Coping with a chronic disorder
If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you know there’s no simple fix for the chronic pain disorder. Fibromyalgia affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S., according to the National Fibromyalgia Association, and about 80 percent of people with the disorder are women. There’s no single cause, says Dr. Kevin Fleming, director of the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The brains of people with fibromyalgia amplify pain signals, which can cause constant and sometimes severe pain in the muscles even when there’s no apparent injury. “The part of the brain that detects pain becomes ‘hijacked’ over time,” Fleming says. The disorder can be painfully debilitating. “Fibromyalgia has a significant impact on the quality of life for those who suffer from it,” says Dr. Bruce S. Gillis, chief executive officer of EpicGenetics Inc., a private biomedical firm in Los Angeles that focuses on the treatment and diagnosis of fibromyalgia. He’s part of a team of researchers conducting a clinical study looking for genetic markers that cause fibromyalgia.
Manage your pain.
There’s no cure for fibromyalgia, and medication can only do so much to mitigate the chronic pain it causes, says Dr. Robert Bolash, a pain management physician at the Cleveland Clinic. By itself, medication can mitigate pain caused by the disorder by up to 20 percent, he says. What a patient does for himself or herself, such as exercising and cultivating good sleeping habits, can reduce the pain by up to 90 percent. “It’s not like pneumonia, where we can give the patient an antibiotic and it’s cured,” Bolash says. “It’s a management disease, not a curative disease.” If you’re suffering with fibromyalgia, experts recommend these nine strategies to manage the pain caused by the disorder: