Strategies for Conquering Fibromyalgia Pain
For many years, fibromyalgia was a complete mystery to the medical community. Patients would complain of constant and sometimes intense musculoskeletal pain that had no apparent cause. Sleep disorders, mood disturbances, and cognitive performance deficiencies often accompany the frequent pulsating pain, creating an uncomfortable condition that has pronounced and negative effects on quality of life.
The causes of fibromyalgia are still not fully understood, but it is slowly becoming less and less of a mystery. Research seems to indicate that it can be triggered by bodily trauma, as a patient might suffer as the result of surgery, an acute injury, an accident, or an infection. However, in other cases, pronounced psychological trauma seems to be the origin of symptoms. Moreover, in many cases of fibromyalgia, no single triggering event can be identified. In these cases, pain tends to be relatively mild at first, and then gradually increases in intensity over a period of weeks or months.
The current consensus in the medical community is that fibromyalgia is the result of overactive nerves, which transmit pain signals despite a lack of pain stimulus. Unfortunately, doctors still aren't quite sure what causes fibromyalgia, and it has no cure. That said, a number of effective and reliable treatment methods have emerged in recent years.
The management of fibromyalgia pain requires a multidisciplinary approach for patients to experience the greatest possible degree of relief. Medication, therapy, and exercise are all used to help fibromyalgia sufferers.
Medications are typically prescribed to do one or more of three key things: relieve pain, aid sleep, and calm overactive nerves. Some patients find that over-the-counter pain medications relieve their symptoms, while others do not. In cases where prescription-strength painkillers are needed, doctors typically choose one or more of the following drugs:
- Prescription-strength naproxen sodium
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Antidepressants have also been used to treat fibromyalgia, with varied but generally positive results. Anti-seizure drugs which calm down overactive nerves have also been successfully used in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Therapy, particularly psychotherapy, has also shown great promise in the management of fibromyalgia pain. Therapeutic approaches to fibromyalgia pain management focus on helping the patient understand pain triggers and reduce stress in their lives, as stress shows a strong clinical link to fibromyalgia flare-ups. Counselors can also help patients improve their self-confidence in their natural abilities to reduce fibromyalgia pain.
However, of all the three main treatment methods, exercise seems to lead to the greatest degree of symptom relief. Numerous studies show that a regular regimen of low-impact, higher-intensity cardiovascular exercise delivers significant relief from fibromyalgia pain over the long term. It is important to note that many patients experience intensified pain when they first begin an exercise program. This may discourage you from continuing; but sticking with it can lead to major results.
Recommended forms of exercise include:
- Water aerobics
It is important to note that exercise seems to be the most effective when the fibromyalgia patient maintains a moderate and consistent level of activity. When you're having a relatively pain-free day, you may be tempted to increase the intensity of your workout; however, this seems to cause more frequent and more intense pain on days when your condition flares up. Similarly, you may not feel like exercising on days when you're experiencing pain, but it's important to "push through" and remain active.
Finally, because stress seems to cause fibromyalgia and trigger symptom flare-ups, you should practice stress reduction activities. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises can all ward off stress and help you keep an even keel. You should also maintain a regular sleep schedule, limit or avoid napping during the day, and aim for at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.