Sometimes it follows an accident or illness. For others the onset is as mysterious as the syndrome itself. You suddenly realize the constant muscle ache in your back and legs doesn't intend to go anywhere and you begin to worry that it may be more serious than over exercise.
After spending several sleepless nights pacing the floor you decide to seek out a doctor. Although Fibromyalgia, or FMS, as it is commonly called, is now recognized as a physical illness by leading physicians, some are hard to convince. If you're lucky, you will find a doctor who is familiar with this type of muscle malady and knows exactly how to begin treatment.
The origins and effective treatments for FMS remain shrouded in mystery. There are as many opinions as there are experts studying this particular issue. One group of experts has spent years trying to prove that the existence of Candida, or yeast, in the system, is responsible. Another group seeks to connect the problem with Chronic Fatigue Syndrom and Gulf War Syndrome. Dr. Weil, a naturopath followed by many, is certain the answer lies within the foods we eat.
Whatever the cause, FMS is one of the most painful conditions you could ever have to deal with. Many who find themselves completely disabled after a very active life are at a loss as to how to describe it to friends and family. The only thing close to describing it is that it is like having a case of the flu that refuses to go away. Every inch of your body hurts, you have gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches and even TMJ, or pain in your jaw area. When these symptoms continue on after several months you might suddenly find yourself struggling with strained personal relationships.
Exercise is essential for people with Fibro. However, it is important to start slowly and never over work yourself. It will take you much longer to recover if you hurt yourself.
Since a sleep disorder seems to be the one stable symptom in a large majority of FMS patients, treatment of the syndrome focuses on treating that. For some patients a very low dose of an antidepressant may work. When these particular medicines are taken at doses below those given to depressed patients, they appear to have an effect on both sleep patterns and pain. Other patients may require a muscle relaxant such as Flexeril. Those with the most severe cases need to be seen by a pain specialist and treated with such opiates as morphine or oxycontin. Contrary to popular belief, when these particular medications are taken for pain, they are not habit forming.
If you believe you might have Fibromyalgia, ask your doctor about it. If he hedges or says it doesn't exist, it's time to seriously consider a new doctor. Even if you don't have FMS, he is seriously behind in his profession. There is life after FMS. As with any other physical challenge, there are adjustments. However, these should never keep you from reaching for the stars.
About the Author Beth Ferree is author of "Develop Self-Confidence and Lose Your Fears" and works with disabled persons.
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