Signs and Symptoms of FM

1.) Chronic Pain – usually begins in the arms, wrists or hands
2.) Fatigue
3.) Sensitivity to light (especially when sunny)
4.) Memory Loss (short term) / Brain Fog
5.) Between 11 – 18 points of pain
6.) Restless Leg Syndrome
7.) Muscle pain
8.) Sleep deprivation
9.) Headaches / Migraines
10.) Balance problems

My Story…..

I suffer from chronic pain and have thought about blogging on this subject for years. I finally decided to do so as I find there is a real lack of information out there. I would like to pass on what I have learned through my journey….

Many believe that Fibromyalgia is a myth. I believe this is simply because it is a mysterious illness which many in the medical profession struggle to diagnose.

While the causes of this disorder are not known many believe the symptoms stem from trauma, extreme stress or result from car accidents.

I first noticed that something wasn’t quite right when I began to get intense pain in my wrists and forearms to the point where typing or lifting a glass of water was difficult. I had trouble turning door knobs and lifting anything that weighed more than a pound or two. I was exhausted from little activity and found walking up a flight of stairs increasingly difficult. My symptoms came on very gradually, I have always been extremely active so I didn’t notice what was happening until all of a sudden everything started to go wrong. I was at work one day and the pain just was so intense that I rushed off to a Walk-In clinic. The doctor was very concerned that I would develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; he diagnosed me with tendonitis and RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) and told me to go off of work immediately and let the inflammation in my arms settle. I was given painkillers and medication to reduce the swelling.

After two weeks my symptoms got worse, the inflammation had decreased in my arms however I was so weak and exhausted. I am a small boned, thin person however I was dropping weight dramatically. I went back to my GP who couldn’t figure out what was wrong. She could see I was weak and not myself. She figured that I must be suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or extreme stress and anxiety. I was put on Short-Term disability.

My doctor suggested that I make appointments with an RMT to loosen up my muscles which were also very tight. I decided I needed to go to Physiotherapy on a weekly basis in addition to massage to try to gain strength back in my arms. A few more weeks passed and I noticed that the massage was helping with the tightness in my muscles but after a few days my muscles would just go back to being tight. The Physio was keeping my arms from being completely useless however I wasn’t getting any stronger. I decided to add Chiropractic treatments to the mix as my upper extremities were so sore; my neck was in knots I could barely move it. My shoulders, shoulder blades, wrists ached, my arms throbbed and felt heavy, my hips and back ached. My muscles felt like that of a towel being rung out, extremely tight. My legs were all that seemed to be in working order. I was desperate to regain my life and do the activities that I enjoyed again….

A few more weeks passed, I continued with Physiotherapy, Massage and Chiropractic as recommended by my doctor. As I no longer had the energy to work out and maintain the level of fitness that I was accustomed to I began walking as much as possible to keep active. My Physiotherapist suggested that I try Aqua size and Acupuncture. I began to switch up my treatments as I couldn’t afford to go to all of them at the same time.

I began to do extensive research on my symptoms. I kept a journal as to how I felt each day, what I ate, how my energy level was and what medical treatments seemed to be the most effective. I brought my journal to my GP one day and we went through it together. She had been doing her own research and made an appointment for me to see a Rheumatologist. I had never heard of a Rheumatologist before. As soon as I got home I looked it up and found that a Rheumatologist as defined by “Wikipedia” and on is “an internist or Paediatrician who received further training in the diagnosis (detection) and treatment of arthritis and other musculoskeletal diseases. Also called “rheumatic” diseases, these diseases affect the joints, muscles and bones”. Rheumatologists conduct research to find the cause and treatments for these diseases. “Rheumatologists treat arthritis, certain autoimmune diseases (when the body comes under attack by its own immune system), musculoskeletal pain and osteoporosis. There are more than 100 types of these rheumatic conditions. A few of them are rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, gout, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia and tendinitis. Some of the rheumatic diseases are very serious and can be hard to diagnose and treat”. After reading this I searched some of the types of conditions that I thought could be related to the symptoms I was experiencing (arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and tendinitis). I was not convinced I had any of the symptoms described. I had never heard of the term “fibromyalgia” I was curious so I began to research it. I Wiki’d it and went to the library and signed out a few books. I was alarmed at the likeness of my symptoms and that described.

The first Rheumatologist I saw diagnosed me with “Secondary” or severe Fibromyalgia, I was very young only approximately 27-28 years old when I was diagnosed. Most women are over 50 years of age. I decided I wanted more than one opinion, I saw 2 more Rheumatologists, both of whom diagnosed me with “Secondary” Fibromyalgia. The majority of people suffering from Fibromyalgia are women. People who have this disorder have between 11 and 18 points of pain in their bodies, primarily in the upper extremities. I was diagnosed with 16 points of pain. Determined not to let this condition control my life I began to do some extensive research and after reading books and doing some online research I made some significant changes.

I changed my diet and quickly found that it was a positive step in the right direction. People who suffer from Fibromyalgia should not drink coffee, alcohol or eat chocolate. They need lots of protein in their diets. I have been a vegetarian most of my life. I realized I was probably lacking protein. I started implementing seafood into my diet. I cut out chocolate and switched to tea. I cut down on my alcohol consumption. I always drank lots of water; I also started drinking protein shakes. Brad King is a Nutritionist and has come great products at Natural Factors also has a good Whey Protein power drink, I mix it with fruit and blend it in my blender, and I add milk or water

I also decided I did not want to be on prescription drugs any more. I feel they aren’t good for you after prolonged use; I have always preferred naturopathic options. After two months of being off work I began to cut down the prescription. I still have it and do use it on occasion when I am in extreme pain. Arthrotec is one of the safer prescription drugs to take for pain and arthritic like symptoms and it is not as hard on the stomach as many other drugs I ordered some supplements called Fibro Sense by Natural Factors. These supplements contain packets of vitamins that you take daily. These packets consist of Glucosamine, Celadrin and MSM Chondroitin

I also discovered that people who suffer from FM feel much better in warmer climates. As Vancouverite’s we are not exposed to warm temperatures for most of the year. I began experimenting with some unconventional types of treatments. The Vancouver Aquatic-Centre Pool at 1050 Beach Avenue offers Water Aerobics classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I found these classes very beneficial; they really decreased the pain I was experiencing on a constant basis
I also started making appointments for infra-red sauna treatments. These saunas omit rays that are not visible and you sit in your own private sauna and can regulate the sauna to a temperature that suits you best. Infra-red saunas should be at least 126 degrees but I have seen them go much higher than that. I tend to set my temperature around 140. You should wear a towel or bathing suit when going for an Infra-Red treatment and bring a large jug of ice water with you as you sweat profusely therefore losing a lot of water. I also found that if I was not properly hydrated I would tend to get massive headaches. To find out more information on Infra-red sauna Wikipedia has some information Perhaps the most beneficial treatment I have received through my journey with FM is using the Infra-red sauna on a weekly basis as well as massage. The Westcoast Institute of Massage Therapy in New Westminster also has a student clinic that specializes in Pre/Postnatal, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson, Fibromyalgia, Cerebral Palsy, Chronic Fatigue, and Scleroderma. Keep in mind those who treat you are not yet RMT’s but are in their last year of schooling. You must have a doctor’s note to receive treatment at this facility and in the Out-Reach program.

More time passed and I cut out Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and stuck to Massage, Infra-Red sauna. I do the occasional Aqua-Size however the water is cold and I felt that I would benefit more from warmer temperatures. I took up Acupuncture and have continued to go for the occasional appointment (usually once or twice per month). Be forewarned Acupuncture will really hurt the first few times as people suffering from FM have very sensitive nerves and pain sensors in their brains. If you can get through the treatment you will feel much better the next day.

After 4 months I gradually brought back physical exercise, I believe that all my walking really helped me get back to the gym. People with FM have trouble staying in one position, keeping the muscles active really will improve your quality of life. I pushed through the pain daily determined to get back to work and regain my life I went to the gym every day, continued with my treatments and did at least 1 to 2 hours of walking each and every day. After 6 months of being off work I returned part time, within 3 months I was back at work full time. My doctor pushed for me to get a Hydraulic or (sit-stand) desk which my employer agreed to purchase for me.

The implementation of the hydraulic desk helps me considerably as I can change my position multiple times per day. I can sit or stand as required. I would also recommend an ergonomic keyboard and mouse with a wrist rest if you work in an office environment.

I finally feel that I’m in a good place now and have a handle on my condition. Thinking positive, not giving up, keeping physically active and researching my disorder have really helped me re-gain my life back.