Whether or not you have fibromyalgia is something you should discuss with your healthcare provider. Nothing the internet gives you can ever replace the sound professional advice a trained medical professional can offer.
Sure, you can get a better idea of what’s going on with you and whether or not your symptoms could be associated with fibromyalgia. But the list of symptoms below in no way can replace your doctor’s advice. No one can officially self-diagnose fibromyalgia.
So here I state for the record: I am NOT a doctor – my personal life experience does NOT represent every Fibro Warrior’s experience.
There are things I feel that no one else would consider symptoms of fibromyalgia. And there are symptoms of fibromyalgia that I do not experience.
Fibromyalgia is a beast with many appearances. So if you are reading this article in the hopes of understanding your own symptoms better, do not be discouraged if this does not represent your own personal experience.
Maybe you have fibromyalgia, maybe you don’t. The responsible thing to do is unequivocal to discuss your situation with your healthcare professional.
Now that all the legal stuff is behind us (or above us!), let’s talk symptoms!
1- Pain is your new puppy.
And like any brand new puppy, it follows you everywhere. It is very common for the first fibromyalgia symptoms to be a generalized chronic pain.
I am not talking about pain that comes and goes. That’s another point on the list.
I’m talking about the feeling that there is always something hurting.
It just does not happen for you to have more than a day or two without any kind of pain at all. There are several conditions that could provoke chronic pain, so pain alone is not a definitive symptom of fibromyalgia.
Let me put it this way: everyone with fibromyalgia has chronic pain, but not everyone with chronic pain has fibromyalgia. Which is why it is very important for you to see a doctor (do I sound like a broken record or what?!?).
In order to accurately relay the amplitude of your chronic pain, you could keep a journal in which you would write down the day you suffer from chronic pain, and maybe keep track of where the pain was the most felt.
It will give you something concrete to show your health care professional when you discuss your possible fibromyalgia diagnosis.
2- It’s a sharp dull pain that comes and goes but stays the same.
Your pain is nagging and sharp, it is dull and aching and stabbing, it is somewhat noticeable but fully debilitating.
Do I sound like a lunatic? Yes, probably. Do Fibro Warriors know exactly what I’m talking about? You bet they do!
The thing that is hard to explain, hard to admit and hard to share is that fibromyalgia pain has a life of its own. We’ve already established that it never goes away.
But in addition to being as stubborn as a two-year-old, fibromyalgia pain is constantly changing. From dull to sharp, aching to downright impossible to handle, it’s the kind of pain that can drive a person crazy!
The weird part is, most of the time, Fibro Warriors are so accustomed to the pain that they don’t even try to eradicate it anymore. It becomes a regular part of life and we develop strategies, sometimes without even knowing it, to deal with any type of pain.
The problem, of course, is that even if we can ignore the pain, it is still taking a toll on our bodies. It is often too late when we realize that ignoring the pain is worse than talking about it.
3- It will be all better after I take a nap. Not.
Oh, silly Fibro Warrior. Here you are, thinking you can tame the beast by pulling it to sleep. Ya right!
When you have a “mechanical” injury, like a sprained ankle, the recommended course of action is often rest. We are told that everything will be better tomorrow if only we don’t use the injured part.
With fibromyalgia, however, it is a different story. No matter how much rest you get, the pain will not let up. You may have the illusion of feeling better after resting, but it will not last very long.
Indeed, the pain associated with fibromyalgia is internal. It is taking place at a synaptic level. “A what,” you ask. A synaptic level.
It happens on a teeny tiny scale, right in your brain, at the level of what is called synapses, which are the highways between your brain cells, used for nerve signals to travel.
Unfortunately, with fibromyalgia, the transmission of nerve signals is a bit messy, so no matter what you’re doing, your brain thinks it is in pain. And for all intents and purposes, you ARE in pain. It’s just that the pain you feel does not have a “mechanical” or outward source.
In a nutshell, it’s all in our head. But not in a pejorative way.
In the end, resting your physical body will do nothing one way or the other for your fibromyalgia pain. The only thing that can calm fibromyalgia pain a bit is to influence the way your brain interprets the signals it receives. Which means, you’ve guessed it, medication.
4- Am I going to live in pain every minute of every day?
Good news, friend! You may find some relief from your symptoms from time to time! Now rejoice, but not too hard. You don’t want to overexert your body…
The one thing a lot of Fibro Warriors agree with is that there still are some good days, somewhere in there.
The picture we tend to paint is gloomy and dark, but realistically, clear skies appear throughout the day.
While there are good days, where the pain is bearable, or I should say when we are able to ignore the pain successfully, this brings on another issue.
Have you tried to explain to others that some days are good, some days are so-so, and some days are horrible? Chances are, they looked at you in a judgemental way.
If they did not say anything, you can be sure they thought no less. And just like that, you were categorized as the whiner, the faker, the person who is hurting only when it benefits her. Welcome to fibromyalgia.[To be honest, I’ve never quite understood how being in such pain that you couldn’t leave the house would benefit anyone, but hey, I’m not the one thinking ill of my fellow man…]
5- Resting does not help. Therefore, overdoing it should have no effect on your Fibro symptoms. Or should it…
You’ve probably guessed that if it had no effect, then I would not talk about it. Well done, Sherlock’s apprentice!
Here is the cold, hard truth: you will need to gage every single one of your movement. I’m not exaggerating. Trust me, I wish I was. But I’m not. If you need to plan your day in accordance with your projected pain level, chances are you are experiencing fibromyalgia symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is sneaky like that. You will feel you just fine, and since you feel just fine, you want to get as much done as possible, because there is no telling how you will feel tomorrow. So you set out on an adventure with the higher purpose of knocking items off of your To Do list.
That’s when things get annoying. And complicated. And unfair. And unpredictable, yet sadly, very predictable. Welcome to the vicious cycle of fibromyalgia.
See, the better you feel, the more you do. Which means the worse you’ll feel the next day. In turn, this means that the next time you feel good, you will do as much as possible, because you don’t know when the next time you will feel good enough to do anything will be.
And since you are bound to do too much, chances are you will feel quite bad soon after. Which means… well, you get it. You have entered an unbreakable cycle Fibro Warriors the world around dread.
You never seem to be able to catch a break…
6- Trigger points, you say? Ouch, I reply.
First of all, what are trigger points? Trigger points are specific areas of your body that are particularly tender when they are stimulated. When I say particularly tender, I mean they hurt like a @#$%^.
There are 18 trigger points usually associated with fibromyalgia. They are depicted in the graph below.
When you push the trigger points, and if you are a Fibro Warrior, it will feel like someone is drilling a hot coal inside you all the while pounding a hammer on the spot. It’s not pleasant.
Generally speaking, we assume that if 11 of the 18 points are tender upon touching, then you have fibromyalgia. The points tend to come in pairs, so if one side of the body is sensitive, then the opposite side will be too. It’s like a mirror effect.
Here is the deal though, there are times when trigger points are going to hurt more than other times. And I have also personally experienced doctors would be missed the trigger point by an inch or so, and suddenly, I don’t have fibromyalgia anymore… Yes, it is as frustrating as it sounds.
7- This weather is too hot! This weather is too cold! This weather is… just not right!
If you constantly feel like Goldilocks trying to find the perfect weather, then you may have fibromyalgia!
Unfortunately, fibromyalgia comes with a TON of weird side effects. The reason for the temperature regulation issue is quite unclear to me, to be perfectly honest.
Well, I know it has something to do with the hypothalamus, which is a gland that sits at the base of our skulls, and that regulates hormones.
And just like the good ol’ menopausal hot flashes have proven time and again, hormones play a big role in how we feel temperature. I’m not about to give you some long, drawn out scientific blah-blah because I just don’t know any more than that!
But there is what I know for sure: I sometimes feel temperature changes a lot more than other people. It’s pretty insane, actually. I will need three layers of clothing on a 90-degree day, but then I’ll go out in short sleeves when it’s 25 degrees.
Thanks for making me look a little bit more insane every day, fibromyalgia…
8- You think you only have fibromyalgia? Think again!
Oh, how I hate this one… OK,< fine. I hate all of them. But this time has a special spot in whatever kind of torturous eternity you believe in.
See, fibromyalgia is so nice to our poor beaten down body that it feels the need to invite its rowdy friends to the party every single day. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
I could go on and list off all of the issues that you can deal with when you have fibromyalgia. I could, but I won’t because I don’t feel like getting all depressed today.
But fret not, Fellow Fibro Warriors! Here is a link to another article I wrote about the various invisible symptoms of fibromyalgia
There you will find a (non-exhaustive) list of fibromyalgia-related symptoms. Any of those could be stand-alone conditions. What makes it extra fibro special is that Fibro Warriors get to have any or all of those on any given day.
Not my definition of fun…
Look, I’m not trying to be whiny. But…
It’s really hard sometimes to be open and to say you think you might have fibromyalgia because it can sound a bit whiny.
Now don’t get me wrong. I know that you guys are not whining. I know that listing off your laundry list of issues is not how you want to spend your time. I know that you’re not faking, and you’re not exaggerating, and you’re sincerely not feeling good.
And I’m not the only one who knows, you guys! We have an entire community ready to take you in and help you through your fibromyalgia journey.
So go ahead: ask questions, do some research and reach out to your Fellow Fibro Warriors!
You are not alone anymore.
Until next time: stay strong, Fellow Fibro Warriors!