Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that includes widespread pain, fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
As of now, Fibromyalgia has NO CURE, and it is up to each of us to learn how to cope with our changing needs, our limitations, and our new normals.
Woman between the ages of 30-50 makes up the majority of the over 1 million Canadians with Fibromyalgia. - According to Statistics Canada, and that number is growing.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that includes widespread muscle and joint pain, fatigue & non-restorative sleep, and cognitive disorders (also known as Fibro Fog).
Patients also have increased sensitivities to foods. Many report being sensitive to chemicals, weather, and temperatures. To being hypersensitive to noise, touch, lights and other everyday stimuli. Chronic headaches and migraines, hormonal issues and unexplained weight gain are real struggles for people. Fibromyalgia has over 150 symptoms and comorbid conditions to possibly be dealing with.
Fibromyalgia is under-researched and highly misunderstood in the medical community. Often it is a combination of medical complaints that once tested further, often presents as "normal". It can take years of varied symptoms, different doctors and specialists and a ton of tests and procedure before an official diagnosis is given. Getting diagnosed with Fibromyalgia can be a long, arduous task because it is so easily misunderstood. It seems to be a diagnosis when there is nothing "else".
"Fibromyalgia, a condition that can wax and wane over time, should be diagnosed in an individual with diffuse body pain that has been present for at least 3 months, and who may also have symptoms of fatigue, sleep disturbance, cognitive changes, mood disorder, and other somatic symptoms to variable degree, and when symptoms cannot be explained by some other illness" the Canadian Fibromyalgia Guidelines (http://fmguidelines.ca/)
The cause of Fibromyalgia is still unknown, but it is believed that trauma, stress, viral infections or family history may play a part in developing Fibromyalgia. There is also no known cure, or universal "medical action plans" because of the vast amount and severity of possible symptoms and the different ways our bodies respond to these symptoms. Did you know, a sudden, temporary increase in the severity of symptoms is often referred to as a "Fibro Flare"?
*I am not pro or anti-medication, or suggesting the use of any product or therapy - each person should discuss all medical options with a doctor*
What are your options once you find out its Fibromyalgia?
Doctors can prescribe a range of medications to help control symptoms. This is often the first option given by doctor's, other than eating better, exercise and lose weight. Medications can work at managing Fibromyalgia for some people, but many others find there is a no relief from taking medications, or that the side effects are worse than the symptoms.
I fall into this category, meds were prescribed and taken, and helped for a few years… however the doses finally got to be too high, and the side effects were making me much sicker than I had been before. I am working to wean off the last very soon (minus some needed medication, like my Hypothyroid medication).
Other ways people are using to control symptoms is through diet, many finding they are sensitive or intolerant of certain foods, needing to eliminating gluten, sugar and/or dairy. Vitamin's, supplements and probiotics (magnesium, turmeric, fish oils) are being turned to as an addition defense.
I personally am lactose intolerant and highly sensitive to MSG. Soy and artificial sweeteners have also been eliminated from my diet. As a result, we buy real food, and cook from scratch, about 95% of the time. We rarely order in or go out for meals. The trade off of convivence to quality has made a huge improvement in my quality of life.
Lifestyle changes can make coping with Fibromyalgia a little more manageable (hopefully). Gentle exercise is good, things like walking and yoga or even doing household chores. Meditation, mindfulness and breath techniques can be learned online (YouTube has tons) and can help to reduce stress, feel grounded and mentally relaxed.
Alternate therapies are becoming more and more popular in the "self-care" category, people with Fibromyalgia are finding, through trial and error, what works to help ease the pain and other symptoms. Massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, reflexology and water therapy are a few of the many options available, depending on where you live. How often or for how long… really depends on your ability and needs.
I have even tried Prolotherapy, a series of injections performed by a holistic doctor. How often or for how long… really depends on your ability and needs. I also have used massage, chiropractic, and reflexology (to name a new) with varying results.
Fibromyalgia is not fatal, but it can have a major impact on every aspect of life, many disabling. A good support system is ideal, but not everyone has that, so learning new skills, to adapt to new ways of handling everyday tasks and challenges are necessary! And hopefully, you find a good quality of life, through whatever means available to you!
Taking the time to get to know the real you WITH Fibromyalgia before starting medication, that way you will be able to gauge what is actually a symptom or a side effect.
Have patience with yourself, no matter if you are newly diagnosed or have decided to have a more hands-on approach to your medical choices. It takes time to establish new habits, new "normals" and to learn new skills.
Have patients with your doctor, he is probably just as frustrated as you. Even if he has other Fibro patients, you are different, you have different needs, different coping methods, different support systems. He is hopeful every time you see him, that something has improved! However, if you don't feel heard or supported, your doctor may not be a good fit.
Have patience with your friends and family, they are watching you struggle, they are struggling with you as they try and support you. Your "new normals" are also there "new normals", and if you are finding it difficult, they probably are too.