Once again, fibromyalgia — or more specifically, the symptom known as myofascial pain syndrome — defeated me in a hard-fought battle. Acutely painful muscle spasms (think emergency room visit-worthy pain) in my upper back have been part of my life for more years than I care to remember. Occasionally, I speculate why these episodes occur — severe fatigue, repetitive motion, prolonged stress, etc. More often, they appear randomly — and suddenly. Their presence has ruined so many occasions that I think of it (and fibromyalgia in general) as the cancellation disease.
During the two months leading up to Christmas, these episodes occurred much more frequently and more painfully than ever before. Recognizing a full-blown flare in process, I did all the things my pain management specialists recommended. I spent days attached to a TENS unit; applied heat, ice, and lidocaine patches; stretched; had massages and acupuncture. I consulted with my neurologist, my physiatrist, my general practitioner, my psychotherapist, and a spiritual adviser — even resorting to increasing and changing my narcotic pain medication. Nothing worked. By Christmas week, the spasms were occurring every three to four days. I had no choice but to cancel travel plans to be with my family for Christmas.
Travel is a challenge for people with fibromyalgia, even under the best of circumstances. Holiday conditions add to that challenge. The decision to cancel was made easier for me when those conditions reached a ridiculous level. With extra security precautions in place for the Christmas season, Los Angeles International Airport announced a requirement to be at the airport four hours prior to all departing flights. No doubt, this spelled inconvenience for all of the million-plus travelers heading home for the holiday from the West Coast’s busiest airport. However, for me, in the midst of a major fibro flare, it spelled impossibility. The four-hour functional day that is normal for me would likely have been extended to at least nine hours or more — with no place to lie down if needed.
Fibro fog also played an important role in my decision to cancel. Inevitable fatigue would have been accompanied by the inability to think clearly or to make decisions. Accommodating likely changes and delays brought about by unusually large crowds, heavy air traffic, or weather conditions would have been difficult, to say the least. Add that to unpredictable muscle spasms and there were just too many factors over which I had no control. So, I disappointed myself and my family and spent another holiday without them.
Disappointed? Yes. But, did I make the best decision for me? Absolutely. I could not have risked a sudden episode of pain of this magnitude on my journey or during my stay in someone else’s home.
I’m unhappy about my situation. These muscle spasms have plagued me for decades. They and IBS-D are the most life-altering of all the fibromyalgia symptoms I endure today. The good old days for me were when pain and fatigue were my worst problems. But, this doesn’t mean I’m giving up. I see an acupuncturist regularly. I continue to walk, and I stretch the affected muscle group daily. I fill my life with friends and laughter to provide much-needed distractions as much as possible. I try to focus more on the good times I manage to have rather than on times I need to cancel.
I search magazines and websites for potential therapies. I try everything new that’s clinically proven — and occasionally things that are not. Although intolerable side effects have prevented me from taking any of the drugs currently available for treating fibromyalgia, I look forward to the next one being approved. That might be the one that works for me! In the meantime, I focus on living the best life possible.
Please, continue to visit this column each week in Fibromyalgia News Today. I look forward to writing one that’s titled, “I’ve Been Cured!” For the sake of my readers, as well as for myself, I hope this happens very soon.
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.