I'll never forget the day I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) in April of 2003. My neurologist, who had been treating me for several weeks for head and neck injuries resulting from a rear-end collision, conducted an 18-point trigger test [pressure-point test of the soft tissue area]. As he had suspected, I appeared to be suffering from FMS.
I remember feeling confused, because I had never heard of Fibromyalgia and had no idea what it was. "FMS is a chronic muscular condition that causes widespread pain in multiple tender points at the juncture between muscles and tendons," says Dr. Andre Barkhuizen, assistant professor of rheumatology at Oregon Health Sciences University. "In FMS patients, the central nervous system perceives as pain what most people think of as pressure."
The American College of Rheumatology estimates that fibromyalgia affects 3 to 6 million Americans (about 2 percent of the U.S. population). The patients are predominantly women; a 1995 study published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatism found that women are seven times more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men.
Most cases of Fibromyalgia used to go undiagnosed because many doctors were not, and still aren't, informed enough about FMS. Some doctors still think "it's all in her head." I was lucky to have my condition diagnosed. My doctor was caring, informative, and supportive--thank you Dr. Atalla. Not everyone is so fortunate.
I've learned over the years to take each day as it comes, because at any given moment I might experience pain that impairs me to the point of debilitation. Pain killers, anti-depressants, anti-inflammatories, sleeping pills, muscle relaxers...you name it and I've probably been prescribed it. I treated with a rheumatologist for several years, and the diagnoses of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) was eventually added, but I discovered there really wasn't anymore that could be done for me, aside from the basics: pain management through medication, adequate rest/sleep, stress maintenance, healthy diet and mild exercise. I still continue treatment with my neurologist, because I trust him to listen, observe, and keep me updated of advances in medicine.
For those living with Fibromyalgia Syndrome, life can be hard, tiring, and sometimes too painful to endure. I find more often than not that I am tired from the time I step out of bed in the morning to the moment I crawl back in it at night. I have no energy, my muscles ache, my back and neck are constantly stiff and painful (I have also been diagnosed with degenerative disk disease and scoliosis), I go through periods of extreme hair loss, I always have trouble sleeping and concentrating, and often feel like I am walking around in a fog (commonly referred to as "fibro-fog") and at times I have terrible headaches that can effect my vision.
I don't socialize as much as I once did, but I do try to "get out among friends" for my family's sake, and for my own. Those who know me would be surprised to learn of my afflictions. On the outside, apart from looking tired, stiff, and sometimes a little sad, I can look as normal as the next person, but on the inside I feel like a woman who's been worn-down, beaten, and broken...and aged beyond my years.
I hide my condition most by limiting my community involvement to "good days." I only go out on "bad days" when I have to. I sometimes worry what others think of me, because I don't always make it to my children's soccer games, or school events, or parent activities. My husband takes my place more often than not with my teenage daughter--his step-daughter--at soccer events for Shelbyville Central, and I can't help but think other parents see it as a sign of my lack of caring.
I've written this blog as a communicator to others who may be suffering from similar symptoms and have not yet received a diagnoses--talk to your doctor about what you are feeling, research it on the internet, and look for support groups. Knowing won't make the condition go away--currently there is no "cure" for Fibromyalgia Syndrome--but it can give you some sense of peace, and the medications can often help make life a little easier. There have been some medications developed recently to target the symptoms of FMS, unfortunately in my case the side affects outweighed the benefits, but they have been determined to work for many others in providing some pain relief.
I hope that by sharing my story someone out there will feel a little less alone and a little less afraid. Remember, just put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time.
For more detailed information about Fibromyalgia Syndrome visit http://www.fibrocenter.com/symptoms_about.aspx or talk to your doctor.