Many different types of pain can accompany fibro. In this column, I’ll discuss a few of them.
It’s not enough to say only that we experience hurt, we also need to know the different types of pain that are normal for us. You may experience these types of pain at different times, or you may not experience all of them. That’s normal as well.
Costochondritis is something not all fibro sufferers are aware of. The first time I experienced it, I ended up in the emergency room thinking I was having a heart attack. The hospitalist actually mentioned costochondritis to me as the most likely cause of my pain after they ruled out a heart issue.
This condition is caused by inflammation where the ribs meet the sternum. Pressing on that area will reproduce the pain. It usually is resolved on its own, but that could take days or weeks. Depending on the severity, your doctor may decide to treat it with pain medication or a TENS unit, or even by suggesting simple stretching exercises. Since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I have experienced this multiple times, and so far for me, it hasn’t lasted more than a few days at a time. If you’ve never experienced it, know that it can be quite disconcerting.
Allodynia is a type of pain that is rare apart from fibromyalgia, and it mainly affects the skin. It is caused by something that under normal circumstances would not cause hurt. Sometimes it is caused by touch. Some examples of this might be: someone touching or hugging you, the feeling of clothing touching your skin, the discomfort of bra straps or waistbands, or even the elastic on your socks. For this reason, I choose to wear loose-fitting dresses and a bra only when I go out.
Sometimes just the touch of a towel after a shower, or even your sheets touching your skin, can elicit this type of pain. Some medications are used to treat it, such as gabapentin, Lyrica (pregabalin), or amitriptyline. Always consult your doctor before taking medication. You could also try topical remedies like Tiger Balm (they also make patches), Biofreeze, and Aspercreme. If you enjoy massage therapy and suffer from this type of pain, let your therapist know you have it so that your experience won’t worsen the hurting.
Paresthesia is the nerve sensation that feels like something is crawling on your skin or like your skin is burning. It also can cause a sense of numbness, tingling, or itching. It’s incredibly uncomfortable. I personally feel a burning sensation in my forearm. I also have areas of numbness on my back. But the itching is the worst! My scalp is what mostly itches, all the time. I also feel a sense of tingling and numbness when my irritable bowel syndrome keeps me on the toilet too long. Basically, these are just really weird sensations that come and go.
Hyperalgesia is amplified pain. Think of it like turning up the volume on your stereo, but it’s your body turning up the pain. If you take opioids for pain, they can contribute to this condition. This type of pain causes your body to create sensations that feel stronger than they should be. It’s the hallmark of fibromyalgia pain.
No one wants to endure physical pain. Unfortunately, our pain is not due to injury or surgery, which is more easily resolved in time. Ours is constant, and all we can do is find ways to alleviate it when possible and use comforting measures such as heat and medication.
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.