The Hard Stages of Fibromyalgia. What is your Stage?
If you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or are a caregiver to a loved one who’s suffering, you know how hard it is to physically and emotionally manage this condition. But there are treatments that can help. Get expert advice to ease symptoms and 5 tips to help soften the burden on caretakers…
Your body aches and you feel exhausted, yet you’re unable to sleep.
“Basically, you blew a fuse,” says internist Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., medical director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and author of From Fatigued to Fantastic (Avery Trade).
“Fibromyalgia represents an energy crisis,” says Dr. Teitelbaum, who suffers from the condition. “You’re spending more energy than you can make.”
If you’re wondering why or how you developed the disorder, don’t expect an easy answer.
Fibromyalgia may run in some families and often follows infections or physical or emotional trauma. Or it appears for no reason at all. Women are 4-7 times more likely to have it than men, but the reasons are unclear.
Emotionally, you may be feeling confused, afraid and angry when neither you nor your doctor knows what’s happening to your body. In fact, your physician may even tell you there’s no medical problem and refer you to a psychotherapist.
“You may see eight doctors before you know what you have,” Dr. Teitelbaum says. “So you and your family may be given the impression that you’re crazy.”
It took Patricia Stephens, 62, author of Reversing Chronic Disease: A Journey Back to Health (Tate Publishing), 7 years before doctors put a name to her symptoms.
“I felt anxiety and fear,” Stephens says. “I was afraid of losing my job as a teacher, that I couldn’t raise my children or keep my marriage together, and that I would lose purpose and productivity.”
Researchers are investigating hormones, immune system differences, brain chemistry and genetics for answers.
Because sufferers are especially sensitive to physical pain, they suspect that nervous-system problems may be a culprit.
Fibromyalgia pain generally targets 18 points on both sides of the body where pressure causes tenderness.
If sensitivity lasts at least three months in 11 out of 18 pressure points or muscle locations, you may have fibromyalgia, according to the American College of Rheumatology.
Making matters more confusing, fibromyalgia sufferers may also be diagnosed with other conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, a gastrointestinal disorder characterized by either constipation or diarrhea; headaches; and/or temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), which is inflammation of the jaw joint.