You might be asking yourself what on earth is post-exertional malaise (PEM), and what does it have to do with fibromyalgia? Not everyone experiences this, but for those of us who do, it’s debilitating.
The medical definition of malaise, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness.”
“Post-exertional means” occurring after exercise or any other type of exertion.
Like all other symptoms we deal with in fibromyalgia, this also can vary in intensity and severity. Maybe you worked out too long at the gym, or did too much walking on a trip. Maybe you did too much on a day that you felt better, like cleaning your home. For me and many others, it hits when I’ve walked around a store for 20-30 minutes, or when I take a shower. It takes me several hours, and sometimes days, to feel like myself again.
PEM is not just physical, it also can be mental. If you have a job that requires a lot of thinking or reading for a long period of time, it can become mentally exhausting. I seem to have issues with both. Of course, if I’m physically exhausted, then I also will be at a disadvantage mentally and emotionally.
PEM causes a massive energy crash. It’s like hitting a wall and there’s no mistaking it when it happens. We are talking about extreme exhaustion, and a potential increase in pain and other symptoms. It is most severe in those of us who not only have FM, but also chronic fatigue. Suffering with this is one reason I get so frustrated with people who tell me I should exercise more.
Recently, I was at a major department store for well over an hour, walking to the women’s department on the opposite side of the huge store, and then searching for the right dress to wear to my son’s wedding next month. I knew I was in trouble when I started limping while leaving the store. I then went straight to the hairdresser for a trim. I was no good for the rest of that day, and for several days after due to PEM. What should have been a fun morning turned into a few horrible days with my FM.
Do you struggle with post-exertional malaise? How has it impacted your life?
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.