia) is often a factor in causing the person with Fibromyalgia to feel fatigued. That is why a good nutrition program is very important, eating frequent small meals with some protein is very important in keeping the blood levels even.
Whole grains, seeds, nuts, yogurt, chicken, Turkey, organic beef, eggs, natural cheese and cottage cheese should form the base of your diet. Accompanied by Appropriate vegetables and a minimum amount of fruit.
A good quality multi-vitamin is absolutely essential with this condition. It’s important to replace what the body loses daily. If a person takes no other supplement but a multi-vitamin they’re helping to support their body daily. Co Q 10, in soft gel form 100mg, taken three times daily can help increase the energy.
There’s no definite cure for Fibromyalagia but there are certainly many alternative methods that can help you improve the quality of your life. The medical drug Lyrica has been helpful in relieving pain for many people with Fibromyalgia. I still find that natural medicine works best for me.
I find that deep tissue massage therapy performed regularly really keeps down the pain. When I’m going through a really bad time I always get a massage. It works better than any medicine.
Physical therapy that is performed at home is very important for Fibromyalgia. Warm water stretches performed at least three times weekly can be of tremendous help keeping the joints and muscles flexible. A Jacuzzi or hot tub is without a doubt one of the best treatments you can do at home, not only does it improve circulation you can also perform warm water stretches in it. If you have access to one and can use this daily you would see a tremendous change in the body. Using a moist heating pad on areas of pain for 20 minutes can ease the pain.
I also find that chiropractic care can bring tremendous relief. I always recommend people with Fibromyalgia seek out a Chiropractor who uses the activator method for physical therapy and pain relief. If you would like to find out about a doctor of chiropractic in your area who uses this method go to http://www.activator.com/qualified_doctors.asp
Take a proactive role in learning about fibromyalgia to help control it, and be vigilant about following your treatment plan. Emotional support is very important too. Living with fibromyalgia may be difficult if your family, friends or employer do not understand the condition. Seek out supportive family, friends, clergy, support groups or a mental health counselor.