BACK TO THE BASICS: FIBROMYALGIA

Happy New Year everyone!  I decided to start the new year getting back to basics.  We have been learning new things about Fibromyalgia everyday, so I am going to go over the facts for you.

The three primary symptoms that are common to almost everyone with fibromyalgia are pain, fatigue and sleep disorders.  We all know about these but what I want to talk about are the other symptoms that may or may not show up.  The symptoms that not everyone gets. The ones where you wonder whether this is part of the fibro or is this something else starting which may include allergies, irritable bowel, irritable bladder, headaches, migraines, dizziness, numbness and tingling, sensitivity to cold or heat, depression, restless legs syndrome, chemical or environmental sensitivities, impaired balance or coordination, dry eyes and mouth, vision problems, or problems with memory, concentration and cognitive functioning, and not to mention chest pain which I already spoke of in another post.

Fibro-Fog

Am I losing my mind?

Sometimes it does feel like it with the memory and cognitive difficulties Fibromyalgia(FM) causes.  They include:

  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Inability to retain what is read
  • Word-finding difficulty
  • Inability to calculate numbers
  • Slowed comprehension
  • Impaired speech
  • Inability to keep track of things
  • Problems with reasoning

“Fibro-fog” is the term used to describe the cognitive functioning problems.  It’s an accurate description because it feels as if your brain is in a thick fog, unable to “see” its surroundings.

Chest Pain- Costochondritis

Am I having a Heart Attack?

I have written a post concerning this one topic. Here is a brief summary, to read more about it you can go here It is a chest pain that can be sharp and jabbing.  It can easily be mistaken for heart problems including heart attack and stroke.  Actually it is the cartilage between the ribs and the chest bone becoming inflamed and sore.  You will probably find it hard to move your upper body without the sharp pain in your chest.  It takes you off guard. Costochondritis affects about 70% of FM sufferers.  The pain can last for days or even months, and can reappear at anytime.

Depression & Anxiety

Depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, personality changes and panic attacks are all symptoms that may accompany FM.  They do not cause it; in fact, they are more likely to be the result of it.  According to Dr.Robert Bennett, a renowned FM expert and researcher, the number of FM patients who experience depression is no greater than for any other chronic illness.

If you have symptoms of depression, anxiety, or any of the other mood disorders mentioned, be sure to talk with your doctor about it.  Left untreated, these symptoms can actually exacerbate many of your other symptoms (e.g., Anxiety causes stress; stress contributes to pain, insomnia, increased fatigue, digestive problems, etc.) and can seriously interfere with your quality of life.

Digestion & IBS

Digestive problems and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) frequently accompany fibromyalgia.  Abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort are the main symptoms of IBS.  Some people also experience constipation; others have chronic diarrhea; and some alternate between constipation and diarrhea.

Cold/Heat Intolerance

Most people with FM report being extremely sensitive to cold and/or heat.  As with most FM symptoms, this seems to be related to the hypersensitivity that occurs with fibromyalgia.

Headaches & Migraines

Many people with fibromyalgia say they also suffer from frequent headaches and/or migraines.  It’s important to note that headaches and migraines are two very different things.  A migraine is not just a really bad headache.  It is a genetic neurological disease that is characterized by flare-ups, which are called migraine attacks.  While head pain is common with migraines, it is possible to have a migraine attack without having a headache.

I have found that the “fibro-headache” can often feel close to a migraine, but no specific migraine medication will be effective.  I suffer from both; the migraine and fibro-headache and there is a difference.  They are also different from a regular tension headache.  Sometimes I feel the fibro-headache is more incapacitating than a migraine because it is harder to treat.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

This could be one reason for poor sleep and the feeling of exhaustion that people with FM have. Approximately 30 percent of people with FM also have Restless Leg Syndrome(RLS).  RLS is a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move when at rest. People describe these unpleasant sensations as burning, creeping, tugging, or like insects crawling inside the legs.  The sensations may range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful.

To relieve the discomfort of RLS you must keep the legs in motion.  This causes constant tossing and turning in bed and often having to get up and walk to relieve the sensations. This leaves you exhausted by morning.

Causes

Even though scientists are still not sure what causes FM, they do agree that it is triggered by either physical trauma, in the form of injury or illness,  or emotional trauma that produces severe prolonged stress.

Research has also shown that Fibromyalgia has real physical abnormalities, including:

  • Decreased blood flow to specific areas of the brain, particularly the thalamus region, which may help explain the pain sensitivity and cognitive functioning problems fibromyalgia patients experience.
  • High levels of “substance P,” a central nervous system neurotransmitter involved in pain processing.
  • Low levels of nerve growth factor.
  • Low levels of somatomedin C, a hormone that promotes bone and muscle growth.
  • Low levels of several neurochemicals: serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine and cortisol.
  • Low levels of phosphocreatine and adenosine, muscle-cell chemicals.

It has only been in the last couple of years that progress is being made.  Hopefully this will continue to or even accelerate since the number of people being diagnosed are only growing not declining each year.

Have a Great Day!!

Donna

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About Donna

I am a Certified Reiki Practitioner, freelance writer, poet and mentor of Life.
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