Costco-con-itis?

Guess what? I was lucky enough to experience a new symptom (for me, at least!)

8907It seems, or so the emergency room doctor tells me, that it is very common in FM sufferers to feel intense pain in your ribcage and chest. This aching and stabbing pain can really impact on your enjoyment of life – says she who just spent 6 hours in the emergency room.

Supposedly, chest pain in FM is usually nothing to worry about, but occasionally it can indicate other problems. AND we are always told not to ignore chest pains – so when a stitch in my side spread under my right boobie and into the middle of my chest, while driving in the car with Mommy, it was: ‘umm, I think we need to go to the hospital.’

This chest pain is referred to as costochondritis. It is an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the chest bone. It is this inflammation that causes the sharp chest pains inside the chest wall. The pain of costochondritis often mimics the pain of cardiac problems, including heart attacks and stroke. This can be quite scary for some sufferers (and my Mommy and I!); however, costochondiritis rarely causes any physical complications.

largeCostochondritis affects about 60% to 70% of us. Costochondritis in women is particularly common, especially in women between the ages of 20 and 40. Costochondritis rib pain can last for weeks and even months, and can reappear at different intervals throughout your illness. This problem is not restricted to just us; it can also affect those who don’t have FM and is often a result of chest trauma or exercise-related injury. In fact, it is thought that about 10% of the general population has costochondiritis.

Costochondritis affects the junction between the ribs and the chest bone (the sternum). Seven bits of cartilage attach your ribs to your sternum, and costochondiritis causes this cartilage to become inflamed and sore. If you have costochondiritis, you will be able to feel pain upon movement of your upper torso or when you touch your ribs. Most commonly, pain is felt on the left side of your chest, though chest pains on the right side, or even on both sides, can occur.

stabbing_pain_in_chestThe pain felt like a knife stabbing between my ribs, until it waned and just started aching whenever I moved. I have been told that this pain can wax and wane: some days it will be worse, while other days it will be much better. The sharp pain caused by costochondritis generally begins in the chest. This pain can then radiate outwards, attacking the shoulders, neck, and upper abdomen – Great! Something to look forward to in the morning! Costochondritis pain can last for long periods of time and chronic costochondritis is not uncommon. However, most pain should be gone within 6 months to a year from the onset of symptoms – WTF!!!!

To date, the specific causes of costochondritis are unknown (again?), though researchers do believe that a variety of factors could play a role in the development of the illness.

  • Repetitive Activity: Repetitive activity, like sitting at a desk or leaning forward over a computer for long periods of time often puts stress on the muscles in the chest, may exacerbate pain in the chest area. We already have hypersensitive muscles, and this repetitive activity can cause costochondritis.
  • Fibromyalgia Tender Points
  • Myofascial Pain
  • Infection: Rarely, costochondritis can be caused by upper respiratory tract infections or non-allergic rhinitis. These conditions can cause long periods of repetitive coughing. This coughing can stress and strain the cartilage that connects the ribs with the sternum, causing constant chest pains.

Costochondritis can exacerbate your symptoms; in particular, FM often inhibits your ability to participate in certain activities or sit in certain positions for long periods. Because costochondritis causes such intense chest pain, it often makes sleeping difficult or impossible, causing disordered sleeping and insomnia. Costochondritis disability is not uncommon, especially in fibromyalgia.

It is important that if you are experiencing any type of chest pain that you immediately consult a physician in order to correctly diagnose the nature of the pain.

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Mommy’s Little Helper

Four new little white pills have been added to my morning diet – Prednisolone.

Prednisolone is used to reduce inflammation in the body. Because I had an MRI on my feet, due to the incredible pains I have in my feet – does anyone else have this? – and it showed some inflammation, my doctor decided to prescribe this for me for a week. Basically, it’s a test. Whatever happens I won’t be staying on it, as it can cause huge weight gain and I already have too much of this problem. So, if it works to help reduce pain, my doctor will be trying to find another, similar agent to do the same thing. If it doesn’t work, then it’s on to the next strategy.

Prednisolene is a glucocorticoid, sometimes known as a steroid or corticosteroid. It is used to treat many illnesses, including serious illness, involving inflammation in the body, and to stop reactions known as autoimmune reactions which occur when the body’s immune system attacks the body itself and causes damage. It stops the body from producing a substance that causes tenderness, swelling and irritation. Ooh – sounds good!

In general this drug is used for allergies including severe allergic reactions, inflammation affecting the lungs (including asthma), blood vessels, heart, bowel, kidneys, muscles and joints (including rheumatoid arthritis, rheumatic fever and systemic lupus erythematosus or SLE), eye, ear or nervous system.

They should not be confused with male or female steroid hormones, which are known for their misuse among athletes. So I will not be displaying giant biceps anytime soon.

After some internet research, I discovered one study that showed that Prednisone was found to produce no significant benefits when given to fibromyalgia patients. Bum! But I’ll still try it for the week!

But then, a Californian doctor had claimed that fibromyalgia can be treated by boosting stress hormone cortisol with low doses of hydrocortisone (Predinisone is about 4 times stronger than hydrocortisone). According to Dr Kent Holtorf, the treatment offers great health benefits with less risk, compared to other treatments for the condition.

Dr Holtorf believes that patients with fibromyalgia have low levels of steroid hormone cortisol, due to dysfunction in a brain system that regulates response to stress, known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Of 500 consecutive patients treated with the steroid at his clinic, Holtorf says 94% showed some improvement and 62% showed substantial improvement by the fourth visit.

William C. Reeves, director of the chronic viral diseases branch of the CDC, believes that most patients with fibromyalgia could benefit from taking low-dose hydrocortisone, but he says the treatment is not without risks. Some patients have experienced side effects especially those administered with higher steroid doses.

Anyone any clearer on whether this is going to help or not?

Weathering the Storms

Thinking about moving because the weather is changing again?

Thanks to the effects of barometric pressure changes on your body, the pain you feel in your body prior to a storm may have some validity. Yes, we all have an elderly relative who complains that her knee or fingers flare up when the weather changes; but according to research, published in the journal Pain, that relative may know what she is talking about.

Two thirds of the patients interviewed reported that they could actually feel the changes even before the weather changed. According to David Borenstein, rheumatologist and clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical Centre, it is typical for joint pain to start even before the first raindrops fall, says.

There’s no full agreement among scientists that weather causes pain, or if a specific mechanism is at fault, Robert Newlin Jamison says, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School and a researcher who has studied weather’s effects on chronic pain patients. But there are plausible theories.

The leading theory points to changes in barometric air pressure. Although many people say that their pain worsens with damp, rainy weather, research has shown that it’s not the cold, wind, rain, or snow, Borenstein says. Barometric pressure often drops before bad weather sets in. This lower air pressure pushes less against the body, allowing tissues to expand; and those expanded tissues can put pressure on the joint. The change is microscopic but fibromyalgia sufferers (who may or may not have damaged central nervous systems – depending on the research) have nerves which can become more sensitised because of injury, inflammation, scarring, or adhesions.

‘For whatever reason,’ says Jamison, ‘the nerves are just hypersensitive, and they just keep firing, based on what you do – or not for any reason at all. But if there’s some expansion internally – in other words, the body can either expand or contract based on outside pressure changes – then that’s going to affect how pain is signalled.’

Nevertheless, the link between pain and weather changes remains hypothetical; research has come to mixed conclusions.

So, for those of us who know better and can’t afford to buy our own islands in the Bahamas or Queensland, what can we do?

  • Stay warm. Dressing in layers, keeping your home heated, and warming up the car before you get in can help ease pain related to cold weather. (Personally, I love lying under a heap of clothes that have just come out of the dryer!)
  • Keep moving. Before you go outside during cold weather, try to exercise your painful joints to loosen up stiffness.
  • Improve your mood. People in chronic pain often feel anxious, depressed, and irritable, Jamison says. But in many cases, when pain strikes, “The brain is able to override a lot of sensations.”
  • Realize that the pain is temporary. When weather-related pain strikes, it is short-lived (as opposed to the rest of the pain we feel!)

WARNING: you may become that relative who tells people when it is going to rain!

 

Fibromyalgically Sexy! (bet you haven’t seen those two words in a sentence together before!)

It’s been a long, exhausting day. It’s only 9pm, but you feel like it’s 4 in the morning and you’re ready to fall over. Suddenly your other half looks at you in that way, smiles and strokes your arm, and you know they want to make love, but all you can do is stare at them in shock.

Do you NOT know how I’m feeling?

Decreased sexual interest is not a common characteristic of FM. Nonetheless, a 2003 Brazilian study, involving women in their 40s and 50s, half of whom had FM and half of whom did not, found that the healthy group was likelier to have had a regular sexual relationship in the last six months than those with FM. The FM group members were less satisfied with their sex life, had more pain during intercourse, experienced more fatigue during sexual intimacy, and were less likely to initiate sexual intimacy than healthy women.

We already know that FM is more foe than friend.  While many of us are too tired for sex, it is the muscle pain that leads to pressure and a squeezing of the pelvic area and lower back that ultimately result in muscle cramping during sexual intercourse. This naturally causes a great deal of discomfort for an individual with FM, making it difficult to engage in certain sexual behaviours.

Sex eventually becomes something that is no longer pleasurable (I can’t believe I said that!), but a negative experience. One’s natural tendency is to avoid such physically intimate situations, especially given that one is too tired or sore for sex. So, who can be bothered?

Further, taking a toll on one’s sex life are FM medications that decrease libido and a man’s ability to attain or maintain erection. Anti-depressants can also take a toll on one’s sexual functioning. A person living with FM may react negatively to bodily changes, like weight changes and the loss of muscle mass.

As lovers feel less connected in the boudoir, their sexual relationship takes a hit (ie: unless they take steps to stay mentally and spiritually connected while attempting to be physically intimate). It’s important to realise that the release of hormones and endorphins, natural opioids, during sex can help to relieve FM symptoms, like pain and depression, and boosting well-being. This double-sided sword is that while sex can relieve symptoms of FM, like pain and depression, FM itself results in a decreased libido, fatigue and pain that hinder the individual’s desire and ability to engage in sexual intercourse.

Maintaining your sex life is vital to your health and well-being. In order to have a healthy sex life, why not try some of these pointers:

  1. Practice acceptance. Adapt. Make peace with the fact that you need to deal with this condition, and then allow yourself to reclaim your life in every way.
  2. Maintain a regiment that helps you to feel good about yourself – not necessarily just grooming. Sometimes you need to treat yourself to feel good. Take yourself off for a hot oil massage or a manicure.
  3. Stay physically active, preferably with your partner, as much as possible, as another way to feel better about yourself, possibly boosting your sex drive.
  4. Manage stress with relaxation techniques like meditation.
  5. Talk to your doctor about how your condition is affecting your sex life, including any medications that may be at play.
  6. Arm yourself with information. Become educated about your condition and how FM impacts your sexuality and sexual expression. This is a must in talking to your partner about everything that’s taking place. Being informed can also help to alleviate your lover’s concerns, helping both of you to stay emotionally connected.
  7. Allow your partner to be more active during sex if possible (Absolutely nothing bad about THAT!)
  8. Plan for sex after luxuriating in a warm bath or using a moist heat application, both of which ease FM pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, and stiffness.
  9. Experiment with different sexual positions. There are plenty of activities and positions that are ideal for fatigue; and many ways to avoid painful sex. And have fun trying them ALL out!
  10. Enjoy each other despite flare ups. Part of this is not being so goal-oriented during a love-making session. Allow things to happen as they can.
  11. Stay physically connected by just cuddling (unless such is not made possible by allondynia, where the brain misinterprets neutral or pleasant stimuli for pain).

Finally? Don’t give up. It might feel like you’re never going to want to have sex ever again – but that’s the fibro talking, not you. Lust strikes at the oddest moment, and people can have sex in a myriad of ways. So have fun exploring what works best for you. and you’ll feel IT again. And when you do, take advantage of it, and enjoy it!

N.B. This whole post (and the research involved) developed from me wanting to tell you about the new thongs/g-strings now available in my shop. However, as I looked into it more, it became increasingly difficult to ask if you were feeling unapologetically naughty. Hmm – obviously, I did anyway.