It's National Fibromyalgia Awareness Day (and boy, don't I know it).

If you have fibromyalgia (or are close to someone who has it), almost every day you’re aware of its impact, lol, but seriously, May 12 is the official awareness day to educate people about this syndrome, which has played a large role in my life for the last four years or so.

I won’t spend a lot of blog space to this other than to say that the chronic pain that I live with is at times debilitating, other times it’s liveable.(NFMCPA):

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome rather than a disease. Unlike a disease, which is a medical condition with a specific cause or causes and recognizable signs and symptoms, a syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a specific, identifiable cause.

Fibromyalgia, which has also been referred to as fibromyalgia syndrome, fibromyositis and fibrositis, is characterized by chronic widespread pain, multiple tender points, abnormal pain processing, sleep disturbances, fatigue and often psychological distress. For those with severe symptoms, fibromyalgia can be extremely debilitating and interfere with basic daily activities.

The one thing that chronic pain sufferers talk about is that in most cases, it’s invisible. It’s not like a broken leg in a cast; unless you’re writhing in pain, most of us just bear it and move on…until you hit the wall and can do little more than try to find ways to kill the pain — capsaicin (hot pepper cream on tender points), sometimes narcotics, sometimes nothing helps — and simply get sleep, which can help.

Some find relief with massage (that only helps me a day or so), accupuncture, and other holistic medicine to try to dull the pain. Diet sometimes affects it for sufferers, others it doesn’t matter. Changes in barometric pressure seem to be a common trigger for fibro flare-ups. That’s why I crash and burn after traveling to conferences. It’s almost guaranteed that I’ll be in a fetal position the next day.

The weirdest aspect of the syndrome is the “fibro fog.” Your brain is completely toast, almost as if you have mild Alzheimers. Short-term memory is poor, and word recall is embarrassingly prominent. This can go on for a few days, and then all of a sudden you’re fine. It’s hard to explain, but the phenomenon is quite common. A lot of times the fog translates into strangely composed emails and posts on my part – I repeat phrases or leave out words and it looks fine to me until I review it some time later.

More below the fold.Medicines have worked to varying degrees on me; taking combinations and playing with dosages is about all one can do in this area. There are some anti-depressants that at low doses have been known to help:

A number of pharmacological treatments for fibromyalgia are available for prescription. The first to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat fibromyalgia was pregabalin (Lyrica®); the second was duloxetine (Cymbalta®); and the third was milnacipran (Savella®). Other FM medications are currently in development, and may soon receive FDA approval to treat fibromyalgia. Additionally, healthcare providers may treat patients’ FM symptoms with non-narcotic pain relievers (e.g. tramadol) or low doses of antidepressants (e.g. tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin reuptake inhibitors) or benzodiazepines. Patients must remember that antidepressants are “serotonin builders” and can be prescribed at low levels to help improve sleep and relieve pain.

…Complementary therapies can be very beneficial. These include: physical therapy, therapeutic massage, myofascial release therapy, water therapy, light aerobics, acupressure, application of heat or cold, acupuncture, yoga, relaxation exercises, breathing techniques, aromatherapy, cognitive therapy, biofeedback, herbs, nutritional supplements, and osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation.

Avoiding stress is a big help as well; good luck with that for me.

At least my colleagues on my day job are understanding. I have a nice chair in my office and hassock that I can put my feet up on when it’s a really bad day to help. Of course getting up and going up and down stairs is excruciating some of the time. And yet other days it’s no problem to walk for good distances. It would be nice if fibro flares were more predictable, but I guess I have plenty of years to try to figure out a pattern.

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