Preventing Fibromyalgia Pain

By Karen Lee Richards

I don't want the title to mislead you.  There's no foolproof way to prevent all pain when you have fibromyalgia.  But understanding how the FM pain cycle works can enable you to lessen the pain much of the time and even prevent some pain altogether. 

The first thing we need to understand is that people with fibromyalgia have a problem processing pain correctly.  Normally, pain is supposed to be an alert to tell you something is wrong that needs to be tended to.  If you cut yourself, the pain tells you to stop the bleeding and apply an antispetic.  Once the wound is treated and begins to heal, the pain lessens and soon goes away altogether – unless you have fibromyalgia. 

Understanding the Pain Cycle

With fibromyalgia, instead of gradually easing the pain, the central nervous system essentially turns up the volume.  What should be a mild, localized, short-term pain becomes a stronger, widespread, long-term pain.  Think of the TV in your living room.  When the volume is at a normal level, the TV serves its purpose of providing information and entertainment for anyone in that room.  But if someone turns the volume all the way up, it becomes an unpleasant noise that spreads through every room in the house.  That's what happens with FM – what should be a mild, maybe even unnoticeable, pain  intensifies and spreads. 

I can actually see this pain process at work when I stub my toe.  Normally, if you stub your toe, you might yell,”Ouch” (or something more colorful), rub your toe for a few minutes, then go on your way as the pain subsides.  Since developing FM, I've discovered that stubbing my toe now triggers a much more long-term pain process.  First, the initial pain is more intense than it used to be.  But more important is what follows.  Within an hour or so, I notice that the lower part of my leg hurts – not intensly, but there's a definite aching feeling.  A couple of hours later, my entire leg is hurting.  By the end of the day, most of my body is aching more than usual.  Those additional aches and pains may last for a few days. 

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