Fibromyalgia is a condition that can literally leave sufferers disabled by intesnse pain, both generalised and at specific "tender points" around the body.
Traditional medicines used for pain relief often have little or no effect or become less and less effective over time so the patient is often left in agony as their doctor exhausts their armoury of painkilling drugs. Even powerful "last resort" opioid drugs including morphine, Codeine, Vicodin, and Oxycontin often have little effect on fibromyalgia pain. Research suggests this could be because in fibromyalgia patients these drugs fail to bind effectively to pain receptors in the brain (read more).
The US Food and Drug Administration has recently approved the first three drugs specifcally for the treatment of fibromyalgia - Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Milnacipran. Lyrica is designed to treat pain by working on "sodium channels", which are involved with the transmission of nerve impulses, and reduce the central sensitisation to pain that is seen in fibromyalgia. The other two drugs are serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), a modern class of anti-depressant drug. It has been found that increasing the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine as well as improving mood also reduces pain.
How effective these new drugs are is yet to be seen however. Certainly comments left on this site from fibromyalgia sufferers who have used them have been far from positive! (read more)
In medical research studies it has been found that exercise, particularly water-based exercise such as "aquarobics", can significantly improve pain, while anecdotal reports suggest various alternative and complementary therapies including nutritional medicine, various diets, guaifenesin therapy, treatment for gut dysbiosis and leaky gut syndrome, hypnotherapy, and acupuncture may be beneficial.
However, there may be other methods of relieving pain that don't immediately spring to mind. My attention was grabbed by Adrienne Delwo's Fibromyalgia and CFS Blog on About.com this week. She suggests a novel way fibromyalgia patients might cope with their pain is through...... swearing. Apparently a study conducted at Keele University's School of Psychology, in the UK, found that people who plunged their hands into ice cold water could keep them there longer if they let rip with some four letter words at the same time! Whether this "technique" is transferable to the pain of fibromyalgia is another matter but interesting stuff all the same. I know when I suffer sharp pain a good old swear seems to come naturally and helps me cope with the pain and I'm sure I'm not the only one! What are you feelings on this? (original blog)
Another blog from Adrienne discusses music therapy for fibromyalgia as a study carried out at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, showed that it can actually help people tolerate more pain.
The researcher behind the study investigated which distractions worked best for shifting the minds' focus away from pain sensations. She tested listening to music, listening to humorous tapes, doing math puzzles, and looking at art. Results showed that music proved to distract the brain most effectively. Not only that but its pain-reducing effect was significant and the type of music was irrelevant as long as the person enjoyed it. (original blog)
Has listening to music helped you cope with fibromyalgia pain? Do you find a specific type helps the most? I don't suffer from fibromyalgia myself but I have suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) for 18 years and for me music has always been an important distraction from the symptoms of my illness. I am listening to my favourite music whenever I get the opportunity as it really does draw my attention away from my illness and lift my mood.
What are your thoughts on all this? Do these things help at all? Have you discovered your own novel ways of coping with the pain of fibromyalgia? Let us know in the comments section below...
About: Matthew Hogg ("Maff")
Diagnosed with M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome aged only 11 years old and subsequently associated illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Despite his own struggles he has constantly sought to educate and support others suffering from such "invisible illnesses" through his website, The Environmental Illness Resource. He fully recovered from MCS using his own approach and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Health.