JRA.... Journal of a Radical Arthritis Chick

Here I give advice, speak of my experiences and give information to those who want to better understand Rheumatoid Arthritis. I am NOT a medical professional, and you should always seek advice from a doctor.

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Location: MA, United States

Hello everyone! I am 28 years old and was diagnosed with JRA (Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis) when I was just 3 years old. I've had my battles with this disease over the years, and have decided to create a blog. I want to share my stories and adivce with other RA chicks, or anyone interested, to raise awareness and get insight from others. Feel free to comment/question me about anything. Thanks, and I hope you enjoy!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fibromyalgia: What is it?

First, I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  I took a break from my blog last week, but am now continuing on with it.  I've received many compliments and thank yous for my blog! How blessed am I to hear all this good feedback.  If I can help spread RA awareness to friends and family, then wonderful!  So many people are left in the dark about their (or their family members) illnesses, some explanation is great to have.  This blog is going to be about Fibromyalgia.  People who suffer from RA, are at a higher risk of developing Fibromyalgia.  I've recently seen many chicks get diagnosed with this disease, so I figured it was time for a blog on it!

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia when I was 12 years old, about 9 years after being diagnosed with my JRA.  I was experiencing this pain in my back, that didn't feel like my JRA symptoms at all.  Finally after bringing it up to my doctor, he diagnosed me with Fibro.  I had never heard of this before! What is this? I'm diagnosed with something new again?! How is this different from RA?

Fibromyalgia is a common condition characterized by long-term, body-wide pain and tender points in joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Fibromyalgia has also been linked to fatigue, morning stiffness, sleep problems, headaches, numbness in hands and feet, depression, and anxiety. Fibromyalgia can develop on its own or along with other musculoskeletal conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.  The cause of this disorder is unknown. Physical or emotional trauma may play a role in development of the syndrome. Some evidence suggests that fibromyalgia patients have abnormal pain transmission responses.  It has been suggested that sleep disturbances, which are common in fibromyalgia patients, may actually cause the condition. Another theory suggests that the disorder may be associated with changes in skeletal muscle metabolism, possibly caused by decreased blood flow, which could cause chronic fatigue and weakness. 

How is Fibro detected and diagnosed?
Diagnosis of fibromyalgia requires a history of a least 3 months of widespread pain, and pain and tenderness in at least 11 of 18 tender-point sites. These tender-point sites include fibrous tissue or muscles of the arms, buttocks, chest, knees, lower back, neck, rib cage, shoulders, thighs.  Sometimes, laboratory and x-ray tests are done to help confirm the diagnosis by ruling out other conditions that may have similar symptoms. 

The next question that comes to mind, is how to tell the difference between RA pain and Fibro pain? How are they treated together?

There are several ways to distinguish to difference between RA pain and Fibro pain. First, RA does not typically involve the DIP joint (i.e. distal interphalangeal joint or end joints closest to the nails) so if there is tenderness there, this would favor fibromyalgia or possibly osteoarthritis. Secondly, fibromyalgia is not associated with joint swelling as occurs in rheumatoid arthritis, although patients often complain that their joints feel swollen. The complaint of widespread body pain associated with the typical fibromyalgia tender points would also be consistent with fibromyalgia and not RA. 

For treating patients with both RA and Fibro, the RA is usually treated first, since it is associated with joint deformity and disability.  Treatment for the Fibro is mostly concentrated on the sleep aspect of it, since most patients complain about the pain being so unbearable, it interferes with their sleep.  It is usually treated with antidepressants or sleeping medications like Lyrica, Cymbalta, Savella or Neurotin.  In mild cases, the symptoms may go away when stress is decreased, or lifestyle changes are implemented. Eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding caffeine may help with problems sleeping, and may help reduce the severity of the symptoms. Lifestyle measures to improve the quality of sleep can be effective for fibromyalgia.

Improved fitness through exercise is recommended. Studies have shown that fibromyalgia symptoms can be relieved by aerobic exercise. The best way to begin a fitness program is to start with short sessions of just a few minutes of gentle, low-impact exercises such as walking and swimming. The length of each session can be increased slowly, as tolerated. Attempts at keeping to an exercise program often fail because they are begun too aggressively, with sessions that are too long or too intense. Starting out slowly and gently can help ease you into an effective program you can stick with.  Starting slowly helps stretch and mobilize tight, sore muscles. High-impact aerobics and weight lifting could cause increased discomfort. Symptoms may be relieved by gentle stretching and light massage, as well as acupressure, acupuncture, and relaxation techniques.

There is no proven prevention for this disorder, but treatment for Fibromyalgia has come a long way over the years, so the future for this disease looks very good. 


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