WORKING WITH FIBROMYALGIA
Just imagine waking up in the morning and having stiff painful muscles and joints plus trying to move normally. Even trying to make it to the bathroom seems like an ordeal. Well, countless people all over the world experience this and more. Now picture yourself having painful areas on both sides of your body and getting worse when you touch them or press down on them. Suffering like this on a daily basis and for three months continuously has led medical professionals to diagnose this condition as fibromyalgia. Actually the term “fibromyalgia” means pain in muscle or fibrous tissue.
Besides the chronic pain, fibromyalgia sufferers also encompass migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome or other gastro-intestinal encumbrances, fatigue, lethargy, pain in the jaw while chewing, unable to sleep well or sleep at all, odd reactions to sensory input, and facial muscle pain. Joint pain can be very mild to severe and cause an assortment of disabilities. Activities we tend to take for granted like walking, getting up, standing for periods of time, reaching, grasping, holding and even turning our neck to look at something can be real challenging for persons with fibromyalgia. This is no ordinary malady and there is no cure. It is very complicated and misunderstood as some other diseases are. Even though the list of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia is by far incomplete, it just can’t be ignored or dismissed that easy.
More women than men suffer this disease. It can start as early as 20 years old but most likely at 30 to 55 years old and increasing to the age of 70. As you grow older it can be most debilitating.
Another characteristic of fibromyalgia are the 9 pairs of trigger points located on both sides of the body. These happen to be in the neck (front and back), between the shoulder blades, at the sternum in the chest, the elbows, knees, the shoulders, the hips and lower back. When pressed down on, these tender points emit steady throbbing or burning pain that seems to radiate onward to another part of the body, for example, pressing on the elbow shoots the pain upward or downward the arm. Although the pain is felt at these sites, there is no visible swelling or inflammation related to fibromyalgia.
WAYS TO TREAT FIBROMYALGIA
Several ways are available to treat fibromyalgia. The best known are the use of medications to get rid of the pain. Pain puts your life on hold and saps all your energy. It can take your will to live out of you, however, there are ways to endure and even cope with it so you can live a somewhat normal life.
Many patients seek the help of a physical therapist. These are specially trained medical professionals that focus their treatments on the relief of pain in localized areas. Some therapists use a gentle massage of the painful areas, taking care not to aggravate the tissues, while others may start with light pressure working up to a tolerable point of discomfort in order to loosen tight muscles. At times a topical anesthetic lotion may be gently rubbed onto the painful areas giving a cooling and relieving sensation for a while. Ice has also been used in providing relief of pain.
Fibromyalgia therapy programs are also available in some areas and show positive results in their patients, which are seen in group settings followed by an individual evaluation given by a physical or occupational therapist. Attending regularly proves a positive track record.
Keeping active is very important and most physical therapists incorporate exercise as a means to do that. Light to moderate exercise is better than none. Stretching and strengthening, along with exercises did in a swimming pool all deliver some pain relief. Pool workouts benefit more because of the lack of weight on the knees, feet or hips and lower back. Water is great therapy in itself and the use of hot relaxing baths or Jacuzzi, hot tub, whirlpool therapies really make a difference in finding relief of the pain.
Occupational therapists, on the other hand are rarely seen compared to physical therapists. These also are specially trained people focusing on the management of the pain instead of concentrating on ways to relieve it. Changes in one’s lifestyle or the activities in daily living can improve an individual’s lifetime dramatically. Finding a balance between work, play and rest, setting goals, knowing your limitations, learning to adapt techniques, better sleep hygiene, improving communication with doctors or support groups and following a schedule developed by an occupational therapist can help fibromyalgia sufferers enjoy life better.
Fibromyalgia may not be curable but it can be managed. Studies are still conducted on this condition and hopefully will reveal a cure soon.