Fibromyalgia is a chronic health condition characterised by widespread muscle pain, chronic fatigue and poor sleep. The pain can vary in location and intensity and is often described as stabbing, aching or burning. It affects all four quadrants of the body and many people feel like they “hurt all over”. In addition, people with fibromyalgia have ‘tender points’ in specific areas of the body. When these tender points are pressed it causes pain in someone with fibromyalgia, whereas a normal, healthy person would only feel pressure.
Tell Me More About the Pain
It is thought that the way the brain processes pain is different in people with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia sufferers become overly sensitive to pain and we find things painful that we really shouldn’t. For example, I find that touching my upper arms can be painful! The technical terms are
The technical terms are hyperalgesia (being extremely sensitive to pain) and allodynia (feeling pain from something that shouldn’t be painful). In addition to being hypersensitive to pain, fibromyaglia sufferers can also be sensitive to noise, smells, chemicals, certain food and bright lights.
These sensitivities can sometimes feel like a ‘sensory overload’ and can lead to flare-ups of other fibromyalgia symptoms. Changes in the weather also interestingly can cause flare ups.
What is the Chronic Fatigue Like?
The fatigue can range from feeling tired to full on exhaustion similar to what you would experience if you were floored with the flu. I personally cannot remember the last time I felt full of energy or didn’t feel tired at some point during the day.
At it’s worst I end up crashed on the sofa and can’t bring myself to do very much at all. It sucks big time! On a bad day even doing simple tasks can be draining or downright impossible. Pacing yourself is extremely important and if you over do it on a good day, you find yourself paying for this by feeling crappy and exhausted for days following it.
Poor Sleep Plays a Big Part
People with fibromyalgia generally do not sleep well and often do not get enough deep restorative sleep. So we go to bed tired and wake up damn tired too, which sucks. Insomnia can be a big problem and many people find it difficult to get to sleep but I personally don’t have that problem.
I fall asleep easily but wake up a few times through the night. I’m only awake long enough to be able to see what time it is and I then drift off again. My sleep has certainly improved since having reflexology sessions and I have also found a difference through taking the supplement L-theanine.
I used to be more restless through the night and I stopped dreaming too but this has improved and I can even have periods where I sleep really well. Despite all of this I still suffer from fatigue, just not as severe as it was previously, and wake up feeling tired.
Are There any Other Symptoms?
Unfortunately there is a whole list of them!
» Cognitive problems, often referred to as ‘Fibro Fog’. Fibromyalgia messes with your brain big time! Let’s see… inability to concentrate, forgetting things, confusion, difficulty learning new things or recalling information. And my personal bug bear- saying the wrong damn thing without even meaning to. This can be saying a random word you don’t mean to say, muddling up the letters in words so that you come out with jargon or putting the start/end of different words together and coming out with nonsense. Fibromyalgia can make the intelligent person feel embarrassed and like a bit of a twat at times!
» Headaches– anywhere from mild discomfort to a full blown migraine.
» Hot flushes and feeling cold to the core. Your body cannot regulate temperature properly. Hello to feeling like you are going through ‘the change’ only to be frozen and looking for your hot water bottle the next minute.
» Tinnitus– an annoying, persistent ringing in your ears.
» Restless leg syndrome– feeling like you want to chop your legs off because of horrible, unpleasant sensations in your legs.
» IBS type symptoms.
» Bladder issues. Some days I think my bladder just likes to mess with me. I urgently have to pee a zillion times when there really is no need!
» Itchiness and skin irritability.
» Feeling low… well wouldn’t you be at times if you had to contend with all of the above?
This All Sounds Horrible! What Causes it?
Fibromyalgia is scarily common. It is thought to affect 1 in 20 people worldwide. Despite this, it is a condition that is not properly understood. Heck, some doctors argue it does not even exist (bullshit to that!). It primarily affects woman (though men can also suffer from it too) and there may be a genetic predisposition towards developing fibromyalgia.
It is believed to be triggered by a physical or emotional trauma but often the cause may be unexplained. In addition to what I mentioned above regarding the brain processing pain differently, people with fibromyalgia have been found to have lower than normal levels of certain hormones (serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline). This may play a key role in the cause of fibromyalgia.
Improving Your Symptoms
I personally felt like I had tried everything and anything in an attempt to improve my fibromyalgia symptoms. A huge flare up in July 2014, which was severely debilitating and lasted for months, made me lose hope of ever feeling better. Right at the point where I was ready to accept that my health may never improve, I read a book called “Suffered Long Enough” by Dr. William Rawls. I resonated with this book and it sparked the fight in me to want to better my health. I have made significant improvements to my health and no longer take any traditional medications.
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