Fibromyalgia: the mosaic of treatments

“To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom”, Bertrand Russell

I believe that those of us with central sensitization, that is, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue , or to call it by another name -“post traumatic stress disorder”, all suffer from chronic anxiety/ fear. These terms are , in my view,  interchangeable. They can keep us imprisoned without recourse and in a state of hopelessness. In fact, the US Department of Health and Human Services has developed a new name which can even be part of our repertoire, that is, “Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disorder”. In short, more diagnostic criteria are available for health professionals who are interested in tagging us. It is true that we have little energy along with our other challenges, but are we just a collection of  symptoms?

For almost a decade now I have been writing about how those of us with these conditions ( read: condition) have options regarding a better quality of life. Yet, in spite of my preaching I find myself, like others, often recounting yet another symptom of central sensitization almost ignoring the gestalt. Note for example the hundreds of comments or ‘hits’ I have on the two most popular blogs of 1) itching and 2) tingling and numbness of arms. One would never have imagined that these two symptoms would be so problematic! Yet, those of us who suffer from specific symptoms focus on them often to the exclusion of what can be done to improve our daily lives.

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Fibromyalgia is NOT a ‘Disease’! Manual therapists to “help”?

“Names are not always what they seem”, Mark Twain

How to go about convincing experts and the general population that fibromyalgia is not a disease, but a Medically Unexplained Syndrome (MUS)? It is in fact, a dis-ease. It is mysterious in the ways in which it exhibits itself with a vast array of features, but the cause can be explained as an uneasy central nervous system! What is implied in that name? Generally it is ‘sore all over’. Fibromyalgia is a compilation of various symptoms such as pain, fatigue, itching, depression, digestive upsets and such a variety of psycho-social- biological challenges that are almost too numerous to cite. The onset :  occurs in a highly sensitive, anxious person, with a chronically hyper-aroused nervous system, the fearful amygdala of the brain in hyper-vigilant mode, and generally, but not exclusively, is brought on after a traumatic event, such as an accident or surgery, divorce or the death of a loved one and especially such traumatic events as wars.. Its twin is PTSD. Over time muscles and subsequently joints become increasingly painful and the quality of life suffers.

Is there a type of person more prone to fibro? Well, an anxious personality is a predisposing factor. Whether or not it is a personality trait that one is born with or acquired is up for debate. The person is a ‘type’, but not all anxious persons have fibromyalgia, however the opposite is true, that is, those with fibromyalgia have a history of anxiety. The mind and the body cannot be separated and are together joined forever. It is not a ‘curable’ dis-ease, but there is life after the diagnosis. So let us lighten up a bit for a few seconds! Bright flamingos should bring a smile to our faces, even if it is temporary ( I took this picture in Paris two years ago. These flamingoes did not have fibromyalgia). The more we smile the more the nervous system tells the brain there isn’t any danger, so relax and breathe. FIBROMYALGIA IS NOT LIFE THREATENING. But, it IS challenging! What is to be done for relief?

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Fibromyalgia and Brain Fog: Stop, Breathe & Think

“My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery-always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring diving, and then buried in mud”, Virginia Woolf

To live a life in a state of high anxiety, boarding on panic, is common among those of us with fibromyalgia. We anticipate pain, fatigue, muddled thoughts, and a myriad of other symptoms almost every waking (and sleeping!) hour. It has become a habit that often seems unable to be broken and depression and fear set in. Often accompanying this is the brain fog, the confusion that often does not allow us to focus or to think clearly. Some describe the sensation as “fuzzy brain”, “spaced out”, “dreamy”,  “brain farts” or just plain forgetfulness.Whatever the label those of us with the condition know it is often accelerated by over stimulation, lack of sleep, pain, stress and anxiety. The new medical term is now “dyscognition“.  It would seem that the brain has difficulty in responding to stimuli because of a hyper-aroused central nervous system, a phrase I keep repeating over and over again in my many blogs. These habits of the brain are strong and require discipline that is challenging to break free from since they have accumulated over many years. Stress and all that it encompasses is, in my view, a main culprit.

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Medications, Medications and more Medications: Fibromyalgia Medicalized

“Doctors are men who prescribe medicine of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing”,Voltaire

Those of us with chronic conditions are constantly seeking relief from the myriad of symptoms that make our lives very challenging. Pain, fatigue, lack of physical abilities, sleep disturbances, depression, rashes, to name but a few of the minor to serious struggles with which we are faced lead us to desperately wanting relief in the form of medications. Living with any one of the daily distressing symptoms affects our quality of life and it is little wonder that we seek help in the form of chemicals to help us get through the day. Many, in fact, are essential to our conditions without which we could not survive. Others are prescribed from the sheer frustration of physicians who want to help but medical answers to many perplexing conditions are not yet available to them. Such is the case with fibromyalgia. What to do with a patient who has chronic pain but to prescribe a pain medication, that may or may not help? If the patient cannot sleep there is a solution: sleep medication. Depression and anxiety? Medications for altering moods.The list of medications for all sorts of conditions is limitless. Pharmaceutical companies are big booming businesses whose profits know no bounds.Physicians could not possibly remember the vast array of information that the drug reps tell them about their efficacy or that they learn about on line. More to the point ‘new’ diseases and conditions are constantly being ‘discovered’ for which new drugs must be invented. Read : The Medicalization of Everyday Life by Thomas Szasz, a psychiatrist, whose work in mental illness was compulsory reading for me as a medical sociology student in graduate school, many years ago.

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Fibromyalgia and gentle yoga

” Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured”, B.K.S.Iyengar

Many years ago I regularly attended Iyengar Yoga classes with a very talented Halifax  instructor, David Thomas.q87556745869_9936 I believe that it helped me keep up with regular activities and my professional career. For the past two decades I have not done yoga even though I knew that the benefits would sustain me as I grew older. I lacked discipline and the pain and fatigue has increased considerably since then. I have very little flexibility.

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Fibromyalgia and Activities for Strength/Flexibility/Cardiovascular Health

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it”, Plato one-to-one-001

The search continues for the ultimate regime that strengthens and improves our overall health. From the ‘pump iron’ mantra… to the videos about Pilates… to the parks filled with the Tai Chi practitioners… to the joggers on our sidewalks…to the yoga clubs whose numbers continue to swell, we are left in a state of frustration and confusion, particularly if we can sometimes barely walk! What is to be done?

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Fibromyalgia and the attempt to quantify and describe the pain

“We also often add to our own pain and suffering by being overly sensitive, over-reacting to minor things, and sometimes taking things too personally”, Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dali Lama quote 1.75_finalist_PMS877

One of the difficult issues that people with fibromyalgia grapple with is trying to describe their pain to others. Words such as ache, raw, ragged, searing, blistering, shocking, nagging pain do not always convey the message; the list of adjectives is endless. The vocabulary is not precise and it can be a daunting task to find the right words. Even more frustrating is that the nature of the pain itself changes, sometimes from hour to hour or day to day. Equally as  problematic are the areas of the body where the pain attacks, as that too can vary from one place to another or, pain can occur in several areas of the body simultaneously.

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