Today is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day!
Come one, come all, it’s time for another fascinating and educational installment of the awareness blog! To all our returning readers, thanks so much for coming back friends. To all our new readers, welcome! We’re so happy you stumbled across us, and decided to give our blog a read. I hope you’re all pumped to learn some knew things.
Returning readers, you know the drill. You can skip our intro and head to the good part. New readers, let me give you a little overview about who we are, and what we’re trying to achieve here with our blog. This blog is designed to raise awareness for a myriad of diseases, causes, and issues that affect people everyday. There is a seemingly endless list of causes, illnesses and issues out there and we want to help raise awareness for as many of them as we can, because raising awareness is kinda our thing. Personalized Cause is a business dedicated to empowering others to raise awareness for the causes and illnesses that are close to their hearts. Personalized Cause was created in an effort to put a name to an illness, so that others could see and understand how they had been affected by that particular cause. We know that tying a person to a cause makes people more likely to want to listen and learn about it, thereby raising awareness one person at a time. Personalized Cause is the number 1 source for cloisonné custom awareness ribbons in the United States. We carry fabric ribbons, classic awareness ribbons, custom awareness ribbons, and awareness wristbands (basically all the essential awareness accessories). Our custom awareness ribbons are our most popular product, given that they are so unique. I hope you’ll give our website a look if you ever find yourself in the market for custom awareness ribbons.
(Returning readers, here’s your starting line.)
Today, we are going to talk about a condition called Fibromyalgia. There is a lot of misinformation and misconception regarding fibromyalgia. People who aren’t familiar with fibromyalgia tend to think that fibromyalgia is something that happens when people are depressed or lazy or don’t exercise, and sometimes blame people who have the condition for bringing it upon themselves. Let’s put a stop to that, shall we?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects the musculoskeletal system, causing widespread pain throughout the body, and may also cause fatigue, mood, memory and sleep. Fibromyalgia intensifies the sensation of pain in the nerves and muscles. It is believed that the source of the pain magnification stems from the way the brain processes pain signals in the body. The pain that people who suffer from the condition is as real as the pain that those who do not have fibromyalgia feel. It is not made up. It is not exaggerated. They are not weak people. They do not need to toughen up or walk it off. I hope I’ve made myself perfectly clear on that. (All you people out there suffering from fibromyalgia, I got your back.)
Fibromyalgia can be caused by many different things. Some people’s symptoms arise after a physical or emotional trauma, for example a soldier wounded in combat may develop fibromyalgia after the incident, whether from the psychological stress of the event, or a physical injury suffered during it. Sometimes fibromyalgia can be caused by a surgery, or an infection. Other times, fibromyalgia comes on gradually over time with no apparent cause that triggered the condition.
People who suffer from fibromyalgia describe the pain they experience as a chronic ache, particularly in the neck, back, and joints. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can come and go over a person’s lifetime, but can also last for months or years, uninterrupted. People with fibromyalgia often experience chronic fatigue, regardless of how long they sleep. Sleep is often affected fibromyalgia because the pain keeps patients from falling asleep or getting back to sleep. People with fibromyalgia often have other unassociated sleep issues, too, like restless legs syndrome, insomnia or sleep apnea.
It can also cause serious mental cognition issues, commonly referred to as brain fog in the fibro community. Brain fog, also sometimes called “fibro fog,” is described as confusion, memory impairment, difficulty following a train of thought, and trouble with staying focused. I’ve heard stories about people who drive to a destination and then can’t remember why they are there, or people who put something in the oven and then leave the house and come home to the fire department. That last one is more common than you’d think. My point is, brain fog can be serious and potentially dangerous, so it’s important to be aware that it can occur.
Fibromyalgia can co-occur with other health issues, particularly health problems that cause pain. People who suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome causes pain in the stomach), interstitial cystitis (which causes pain in the bladder), TMJ (which causes pain in the jaw), and migraine headaches or other headache disorders have an increased rate of fibromyalgia.
While doctors have identified many of the triggers for fibromyalgia, they aren’t certain exactly what causes the brain the start processing pain differently. There does appear to be a link between fibromyalgia and genetics, considering that it is common to see the condition occur in many people of the same family. This could be caused by a mutation in the genes, or even a genetic susceptibility to developing the condition.
There are also certain risk factors that can make you more likely to develop fibromyalgia. Women are more likely to be diagnosed with the condition than men are. It is not known why it is more common in women than men. Family history also plays a big role in your likelihood of developing the condition, as we discussed in the last paragraph. If one of your close relatives suffers from fibromyalgia, your likelihood of developing the condition is higher. Of course, other diseases and disorders also make you more prone to fibromyalgia. Many autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis also come with a higher rate of fibromyalgia. Chronic conditions that leave people too fatigued to leave the house tend to co-occur with fibromyalgia.
Because fibromyalgia can be debilitating for some, there is an increased likelihood for people who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia to develop depression, or have worsening depression during time when their fibromyalgia symptoms are worse. The lack of sleep, in addition to constant pain can cause people’s mental and emotional state to be affected. (Personally, I don’t see how anyone wouldn’t become depressed if they couldn’t get restful sleep and had to live in constant pain.)
Fibromyalgia can be diagnosed if you have experienced widespread pain (meaning on both sides of the body, and both the top and bottom of the body) for over three months, with no other conditions that could be accounting for the pain. There used to be something called the “tender point exam,” where doctors examined 18 specific points on the body to diagnose the condition. The tender test is no longer protocol for diagnosis. Since widespread pain can be a scary symptom, your doctor will probably want to rule out any other health problems that could be causing the pain by taking blood. You should definitely rule out everything before you move ahead with a fibromyalgia diagnosis because some of the things that can cause widespread pain can be very dangerous.
There are many more options for treating fibromyalgia these days than there used to be. People can treat pain with everything from over the counter pain medicines, to drugs such as Lyrica, to anti-depressants, to anti-seizure medications. They all work on the brain and can significantly reduce the pain, and symptoms of fibromyalgia. Physical therapy and occupational therapy are also very successful if the patient complies home therapy and commits to the plan. Often times, patients become discouraged when there is no immediate sign of improvement and quit physical therapy or occupational therapy. Both types of therapy are not instant fixes, and need long periods of time to see improvement. People who stick with it do report a decline in symptoms over time. It may also help to get frequent massages (you don’t have to twist my arm). There are places like Massage Envy, I think, that now accept insurance for issues like fibromyalgia, so look into your healthcare plan and see if you can get coverage for therapeutic massage. If it isn’t covered, you should call your insurance provider (I know, I know, nobody wants to be on the phone all day dealing with insurance) and see if there is anything you can do in order to qualify for those benefits.
In honor of Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, Chronic Fatigue Awareness Day, and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis Awareness Day, we recognize the very real pain and suffering caused by invisible illnesses.
And on that note, I’ll end my entry for today. I hope everyone came away from my post with a greater understanding and appreciation of people who suffer from fibromyalgia. Invisible illnesses can be tough, so be kind to yourself and those suffering.
Fibromyalgia is represented by a purple awareness ribbon. To order a custom purple awareness ribbon, please visit this link:
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