You likely lived with your fibromyalgia for years before you actually got diagnosed. You suffered from unexplained pain all over your body, difficulty sleeping, and constant fatigue. You may have visited multiple doctors in a desperate search for an explanation.
Now that you know what it is, you feel relieved to finally give your pain a name, and validated after years of trying to explain your mysterious symptoms. But those feelings soon take a back seat to a whole new set of questions: Is there a treatment? Is there a cure? Is this my fate?
Here to answer your questions and give you hope, our triple-board certified physiatrist, Dr. Stanley Mathew at American Rehabilitation Medicine in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, specializes in medication pain management and helps fibromyalgia sufferers lead happy, healthy lives.
Is fibromyalgia curable?
Fibromyalgia is a life sentence but not a death sentence. Once you have fibromyalgia, you have it for life, so it’s important to seek treatment and learn how to mitigate the symptoms and prevent them from taking over your life. First step: know what you’re facing.
Fibromyalgia is a physiological/genetic disorder that causes chronic widespread pain, and there’s no known cure for it. It only affects about 4% of Americans, primarily women, but if it runs in your family, you’re at a higher risk than most. It may stay latent for years only to be triggered by an emotionally or physically traumatic event. Having certain autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis also increase your chances of developing fibromyalgia. Until there’s a cure, pain management remains the cornerstone of fibromyalgia treatment.
Your fibromyalgia is here to stay, but you can live with it
Believe it or not, the day you received your fibromyalgia diagnosis was an effective treatment by itself. If you experienced a degree of pain relief around that time, you can thank your brain. While your condition was still unknown to you, you likely operated at a high level of stress and frustration — two factors responsible for elevated pain levels. But once you were diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your brain relaxed and released the stress. Here’s what happens.
Fibromyalgia pain localizes in 18 highly sensitive tender points throughout your body. The lightest physical touch in any of these spots can send you reeling, because your brain and spinal cord process pain abnormally. But once you understand that the pain is a malfunction rather than a sign you’ve been injured, your mind can override the sensation to a degree and work past it.
There are also things you can do to help:
Beyond the relief from your initial diagnosis, ongoing discovery and self-awareness play key roles in your treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy allows you to identify negative behavioral patterns and replace them with positive responses that reduce stress and pain.
Take stress seriously
Stress is a common fibromyalgia trigger, so it’s important to keep it to a minimum. Because life comes with stress, and you can’t avoid it all, learning to deal with it calmly and positively can keep your symptoms at bay. Breathing exercises, meditation, and prayer can all help you cope with stress.
Fatigue, another hallmark of fibromyalgia, makes living with the condition a challenge. Many of our patients say they wake up feeling tired, which leads us to another issue to address: sleep hygiene.
People with fibromyalgia tend to sleep lightly and wake often. When they do, it’s difficult to get back to sleep. Dr. Mathew can help you manage your pain so you sleep better and take advantage of the restorative benefits of quality rest.
We understand that the last thing you want to do when you’re in pain is move. But moving more may actually be a key to alleviating the pain in the first palace, which breaks the cycle of pain and inactivity for many people.
Exercise releases endorphins, your body’s natural “feel good” hormones. These chemicals interact with the pain receptors in your brain and lower your perception of pain. Aerobic exercise is especially beneficial, so think swimming, cycling, and walking. Yoga is a good way to increase flexibility and strength.
When the pain gets beyond your control
Together, you and Dr. Mathew can develop an individualized plan that will help you minimize your chronic fibromyalgia symptoms and allow you to live and function freely. But despite your best efforts, bad days happen.
When you’re going through a rough patch, Dr. Mathew offers advanced pain management treatments, such as trigger point therapy, electrical stimulation, ultrasound therapy, corticosteroid injections, anti-inflammatories, and pain-killing medications to help you overcome flare-ups and setbacks.
To learn more about living with fibromyalgia and partnering with Dr. Mathew in your treatment plan, call us at 319-369-7331, or request an appointment online today.