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Fibromyalgia - Chronic Pain Syndrome

Updated on November 13, 2012
Chronic Pain Syndrome and FMS can make the affected person feel tired and depressed.
Chronic Pain Syndrome and FMS can make the affected person feel tired and depressed. | Source

Living With Chronic Pain

If you’re living with chronic pain on a regular basis, with no apparent cause, you might have fibromyalgia. I learned a lot about this condition when I was diagnosed with it several years ago. That was before my doctors and MRIs revealed that I actually had foraminal stenosis. I do, however, have a best friend with fibro. I often think that doctors sometimes diagnose a patient with fibromyalgia when they’re not sure what’s causing the pain. Sometimes called chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia affects more women than it does men. It's not considered to be dangerous or harmful to the body, but it can certainly be hard to deal with from those suffering with the condition. Even more frustrating is the attitude that many people, including doctors, have toward the condition. People who have fibromyalgia often appear to be well, so some people might not believe the complaints. Unfortunately, this might even include physicians. When my doctors thought I had fibro, one of them told me he had never believed in it until his wife developed it. That made a believer out of him!

Fibromyalgia includes widespread pain.
Fibromyalgia includes widespread pain. | Source

What is Fibromyalgia:

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Most doctors are not sure what causes fibromyalgia, or fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), and most also know little about it. Some think it is related to how the brain interprets and processes external stimuli. A person with fibromyalgia might feel sharp pain from just a touch, when a person without the condition would experience no discomfort. Many doctors believe that fibromyalgia results from super-sensitive nerves. In other words, the neurotransmitters in the brain might get “out of whack” for some reason. Some physicians believe that FMS has a genetic link, too.

Sometimes the syndrome might follow a period of mental or emotional stress, or it might follow a serious injury or illness. Oftentimes, however, there’s no single event that can cause a person to develop FMS. Generally speaking, most sufferers don’t just wake up one morning with the condition. It usually develops over time and follows a cycle of flairs and remissions. Some flairs can be worse and longer lived than others.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia can include frequent headaches.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia can include frequent headaches. | Source

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Fibromyalgia symptoms sometimes differ from person to person. Most people who suffer from fibromyalgia experience widespread pain. They might have days when they have little pain, and other days when they can barely get out of bed. These bad days are referred to as "flairs." In addition, they might be hypersensitive to noises, light, heat, cold, and even smells. They might also have periods of mental confusion, known as "fibro fog." Many people with fibromyalgia also have periods of extreme physical fatigue, for no apparent reason. Even when extreme fatigue is present, the person might have trouble asleep and staying asleep, and he might also experience restless leg syndrome.

Other symptoms of fibromyalgia might include dry mouth, dry eyes, tingling in the extremities, pain in the abdomen, incontinence, and headaches. Anxiety and depression are commonly seen, too. These could be symptoms of fibromyalgia, or they could be the results of living with chronic pain. I think most people understand how such a scenario would be extremely stressful. People with the condition might also experience bouts of diarrhea, constipation, or both.

Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

A fibromyalgia diagnosis is tricky. Physicians often depend on concrete evidence from tools like blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, urine tests, and x-rays to be able to diagnose an illness. Unfortunately, you can’[t put FMS under a microscope or look for it an MRI. Nothing will show up. Doctors have to depend on a patient interview and a physical exam to make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome.

At your appointment, your physician will probably ask you questions about where you hurt and about how you feel, in general. He’ll most likely check your “tender points,” too. these are specific locations on the body that are likely to overreact from a gentle stimulus – if you have fibromyalgia. These tender points are located on the inner knees, the outside of the hips, the elbows, the neck, the back part of the head, the upper part of the chest, near the shoulder blades, and the tops of the shoulders. In all, there are eighteen tender points, but you don’t have to have pain in them all for a fibromyalgia diagnosis. If you have eleven tender points and have experienced widespread pain for a period of at least ninety days, your doctor can make a diagnosis for fibromyalgia, based on the guidelines of the American College of Rheumatology. And, by the way, a rheumatologist is probably your best bet for treatment for fibromyalgia.

A TENS unit might provide pain relief.
A TENS unit might provide pain relief. | Source

Fibromyalgia Treatment

Living with fibromyalgia is challenging. There's no single fibromyalgia treatment that works for everyone. Part of the problem is that so little is known about the condition. You look fine on the outside, but you feel miserable. For those who have never experienced fibromyalgia firsthand, this is a difficult concept to grasp. It doesn't show up on an x-ray or blood test or on a CT scan.

If you have fibromyalgia or chronic pain syndrome, it's important for you to develop a support system. Make your family and friends aware of your limitations, and have them read information about the condition from reputable sources. Help them to understand how you feel.

Treatment for Fibromyalgia also includes learning and acknowledging your own limitations. Don't work to the point of exhaustion. When you first begin to feel tired, stop and rest. Learn to say no when you don't feel well. Try to get enough sleep every night by establishing a sleep routine. Keep your bedroom cool and dark, and provide some soothing "white noise" like a fan, or invest in a sound machine that plays calming sounds like rain, the ocean, or a summer night. I use a sound machine, and it works great. Mine has a number of sound selections, but I almost always keep it on “rain.”

Keep your muscles supple with mild exercise and stretching. Therapeutic massage also provides relief to many fibromyalgia sufferers. A wonderful place to exercise is in a swimming pool, where the water relieves the stress of muscles without putting extra weight on joints. For moderate to severe pain, a TENS unit can be used.

Many doctors prescribe drugs for their patients with fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome. Some of these prescriptions include Lyrica, Flexeril, and Tramadol. If you take pain medications, take them only on your worst days. If you use them frequently, they will lose their effectiveness, and worse, you could become addicted. I tried taking Lyrica, but I had an allergic reaction to the drug. A little while after I took the first dose, I felt great – almost like I was high. I soon fell asleep, and when I woke up, my arms were itching and broken out in a rash. My doctor didn’t think the Lyrica had caused it, so I took a second dose the next. I had the same reaction, so no more Lyrica for me!

Meditation and other relaxation techniques provide relief for some people. You can easily find information about these topics at your nearest library or online. You might also want to give Yoga a try. Apparently, the stretching really helps some people with FMS.

A Fibromyalgia Diet might restrict eggs, dairy, gluten, and MSG.
A Fibromyalgia Diet might restrict eggs, dairy, gluten, and MSG. | Source

Fibromyalgia Diet

Some fibromyalgia victims claim their symptoms improve when they follow a healthy fibromyalgia diet. Be sure you get enough protein, fiber, fruits, and vegetables every day. It's also a good idea to include a multivitamin. It’s also best to eat several smaller meals throughout the day than to consume just a couple of big meals.

Some doctors recommend a specific diet for fibromyalgia. In addition to eating healthy foods, they recommend avoiding certain foods and other substances. Physicians who treat FMS have discovered that these foods trigger FMS symptoms in some of their patients. Things to avoid include monosodium glutamate (MSG), dairy products, eggs, gluten, and/or food preservatives. Not all these foods will negatively affect all FMS sufferers. To find out which, if any, make your condition worse, isolate the different foods and try just one at a time. Write down how you felt after eating each one. If you find that a food serves as a trigger to pain or other symptoms, try to avoid it in the future.

Living With Fibromyalgia:

Living With Fibromyalgia

If you’re living with fibromyalgia, you know it can be difficult. I’ve seen my friend on days when she could barely move. She has a great attitude, however, so she refuses to let FMS ruin her life. On her good days, she takes full advantage of feeling well, while being careful not to overdo it. She’s also developed a great support system. She has a great husband and friends who are more than willing to help out during flairs. They understand her condition, so she also uses them as a “sounding board” when she’s feeling depressed.

Finally, understand that you're not alone. Millions of people suffer from fibromyalgia and chronic pain. In fact, in the United States alone, more than twelve million people have FMS. It's not "all in your head," and you're not crazy. While the condition does not permanently damage your muscles, that's little consolation when you're having a flair. Just try to relax and make those near you understand that you're having a bad day. Follow some of the suggestions above, and remember: This too shall pass. Pain from fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome usually comes and goes.


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    • Yvonne Decelis profile image

      Yvonne Decelis 

      6 years ago from Boston, Massachusetts

      GREAT hub - voted you up and interesting (I have Fibro and Multiple Sclerosis and am writing a book about it).

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      has anyone ever tried a tens machine and if so did you find it works or not as ive had fibromyalgia for 13 years now was found after i had my first son when i had an epidural and im in pain all the time even on mst now as pain is so bad please let me no thanks x

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      7 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Great hub, Habee. My daughter suffers from this and has lived for years on Vicoden (sp?). She's now free from that pain pill, but fighting to live through the pain using other measures.

      I'll have to point this hub out to her. Thanks

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Garnet, I'm glad you found the info useful. I know what you're talking about!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      WONDERFUL Hub-I have chronic pain from a disk injury and I totally can relate. It's important to keep white noise on--I have a BIG fan that blows moist water-cooled air on me all night. I, too, have a fatique problem from thyroid disfunction and I have to rest BEFORE total exhaustion. I know of cases where Fibromyalgia struck after a woman's hysterectomy--I wonder if it could be a glandular imbalance?

      I, too, have thyroid FOG which prevents me from teaching fulltime--I work online now with a bookstore. Even ritalin could not break through the terrible fogging which would occur around 1pm--nor could low-glycemic snacks! My worst memory as a sub. Teacher was sitting at my desk at noon, watching them view a Magic School Bus video while in a kind of trance.

      GREAT informative HUB!!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, Moon. I'm glad you're finding relief!

    • Moon Daisy profile image

      Moon Daisy 

      9 years ago from London

      Great hub, and a nice overview! I have all the symptoms of fibro, but the rheumatologist I saw a while ago for all the pain I was getting didn't seem to believe that the condition existed, and just laughed it off! I have EDS which is another pain syndrome and it is often associated with fibromyalgia; people with one often do have the other one too.

      While it doesn't affect my life too much I'm not in a hurry to get a proper fibro diagnosis. I don't want to take loads of drugs, (although I could definitely see a place for them if all else fails). So far I've found that doing tai chi really helps a lot, and I would second what you say about relaxation techniques and meditation.

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Mekenzie, thanks for the great info! I'll certainly share it with one of my best friends who suffers terribly from her fibro.

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      habee, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 6 years ago. It was miserable. Some days I felt like I had the flu with the intensity of pain I experienced. We bought a temperpedic bed which helped alot. About 6 mos. ago I found a natural product at a health and wellness spa. This lady gave me a month worth. I am totally pain free! I was pain free within one month. I've been so wanting to get off my medications and now I am totally off my heavy duty arthritis medicenes too. Habee, I can't tell you how much better I feel. I had side affects from the meds and now they are gone too. This product is called MAX GXL. It's a supplement that supports the body's own production and preservation of Glutathione. If you google glutathione you'll see what it does for the body. I ended up joining the company and I also have my MAX autoshipped every month so I don't ever ever run out of it. If you are interested in the product let me know... I don't even know how to help someone order it ... but I can find out. :)

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      I can't take Lyrica - I had an allergic reaction to it. Thanks for your comments, Audrey!

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      I can't take Lyrica - I had an allergic reaction to it. Thanks for your comments, Audrey!

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      9 years ago from Washington

      I've heard that Lyrica is a great pharmaceutical for it and wonder some days if I have it but think I just have tendonitis from typing since I was 18. Too bad everything I do involves my arms, back and neck. If only I could type with my feet I'd have a prayer. I did hear though about a diet for fibromyalgia and I thought 'in my spare time' I was going to check that out and see if it made a difference. Great info though and love your Alzheimer ones, too....what was your name again? Audrey

    • habee profile imageAUTHOR

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Have you tried Lyrica? Some people have found relief with it, but my doctor says a lot of folks can't take it because of side effects.

    • profile image

      Vanne Way 

      9 years ago

      Good information! I am a sufferer for about 15 years. I wish there was a cure for this but not yet. People with fibromyalgia have a lot to cope with. It is frustrating to not be able to run, to ride horses, to clean your house, and some day even not be able to brush your hair. I have not missed a day of work because of the illness, yet I can't get disability insurance because of it. How is that fair? People think we are fat and lazy, trying to get out of work. Actually I would give anything to be able to run with my granddaughter Sage, run in a race (the last one I ran in I finished in the top third of my age group)and clean my house from top to bottom. These days I am lucky just to clean myself! Fortuntely I am married to someone who takes good care of me. I teach school and come home and collapse. I wish there was a medicine to cure all of my ailments, and the companion illnesses that come with it.


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