I’ve lived with Migraine my entire life, so waking up in pain was not new. The surprise was that I suddenly felt like I’d aged 40 years overnight. I didn’t just hurt. It felt as though every muscle in my body had seized up and all my joints were locked tight. In addition to migraine attacks nearly every other day, I now faced daily widespread pain and stiffness. The aphasia, photophobia, and phonophobia so common to Migraine attacks were now a constant presence.
Fibromyalgia had joined the party
Fibromyalgia made its appearance just as I was beginning my quest for a true migraine and headache specialist. I didn’t have migraine under control and felt overwhelmed with learning how to cope with yet another stigmatized, misunderstood disease. Fortunately, I was not as ill-equipped as I first thought. After all, the same principles that applied to living with Migraine also applied to fibromyalgia. These overlapping skills are:
- Enlist the help of a qualified doctor.
- Focus on prevention.
- Track your symptoms.
- Identify your triggers.
- Pay attention to changes in weather.
- Use acute pain medicine sparingly
- You can’t have too many comfort measures.
- Pace yourself.
- Stick with a routine.
- Practice good sleep hygiene.
- Get some exercise every day.
- Take care of your mental health.
- Find support from other patients.
Patience is key
It took a while to sort it all out. My tracking system was a complicated mess that first year. For a time it seemed as though everything triggered a flare-up and nothing was helping. Remembering the challenges of learning to track migraine, I resolved to keep trying. Slowly, the pieces started falling into place. Much to my surprise, many of the things that triggered Migraine also triggered fibromyalgia. That made disease management easier.
A good attitude is essential
While I am never pain-free, the number of acute flares is greatly reduced. Following the same principles used to manage Migraine, I have been able to limit flare-ups to once or twice a month. By listening to my body’s signals, I have learned how to adjust my behaviors and expectations. After all, good disease management is as much about state of mind as it is about effective treatment.
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Reviewed by David Watson, MD.
© Tammy Rome, 2017.
Headache disorders advocate and patient expert, blogger, and mental health therapist, Tammy Rome maintains a private practice specializing in behavioral pain management, as well as writing for her own blog, Brain Storm. She also volunteers as vice chair of the American Headache and Migraine Association and as president of The Cluster Headache Support Group. You can read more of Tammy’s work on her blog and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.