I want to start by saying that I have fibromyalgia myself. There's no known cure for fibromyalgia, but treatments like painkillers, talking therapies and exercise programs can help ease some symptoms. No one really knows what causes fibromyalgia. Doctors believe It can start after a stressful event like an injury, illness or the death of a loved one.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia, vary from person to person. The main symptom is pain all over your body. It is accompanied by fatigue, the increased need to sleep, memory problems and mood changes. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way our brain and spinal cord process our pain signals.
I’ve outlined below some causes and symptoms of fibro and a brief statement of how it affects my own day-to-day life, while working with The Great Care Company.
The Symptoms of Fibromyalgia:
The primary symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Widespread pain: The pain associated with fibromyalgia often is described as a constant dull ache (I say like a Chinese burn) that has lasted for at least three months. To be considered 'widespread', the pain must occur on both sides of your body, above and below your waist.
- Fatigue: People with fibromyalgia often wake up tired, even though they report sleeping for long periods of time. Sleep is often disrupted by pain, and many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea. (I have restless legs and have trouble falling asleep which can keep me awake all night)
- Cognitive difficulties: A symptom commonly referred to as "fibro fog" impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks. Short-term memory can be affected. I use notebooks to try to keep organised. You learn to find workarounds that help but you may still have to make a little extra effort.
Fibromyalgia often co-exists with other conditions, such as:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Migraines and other types of headaches
- Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome
- Temporomandibular joint disorders
- Postural tachycardia syndrome
The pain, fatigue, and poor sleep quality associated with fibromyalgia can interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job. The frustration of dealing with an often-misunderstood condition also can result in depression and health-related anxiety.
What Is Living With Fibromyalgia Like?
I find it difficult for people without a chronic pain condition to understand what a toll it can take. To wake every day to know you will be in pain and tired and to try and take on a normal day is both physically and mentally draining. Just standing to wash the dishes can be an effort sometimes.
People with Fibro may promise to go and do something but when it comes to it we can be too sore or too tired or the anxiety takes over. You will lose friends who think you're a letdown. It’s hard to even get out of bed some days.
But you learn to adapt and find ways around the condition. You know what to expect and you understand the signs and symptoms so you make the most of each day, regardless of how you feel.
Learning To Live With My Fibromyalgia
Getting in a warm bath can ease some of the pain but it can hurt to get out; I once got stuck for an hour as I just didn’t have the strength to get out.
I find having the responsibility of clients waiting for a visit, pushes me to do more than I would on my good days. That can be beneficial in the exercise part of controlling my condition but not so much the anxiety.
I don’t like letting anyone down or putting pressure on others but unavoidably I do have to call in sick sometimes.
Overcoming the Stigma
People who receive a fibro diagnosis are often fobbed off as a hypochondriac for years by family and healthcare professionals, I know I was. It’s an awful condition that a sufferer has to learn to live with and find ways to cope with.
We have to sometimes compromise on what we want to do as just one day out can leave us sore and tired for many days after. Pain clinic teaches the boom-bust theory where you have your good days and you think you’ll get everything done that you’ve been putting off but then your bad days could be worse and last weeks instead of days. It’s finding the right balance for the individual because as stated above, fibro varies from person to person.
Resources To Help With Fibromyalgia:
The disorder is still not fully understood but there is a lot more information available about it than there was a few years ago. If you or someone you love is showing the symptoms (pain sensitivity, extreme tiredness, muscle stiffness, sleeping problems, extreme tiredness, headaches, or mood changes) then please do seek a professional diagnosis.
The NHS is fantastic with the advice and information they share and you can find a wealth of information in this Guide to Fibromyalgia.
I really hope this helps you all to understand fibromyalgia and the effects it has on its sufferers.
Emma - Home Care Assistant at The Great Care Company.