Fibromyalgia

Do you seem to be tired all the time, even after you’ve had a full night’s sleep? Do you feel stiff every morning? Do you ache all over? Do you get frequent headaches?

These symptoms could be the result of stress. However, if you experience these feelings over a long period of time, it could indicate that you have a condition called fibromyalgia.

Because the symptoms are so common, many people go undiagnosed for years with this increasingly prevalent chronic pain disorder. Next to osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia is the most common rheumatic disease. It affects approximately 2% of the population and it is estimated that up to 20% of patients that see a rheumatologist (a doctor specializing in arthritis) are suffering from fibromyalgia.

Typical Fibromyalgia pain pattern

This condition is sometimes referred to as fibrositis or fibromyositis. It usually affects women between the ages of 20 and 50. It’s a syndrome that causes chronic, sometimes debilitating muscle pain. The pain usually occurs where muscles attach to bone and is similar to the pain of arthritis. The good news is that the joints themselves are not affected. The joints do not deteriorate or become deformed as they do in some types of arthritis.

Pain is the most prominent symptom. It usually occurs in the neck, shoulders and back. People with fibromyalgia describe the pain in many ways. Some people report a stiff, aching feeling. Others describe a burning, stabbing, gnawing or radiating pain.

Pain isn’t the only symptom. Many people also experience generalized stiffness. Remaining in one position for extended periods of time, for example sitting for a long car ride, can increase the stiffness. For this reason, it seems to be worse first thing in the morning.

Fatigue is another almost universal symptom. About 90% of sufferers report moderate to severe fatigue. They feel a lack of energy, less endurance with exercise, or the kind of exhaustion associated with the flu or lack of sleep. This can interfere with concentration. Even simple mental tasks can seem extremely difficult.

Other common symptoms include swelling, tender points, headaches, insomnia, depression and neurological problems like numbness and tingling in the limbs.

Fibromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic those of stress and other diseases. To add to the problem, there is no definitive laboratory test that can be done to confirm that you have the condition.

Because the diagnosis is made primarily on the basis of the reported symptoms, people with fibromyalgia are often led to believe that it’s all in their heads and that nothing is wrong.

Sitting on the job

As the workforce has shifted from factories to offices, the incidence of back pain has increased dramatically. Researchers blame this increase on one simple activity that we do all the time – sitting.

Our bodies were not designed to sit for long periods of time. We were made to move.
Almost everyone who sits for long periods of time will develop back pain, even with the use of an ergonomic chair. It’s not uncommon to develop other problems as well. Surveys of office workers indicate that about half of all employees have frequent pain or stiffness in their necks and shoulders. Repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome are becoming more common and about 10% of keyboard users experience wrist pain or discomfort. Who would have thought that sitting could wreak such havoc on your body?

Your body needs movement to operate effectively. If you have a sedentary lifestyle or sit for most of the day, your body is going to start complaining. You have to move.

When your muscles contract, you assist the flow of blood and lymph fluid through your body. The muscles act as a pump. If they don’t contract regularly the blood in your extremities pools and you may get swelling of your feet and hands or those parts may just feel cold because the blood circulation is insufficient.

When you sit for long periods of time certain postural muscles, like your shoulder muscles, become overworked. These will tend to become short and tight from overuse whereas other muscles like your gluteals, abdominal and mid-back muscles, will become weak and atrophy.

microbreak

Lean back in your chair and stretch your arms up and your legs out. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Then do circles with your ankles and wrists. Continue to reach up and back, close your eyes, smile, breathe in deeply and out slowly several times.

In the short time it takes to perform this micro break, you have released the lock of your visual and mental tasks, stretched away muscle tension built up in your hips, spine, and arms and refreshed your body with extra oxygen by expanding your rib cage. You also improved your posture as well as the circulation of blood through your legs and arms. All this in less than 30 seconds!

Caution: Before trying this micro-break, be sure to check your chair for stability so that you don’t tip over.

RICE protocol for your injuries

It’s easy to pull a muscle or sprain a joint. These kinds of injuries may result from simply overdoing everyday activities like gardening or shovelling snow or they can be caused by an accident, like a fall. Use the RICE formula immediately after hurting yourself. You’ll dramatically reduce the time it takes for your injury to heal and get back to your normal routine as quickly as possible.

RICE is an acronym for rest, ice, compression and elevation.

Rest

The simplest and most effective thing you can do is rest. Many people try to “work through” the injury in the hopes that it will go away or work itself out. Injuries don’t spontaneously disappear. In fact, excessive movement will damage the tissue further, increasing the amount of inflammation and pain.

Unless the injury is severe, absolute rest should not exceed 48 hours. Otherwise, your muscles will become stiff and weak, and scar tissue around the injury will tighten up. So as soon as the initial pain and swelling subside, you should begin to gently exercise the injured area.

Ice

Apply ice immediately. The importance of icing your injury cannot be emphasized enough. Ice is a natural pain reliever and anti-inflammatory. It slows down blood flow to the area and reduces internal bleeding and swelling. Depending on the type of injury, your healing time may be cut in half.

Simply place ice cubes in a plastic bag. You can also use commercial gel packs that you keep in your freezer or a bag of frozen vegetables (peas seem to work well). You may find that these mold better to your body. Wrap whatever you’re using in a towel or cloth and apply it to the injured area. Leave it on for 10 to 20 minutes and then allow your skin to warm up. As a general rule, don’t leave the ice on for more than 20 minutes because you may cause frostbite. Ice the injury as frequently as possible, preferably at least once every waking hour.

Compression and elevation

Compression and elevation help reduce swelling. You can apply compression to the area with an elastic type bandage. Be careful not to tie the bandage so tightly that you cut off your circulation. If one of your arms or legs is injured, you can elevate the extremity above the heart level.