You might have heard of fibromyalgia, but what exactly is it? According to Wikipedia, fibromyalgia is “a medical disorder characterized by widespread pain and allodynia (a heightened and painful response to pressure)…[but is] not restricted to pain, leading to the use of the alternative term fibromyalgia syndrome.” Among the symptoms are debilitating fatigue, sleep disruption, joint stiffness, and may include difficulty with swallowing, abnormalities with the bowel and bladder, numbness and tingling, and cognitive dysfunction. FMS is often comorbid with anxiety and depression and stress-related disorders. Although it only affects 2-4% of the population, women are nine times more likely to have it than men.
Historically, it has been thought to be a musculoskeletal disease or neuropsychiatric condition. While the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Rheumatology have stated that it’s a central nervous system disorder, many doctors remain skeptical about calling it a disease due to a lack of abnormalities on physical examination and an absence of objective diagnostic tests. There is no current cure for fibromyalgia.
Be that as it may, it is a real problem, one which has afflicted my own mother for at least the past 20 years. This post is for her. (Hi mom!) She’s asked about a specific aspect of FMS, called by those who suffer from it “Fibro Fog.”
Fibro Fog is basically described as cognitive confusion. During “flare-ups” of FMS, the fog might last hours, days, weeks, or its entire length. People who experience a fog might be unable to count, find their vehicle in the parking lot, forgetfulness of words, or–a true story from my own mother–put the sugar in the microwave instead of the cupboard. Here’s another great article on Fibro Fog for more information and tips to help deal with episodes.
There are a few suggestions by the National Fibromyalgia Research Association for those who experience fogs during flare-ups:
- Stick lists of reminders and to-do items in places where you’ll often look (the refrigerator, the computer, etc.) so that you’ll stay on top of deadlines
- Ask a family member or friend to drive during extreme episodes
- Keep the house clutter-free to avoid extra confusion
It is important to note, however, that there is a continuous stream of research coming out in both the medical community and fitness industry saying that exercise is the best way to help deal with the effects of FMS. Yoga may be one of the best ways to reduce symptoms and pain. Consistency is the key!
It is important to note that once someone has FMS, it is unlikely that it will ever go away. I suppose that is what’s so puzzling about the disorder to the medical community. It can appear at any time in one’s life, without rhyme or reason and without any evidence to suggest it can be reversed or cured. FMS patients are not without hope, however. As more research comes out, more is understood about the disease that no doctor seemed to know about when I was a child, which wasn’t all that long ago. It is heartening to see that the medical community is striving toward understanding FMS, and I hope that one day, combined with diet an exercise, there will be a way to treat the disorder in order to improve patients’s quality of life.