The Meaning of Life (or Fibromyalgia)

I have no idea why I have FM: I didn’t have an accident resulting in an injury; I didn’t have a traumatic upbringing, or even a traumatic event. It appears to me that so many of you can attribute your FM to a particular incident or trauma.

112. fibro reason #1This is sometimes characterised as primary (idiopathic) FM.  In primary FM, the causes are not known whereas in secondary FM, the causes can be identified. According to the American College of Rheumatology, primary FM is the more common form. However, from reading all of your stories, it seems to me that secondary FM is more common.

Many experts believe that primary FM is a dysfunctional disorder caused by a constellation of biologic responses to stress because of negative personal histories or genetic factors such as: family factors, chronic sleep disturbance, abnormalities in the brain, autoimmune disorder,  post-traumatic stress disorder, hyper-vigilance, muscle cell abnormalities, autonomic nervous system dysfunction, immune or endocrine dysfunction.1

123. fibro reason #2In secondary FM, a specific cause can be identified. The symptoms are identical to those of primary FM, but are harder to treat. Possible causes of secondary FM include: physical injury (secondary FM developed in over 20 per cent of patients who had neck injuries); ankylosing spondylitis; endometriosis; surgery; heavy metal and environmental toxicity; upper spinal cord injury; viral, bacterial or fungal (candida) infection; pregnancy; hormonal imbalance or steroid overuse.

128. fibro reason #3I know that many people blame their FM on an emotional trauma from their pasts; however a new study contradicts the belief that emotional trauma can lead to FM. This study aimed to evaluate the relation of disability and physical and mental health status with potentially traumatic life events before the onset of FM in women diagnosed with this syndrome. Researchers found no such relationship. They found no relationship between the perceived causes of illness and traumatic life events, either in childhood or adulthood.

They looked at potentially traumatic life events in women with FM and compared them to illness severity. They also looked into what the women believed had triggered the illness.

132. fibro reason #4The only correlation they found was that women who’d had a traumatic event in childhood were more likely to attribute their illness to psychological causes. That doesn’t mean the childhood trauma did lead to FM; it means that people with past trauma are more likely to believe it does. This research did not examine the validity of these beliefs. The results raise questions about the importance of psychological aspects in the appraisal of the trauma and its possible relation to the psychological functioning in women with FM.

Do you think you know what caused your FM? Was it a physical trauma? An emotional trauma? Or, like me, do you have no idea?


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!


Pilates Pleasure

Yesterday, I downloaded my FREE 14 day pass to the local gym (which is very local – it’s about 500 metres down the street!) and went to have a chat to a lovely lady about my condition and what her gym could do for me. We talked about the yoga and Pilates sessions; and we talked about what would happen after the 14 days was up. (I had to explain that I was absolutely broke and had to be very careful about where I chose to invest my limited funds.) Firstly, she gave me an extra week on my pass. Then she said that, if I find the classes are working for me, she could work out a special price so I could attend just those classes and not have to pay for the use of the entire gym. WOW! Nice lady!

To today:

Getting out of bed early, so my body will be functioning (not necessarily well), for a 9.20am Pilates class is not easy, but I’m motivated and I promised you guys a report…

So, I just got out of the shower (yes! I had a shower) after cooling down from the session. And I gotta say: Whoo Eee! (that’s a shout of glee!)Am I feeling energised! Already my muscles ache – but it’s a different sensation than the FM pain. It’s the pleasurable awareness that all my muscles are there and have been stretched and manipulated. (For those who don’t have sex very often, it’s sort of like the day after feeling…yeah, you feel tired and achy but hey! It was worth it and let’s do it again!)

Now I didn’t do that kind of stuff!

We did Mat-based Pilates (not so easy to get up off the floor at the end, though) – this is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide the resistance. The central aim is to condition the deeper, supporting muscles of the body to improve posture, balance and coordination. By focusing on your core strength, you (supposedly) enhance the little muscles in the body so you’re better able to support the larger ligaments, tendons and joints. Pilates is a very intense stretching class that incorporates workouts for your abdominal, leg, arm and back muscles – I found the stretching remarkable (it was like my poor, exhausted muscles could finally open up and take a breath of fresh air) and it’s nice to know that I still have some flexibility. Strength-wise? I have none! Anything that involved holding up my own body – even standing on my tippy-toes – was challenging. But it’s only the beginning of my learning curve…

Pilates encourages you to think about how you perform everyday movements. It heightens your body awareness; it helps you ensure your body is working at its optimal level all the time. Pilates will give you more of a holistic result than most other exercises regimes. It will make you focus on your breathing which is great for improving circulation and relieving stress. It is alleged to be a fantastic way to balance out your health and wellbeing.

Pilates is actually great for people with injuries, weak muscles and particularly bad posture because it encourages you to strengthen your problem areas in a relaxed and low impact way. (NB: It is advisable that anyone with serious injuries consults their doctor or physio though. Pregnant women should also get the okay from their doctor before proceeding.)

Now, tomorrow (or maybe even later on today) I know I’m going to hurt – I’m hoping it is the spent muscle type of hurt and not the FM hurt (but I may be kidding myself – I’ll let you know then).

Joseph Pilate

But I’ll know exactly who to blame: Joseph Pilates developed the yoga-like moves to rehabilitate Second World War soldiers. He then modified the style for injured dancers and so the modern-day method was born.

I’m looking after the beautiful Z tomorrow too, so I had better not hurt too much – playing with Z involves at least one walk to the park and a lot of kicking (then chasing) a ball around. I then have hydrotherapy so the warm water will soothe my tired, spent, exhausted, weary, drained, fatigued, wiped out body.

From just sitting on the couch last week, I‘ve suddenly got a REALLY busy schedule!