A staggering number of people live with chronic pain, but few people realize this. The people who haven’t experienced chronic pain never stop to think about it, while people who do have chronic pain rarely talk about it and feel isolated by their pain. This month we looked at some of the people affected by chronic pain conditions, the struggles facing them, and ways to cope with these struggles.
The condition fibromyalgia was first mentioned in the 1800s, although it was called “muscular rheumatism” at the time. Over nearly 200 years, and after numerous name changes, fibromyalgia was finally recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) as a defined disease in 1987. The American College of Rheumatology published set diagnostic criteria in 1990.
Despite the established diagnostic criteria, fibromyalgia is still difficult to diagnose because of its wide array of potential symptoms. To make matters more complicated, symptoms can lessen, worsen, start, or stop over time. Once a diagnosis has been reached, though, it’s critical that you pursue treatment, as we explained in our post about the importance of seeing a pain specialist for your fibromyalgia.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia yet, but there are lots of ways to manage symptoms. Seeing a team of different specialists, such as a rheumatologist, a primary care physician, and a pain specialist, is part of managing fibromyalgia. Making small but impactful changes in your life, such as the changes we mentioned in our post about living with fibromyalgia, is also part of managing this condition.
Another part of living well with fibromyalgia, or any pain condition, is realizing that you’re not alone.
This month, we shared information about observances for several conditions that can cause pain. First was Lupus Awareness Month. Relatively little is known about lupus, other than how devastating it can be if untreated. We noted:
“It’s estimated that 1.5 to 2 million people in the United States have lupus. While there is no cure for lupus yet, there are treatments that are usually successful. If left untreated, lupus can become very serious – even life-threatening.”
In our post on standing together against pain on Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, we shared some important general information about fibromyalgia, but that’s not all. We also shared some information about the observances for chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis, and lupus. Aside from the rashes that often accompany lupus flare-ups, all of these conditions are invisible – meaning that a person suffering from one or more of these conditions may not look sick at all.
Many people with invisible illnesses have similar experiences, no matter which condition they have. Other people may suggest that people with invisible illnesses are complainers, that it’s all in their heads, or that it’s all for attention, but these accusations aren’t true. It’s because of misinformation like this, though, that observances for these disorders are so important. By acting as advocates, educating others, and promoting research for these disorders, we can slowly but surely remove the stigma that surrounds invisible illnesses.
Another group of people who aren’t given the appreciation they deserve are mothers who deal with chronic pain on a regular basis. This could be mothers who have chronic pain, or it could be mothers whose children have chronic pain. Either way, pain competes with all the small day-to-day things that build up into a childhood. Advocacy for both mothers with pain and mothers of children with pain can encourage these women to seek out help when needed. Advocacy for children with pain can inspire the establishment of much-needed pediatric pain management programs.
We also highlighted a couple of alternative pain management options to help you improve your quality of life.
Even if you don’t have a chronic pain condition, being pregnant can cause a lot of discomfort and pain. The changes in posture and weight can lead to back and leg pain, which can also contribute to poor sleep quality. That’s why we encouraged expectant mothers to seek out chiropractic care during pregnancy. Not only is chiropractic care from a licensed chiropractor entirely safe, but it may also be extremely beneficial.
In fact, pain reduction and better sleep aren’t the only pluses to seeing a chiropractor while pregnant, as we explained:
“Chiropractic care while pregnant might also shorten labor time. Women who received chiropractic care during their first pregnancy will experience a labor time that is, on average, 25% shorter. During subsequent pregnancies with chiropractic care, the time spent in labor is reduced by 31% on average.”
Massage is another form of alternative treatment that we discussed this month. Massage has been used for pain management for thousands of years, and it can reduce pain from nearly any pain condition – even fibromyalgia. Research even suggests that massage is one of the best alternative therapies available to complement a fibromyalgia treatment plan. If you can find a massage therapist who’s familiar with your pain condition, even better; he or she will already know which techniques and routine will work best for you.
Whatever type of pain or pain condition you’re dealing with, you don’t have to deal with it alone.
In April, we gave you several tips to find a support group, but this month, we tried to give you all the information you need to start your own support group. It may seem daunting, but starting your own support group can be very rewarding. If you decide to cover educational or research topics, like the information we covered in our posts “How The Brain Experiences Pain” and “Do Pain Dairies Work?“, running your own support group can also help you learn a lot.
We covered all the steps to starting your own support group, including:
- Deciding the focus of your support group
- Electing a leader
- Choosing a location to meet
- Putting the word out
- Setting a meeting schedule
We at Pain Doctor hope that this month, we did our best to let you know that we’re standing alongside you as you learn how to live with your pain condition.
What was your favorite Pain Doctor post this May?
Image by nelgdev via Flickr