After I came back from helping a relative across the country, I felt body-slammed by the Fibro Monster. UGH! It was cold, rainy, dreary yuck for the first three days home in Michigan. The barometric pressure wreaks havoc on me here at home. There were some cold, rainy, dreary days out west, but the effect wasn't as hard on my body. The air pressure difference for the same type of weather and conditions can make a difference in how someone with arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and fibromyalgia feel. Thankfully for me, the warm sunny days have come back. Image from Unsplash by David Marcu.
This is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month, with Fibromyalgia Awareness Day as May 12. It is a difficult condition to fathom for non-sufferers because there isn't a particular cause. Some of the triggers for the onset of fibromyalgia are head or neck trauma, a viral illness, antibiotics, and heredity. Women get it more often than men. Honestly, it is still a mystery, but there are distinct differences in what goes on in the central nervous system of someone with fibromyalgia versus someone without it.
Fibromyalgia boasts more symptoms than pain (in all 4 quadrants of the body) and fatigue (an overall fatigue, not just sleepy) to this illness. Most people with fibro experience:
Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by an autoimmune disease like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, and other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome and allergies. This makes diagnosis difficult because there is no medical test like a blood test for it.
Exercise is perplexing to people with fibromyalgia. Exercise helps ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia for long-term symptom control. But it seems counter productive because after a workout, the person with fibro feels worse for a couple of days. Eventually, the person will have more good days than bad with a good treatment plan that includes exercise. It takes time and persistence. Here is what exercise looks like for me:
When I work out even on a good day, it feels like I have lactate burn in my muscles for at least the first fifteen minutes, but it normally persists throughout the entire workout. Sometimes, like if I run when my hubby and I are trying to make our next flight on a trip, my legs and feet stiffen. It feels as if they are "doll legs" fixed in a particular position. I have to stay light with overhead strength like shoulder press or lateral raises otherwise I have extreme neck and shoulder pain afterwards.The tendon connections can become extremely painful and rigid. One positive from it is that my muscle tone stays longer due to muscle stiffness. These problems make it difficult on so-so days.
Sometimes, the muscle fibers fatigue at different rates. When I swim, some of my swim strokes look kind of funny after several laps. On a good day, my weight loads are normal, but on a bad day, it feels like they are twice as heavy. On bad days, it is better for me to simply walk and leave the weights alone. As for my heart attack from a coronary artery spasm, I may be more prone to them due to this health condition. Most days I can do regular workouts, but bad days can ruin my progress. This is why I call myself the "Setback Queen".
Stress reduction for fibromyalgia sufferers is very important. Reflective prayer and Bible reading, journalling, and listening to uplifting Christian music is also helpful for Christians afflicted with this illness. There are plenty of ways for Christians to reduce stress without resorting to New Age practices to alleviate symptoms.
If you experience any of these symptoms and feel clueless about why you feel body slammed, begin the process of diagnosis with your primary care physician. It just might be the Fibro Monster-- fibromyalgia. Be patient with the process of diagnosis because several other health conditions look like fibro by the symptoms. Usually, doctors rule out autoimmune diseases first by doing blood work. There may be allergy testing because constant exposure to some allergens can make you hurt and feel very tired. It is important to journal your symptoms and track sleep patterns for your doctor. Normally, diagnosis comes from ruling out other conditions, considering your symptoms, and applying pressure to particular areas of the body most sensitive in all 4 quadrants.
Some of the most frequently used non-medication treatments are simple, healthy practices. Eating healthy, non-processed foods and eliminating most food additives such as food dyes and preservatives like MSG make many people feel better. Foods high in antioxidants like berries have been found to help reduce some symptoms as well. Avoid foods that aggravate your symptoms like caffeine, artificial sweeteners, nightshades (bell pepper, tomato, eggplant) and sometimes, gluten-containing foods. Basically, if it gives your tummy trouble or causes inflammation in your body, leave it alone.
Light to moderate exercise has been found helpful, as ridiculous as it might seem. Light cardiovascular exercise like walking, riding bicycle, and swimming/water walking have been found to alleviate symptoms over time with regular practice. Stretching is very beneficial, which makes exercise forms like PraiseMoves (instead of yoga or tai chi, which is very New Age) very popular with people who with chronic pain and fatigue. Light weight training is helpful, but best to add in after 2-4 weeks of cardio and stretching. Work out on good days, rest on really bad days.
If you have fibromyalgia or a chronic pain/fatigue condition, we would love it if you would share what works for you. Please, refer to the About Us section of our website for help understanding our mission, vision, and values. I would also love to pray for you. You are welcome to share in the comments below.
Thank you and many blessings to you!