Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia: When You Hurt and Don’t Understand Why

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 fibromyalgia definition

Fibromyalgia is a condition that results in extreme fatigue and muscle pain. Individuals with this condition have what is referred to as “tender points” on their body. These “tender points” are specific spots on the arms, back, hips, legs, neck, and shoulders that hurt when pressure is placed on them.

Individuals with this condition also experience other symptoms, such as the following:

  • Difficulty with sleeping
  • Stiffness upon waking in the mornings
  • Frequent headaches
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Tingling and/or numbness in feet and/or hands
  • Difficulty with memory and/or thinking (this is often referred to as “fibro fog”)

There is no clear cut cause for this condition. Anyone can have this condition, but it is most common in middle-age women. Individuals with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases affecting the immune system are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than those that are otherwise healthy.

There has been no cure found for fibromyalgia, but there are some things you can do to manage your symptoms, including taking medications, getting adequate rest, getting exercise, and maintaining a healthy diet.

Self- Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that has many different symptoms- therefore, it is necessary that you have a multi-faceted treatment approach in place.

While you can obtain treatment from the medical community from your general physician and specialists, to your dentist, and even chiropractor the very first line of defense should be at-home treatments.

When you employ these self-treatment techniques, you can effectively reduce the amount of pain and fatigue that you experience on a daily basis as well as regain the energy you need to get through your day.

Why Should You Treat Fibro at Home?

Chances are, you are wondering why you should bother treating your signs and symptoms of fibro on your own- especially if you have maintained a great relationship with your medical team, right? However, self-treatment is one of the most important parts of any successful treatment program for fibromyalgia or any other condition.

When you take an active part in controlling your symptoms, you are much more likely to avoid as many flares than someone who is just doing the bare minimum of what his/her physician recommends.

After all, medical treatments from your physician and even the alternative therapies that your naturopath will use are not enough to help with symptom management of fibromyalgia.

You must take an active role in controlling and reducing your symptoms and therefore giving yourself the necessary energy boost. The best way to take this active role is by employing some very common (and easy) at-home treatments.

What Do At-Home Treatments Do?

You should know that the benefits of using self-care treatments at home to manage and control your signs and symptoms of fibro are endless. First, you have the benefit that you are the one doing the treatment and therefore, you are the one in control.

If something is not working (and you have given it sufficient time to be effective) – you can cease using that treatment and move on to something else. Plus, at-home treatments are often very inexpensive and even free in some cases.

Here are some of the ways that at-home treatments can help to manage and control your symptoms of fibromyalgia:

  • Increase in energy levels
  • Immune system boost
  • Reducing/alleviating fatigue levels
  • Decreasing the occurrence of “fibro fog”

Most Common At-Home Treatments for Fibromyalgia

Of course, there are lots of different at-home treatments that can be used to manage your signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia. Following are some of the most common.

Dietary Changes

Many times, individuals with the condition of fibromyalgia will notice that there are specific foods that seem to trigger a flare of symptoms. On the other hand, there are also some foods that seem to alleviate the signs and symptoms of this condition.

However, though this is true, there has been no scientific evidence that actually links specific foods and/or beverages to fibro flares or remissions. Still, many sufferers of this condition do find relief when they learn to properly manage their diet. Taking the time and effort necessary to learn to successfully manage your diet can definitely be beneficial to your overall health at the very least.

For those who do notice dietary management helps to manage/control symptoms of fibro, there are specific foods that need to be avoided or at least minimized because they seem to trigger flares and even weaken overall immunity:

  1. Sugar
  2. Processed foods
  3. Alcohol
  4. Caffeine

As mentioned, some foods trigger flares and some seem to decrease the symptoms of this condition as well as offer an improvement to overall health. Following are some foods that should always be included in any healthy diet- even to help gain control of fibro symptoms:

  1. Raw veggies
  2. Water
  3. Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Always include Vitamins & Minerals

An integral part in any at-home fibro treatment program- as well as any healthy diet- is taking vitamins and minerals supplements on a daily basis. These supplements will ensure that you are definitely getting the vital nutrients to good overall health as well as to help decrease the signs and symptoms of this condition. Following are some of the vitamins/minerals you should include:

B-Complex

The vitamins in B-complex are very helpful in symptom reduction in fibro. Vitamin B-12 is especially beneficial for reducing nerve tingling and tenderness. In addition, B-vitamins are great for increasing your red blood cell count as well as protect the myelin sheath that is meant to protect your nerve endings.

The best thing to do is make sure you’re eating plenty of foods containing B-vitamins- but if this is not possible, at least consider taking a B-complex multivitamin.

Vitamin C

This vitamin can be found in many fresh fruits and veggies and is helpful for building up your natural immunity- which is effective for controlling the signs and symptoms of this condition. Additionally, vitamin C is very effective for reducing swelling. You should be getting somewhere between 250 to 500 milligrams of this vitamin each day- and while it’s best to get it naturally, a supplement will work also.

Get Adequate Exercise

Another very critical element in any good at-home treatment for this condition is getting plenty of exercise. While it’s true that the pain of fibro may make you a bit nervous about exercising, this will be beneficial for reducing the symptoms of this condition, especially stiffness of your muscles.

Of course, this is primarily because exercise forces you to use your muscles, which will prevent overall muscle loss and weakness. In addition, due to the release of endorphins, you will be able to stabilize your mood and boost your energy levels. Following are some tips for exercising:

  1. Try doing low-impact, aerobic exercises such as walking or swimming.
  2. Don’t push yourself at first- a few minutes each day is better than nothing and better than overdoing it.
  3. Try to reach a point where you’re spending thirty minutes each day, at least three times per week.
  4. Challenge yourself- but don’t push too hard. Forcing it could result in triggering a flare or increasing the severity of a flare of your symptoms.
  5. Don’t jump right in- make sure you take the time to stretch before getting started to warm up and afterwards to cool down.

fibromyalgia definition

Keep a Symptom & Activity Journal

It can be quite beneficial- especially to help with medical treatment- to keep a daily journal of what you are doing to gain control of your fibro symptoms. In addition, if you struggle with “fibro fog” it can be helpful to have a journal of appointments/events so that you can have an easier time remembering them.

The symptom journal will help you to keep track of your symptoms as well as what could possibly be aggravating them and controlling them. When you record all of this information, you paint a picture for your medical team and yourself of what your triggers are as well as what works best for helping ease symptoms.

Use Heat Therapy

One of the easiest things you can do in an at-home treatment program is heat therapy. You can use hot water bottles, heat packs, or even take hot baths/showers to ease your stiff, achy, and sore muscles.

Bring Your Doctor Home

There are some traditional fibro treatments that have typically been done in a physician’s office such as biofeedback and electrotherapy. However, there have been many medical advancements that have helped design these machines for home use- so you can do them on your own.

Of course, these are usually on a much smaller scale than you’d find in your physician’s office, but they are still quite effective for easing your symptoms, especially when you’re transitioning into treating your condition at home more and visiting your physician less.

Conditions that Often Occur with Fibro

There are a few conditions that are often found to occur with fibromyalgia, including the following:

  • Lupus
  • Lyme Disease
  • CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Chronic Myofascial Pain
  • Other Illnesses

Lupus

This is an autoimmune condition that is characterized by your body’s natural immune system attacking the chromosomes of its own cells. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, or SLE, is a chronic inflammatory condition that results in the following:

  1. Red rash
  2. Painful joints
  3. Extreme fatigue
  4. Persistent fever

In some severe cases, SLE can have an effect on vital organs and could possibly be a fatal condition. Discoid lupus is another form of this condition, and is much less severe, typically only affecting the skin.

More than 90 percent of those diagnosed with lupus also have muscle and/or joint pain during this illness. While the main cause of this pain is due to inflammation from the immune system attacking the body, in some cases it could be due to fibromyalgia. Approximately 40 percent of individuals with lupus will also be diagnosed with fibro at some point.

fibromyalgia definition

Lyme Disease

This is a condition that is spread by deer ticks and caused by a bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi. If a tick infected by this bacteria bites a human or animal, it can pass it along, resulting in it getting into the bloodstream and causing a variety of different symptoms- some of which can be quite severe.

In most cases, this condition starts out with a circular rash around the bite, resembling a bullseye and the individual will begin to have flu-like symptoms. If this condition is caught early enough, it can effectively be treated with a round of antibiotics. On the other hand, if it is not caught early enough, it can result in numbness, neurological problems, and arthritis symptoms. In some cases, Lyme disease has been known to trigger fibro onset or flares. Research has revealed that if an individual has fibro, antibiotic treatments will not alleviate symptoms.

Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome

This condition, also referred to as CFIDS, is a condition in which the individual experiences an extreme long-lasting fatigue. This fatigue will last for several months and does not respond to adequate rest. In order to be considered CFIDS, the fatigue must be extreme and last for six months or longer.

In addition to the fatigue itself, individuals with this condition often suffer from muscle and joint pain, fever, impaired memory, sore throat, and headaches. In order to rule out other possible conditions and confirm a diagnosis of CFIDS, blood tests must be performed.

There are some physicians and researchers that say CFIDS is the same condition as fibro. However, the thing that denies this conclusion is the fact that fibro is characterized by tender points on the body and CFIDS does not include this symptom. Additionally, some research does suggest that CFIDS is a result of a virus, but this evidence is controversial. In most cases, an individual with fibro will also suffer from CFIDS.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This condition, also referred to as RA, is an autoimmune disorder, much like lupus is. However, with RA, your immune system actually attacks the membrane lining of your joints, which results in a reduction in the range of motion you have as well as increases the levels of inflammation, stiffness, swelling, and pain in the affected joints.

Many times, people find it easy to become confused between the symptoms of RA and those of fibro. After all, both of these conditions are characterized by symptoms such as achiness upon waking, stiffness, and pain. However, when it comes to RA, there is also inflammation of the joints present, whereas with fibro there is none. Just like with the condition of lupus, between 10 and 40 percent of those who have RA will also develop fibro at some point in their lives.

Chronic Myofascial Pain

This condition is also known as CMP and usually goes together with fibro. CMP is characterized by continuous pain and spastic knots in your muscles. When the individual or someone else presses on these knots, pain results.

This condition can affect one single muscle or a group of muscles and can be the result of a specific trauma such as an injury or car accident or due to other major changes in the amounts of chemicals released or stressors in the nerve endings.

When the nerve endings release large concentrations of these chemicals, it results in knots which constrict blood flow. Therefore, this knot results in a spasm, which creates a cycle allowing the trigger point to continue. Since the blood flow is so low, the pain is often described as being similar to the pain of a toothache.

It is quite common for individuals to suffer from both CMP and fibro at the same time. They do carry with them many of the same signs and symptoms. However, you should be aware that these two conditions are very separate.

One of the major differences is that those with fibro typically have pain due to the hypersensitivity of their nerves and those with CMP have pain due to their muscles being in spasm. The best way to get an accurate diagnosis is to find out which one you’re experiencing- or if you’re experiencing both.

Other Illnesses

As you already know, if you are suffering from fibro, it’s not enough so simply know what is triggering your symptoms. You must also be aware if you are dealing with any other conditions. While the ones mentioned above are the most common conditions that co-exist with fibro, there are some others including:

  • Chronic yeast infection
  • Vulvodynia
  • Clinical depression
  • TMJ
  • Hypothyroidism
  • IBS
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • PTSD
  • Osteoarthritis

If you believe that you have these conditions along with your fibro, it is critical that you seek treatment. If you are able to get these conditions under control, it is possible that you can also get relief from your fibro symptoms.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/basics/definition/con-20019243

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fibromyalgia

 

 

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Coping Chronic Pain

1 Comment

  • As someone who has firsthand experience by watching my mother go through her daily life living with fibromyalgia, I can say that it’s truly something that our scientists and doctors need to find a cure for. Just the slightest touch on the hand or arm to her feels like a punch, and not to mention the overall feeling as if she has the flu. She takes a few medicines that helps some, but it never goes away. Now that more people are becoming award or are being diagnosed with it, she’s able to help them understand their pain, that it’s okay to have good and bay days, etc.

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