Monday, September 15, 2008

Fibromyalgia is usually associated with "tender points", which are specific areas around the body that respond with an inordinate amount of pain when pressure is applied to them. Researchers are beginning to accept that these are not necessarily a good diagnostic criterion, and that the tender points appear to be areas that are particularly sensitive for all people; they are just more so for people with fibromyalgia, who experience a greater level of pain with less pressure than people without the condition.

Even so, since I started to become ill, my upper arms have become so tender that I can hardly bear to even have someone brush against them--and if more pressure than that is applied to them, it is agonizing beyond description. Blood pressure cuffs are torture devices to me, and tourniquets used for blood draws are even worse. I've had people playfully punch my arm, and then get indignant when I start to cry because it hurt so badly. "I didn't hit you THAT hard!" Most don't believe me when I explain that my arms are insanely sensitive, but they do tend to refrain from repeating the gesture when I explain that the pain is probably similar to getting hit in the testicles, and that, if they do it again to me, I'll be happy to demonstrate to them how badly it hurt me.

The arm-punching scenario happened often enough that I now have panic attacks sometimes if someone looks like they are going to touch my upper arm. Usually I move out of their reach, cross my arms, and place a hand on each upper arm for protection, then explain to them why I reacted that way. I've gotten pretty good at anticipating people, so I haven't been hurt in a while by a person, thank goodness.

But the rest of the world isn't foam padded. I'm sure my blood pressure readings (which are usually very good) are higher than what my normal state would be because of the pain, and the anticipation of the pain. Short sleeves with elastic gathers are abhorrent to me. Sometimes ANY fabric touching my arms is intolerable (I wear a lot of sleeveless shirts). I sometimes bump into objects or get jostled in a crowd. There are many days when they hurt and throb even if nothing at all is touching them. It feels like the whole surface of my upper arms are very nasty, very fresh bruises all the time. And when something DOES apply pressure to them, the pain lingers for a short period once the stimulus is gone.

I don't know what mechanism of my illness causes this excruciating arm pain. If I did, maybe I'd have some idea of how to lessen or even eliminate it. This is just one small aspect of the myriad symptoms I deal with on a daily basis, and I thought that elucidating upon this one aspect might give others some insight on just how difficult it can be to face this in addition to the crushing fatigue, widespread body pain, sensitivity to aural and visual stimuli, and all the other things that my brain fog keeps me from enumerating. Not all of them can be managed or reduced with treatment or drugs, and just being alive and conscious is a painful chore some days.


vesta44 said...

I have that sensitivity on my back, just below my waist, and my legs, ankles to hips (if one of the cats walks across my legs, I'm in pain for 10 to 15 minutes after I've put him off of me). It looks like this is a disease that affects everyone differently, as far as where their tenderest points are (my knees are another one, if I bump either of my knees, it will still be painful a couple of hours later).

Anonymous said...

So a fairly ignorant question that may make you want to hit me:
What causes fibremyalgia? Is it the brain misfiring? I understand that it has something to do with the nervous system and causes lots of pain, but that's about it.

Kate217 said...

I'm like Vesta, when my cats walk across my legs, it's agony. (Also the area between my clavicle and my breasts).

I can't imagine how torturous tourniquets ans blood pressure cuffs must be for you. They are excruciating for me and I don't have your upper arm sensitivity.

Pippin, it's a really good question. Unfortunately, no one has figured it out. Apparently, the brains in people with fibromyalgia are really good at receiving pain messages. A recent sleep study has determined specific differences in the sleep interruption between people with fibromyalgia and those without. With any luck, this will be the thin end of the wedge and convince doctors that fibro isn't psychosomatic or imaginary and will provide enough insight to know where to begin research into its causes and possible treatments.

For me, the constant fatigue is even worse than the constant pain, although I suspect that they are a feedback loop, each exacerbating the other.

Andiora said...

I have been sensitive like this for years--since I was in school. It was always just sensitivity in my upper arms, sides and thighs. I thought it was "normal" and I was just oversensitive because I never knew otherwise. I remember my dad tickling me when I was about 11 years old, and I burst into tears because it hurt and he kept telling me it didn't.

Lately, though, I've had the joint pain and overall muscles aches. My migraines have increased and I am overly sensitive to smells. And I am tired, oh so tired.

So, I started snooping on the internet trying to find what might be wrong--don't have a lot of time to see the doctor. And, I am somewhat convinced that I may have fibromyalgia. I am at the same time disheartened to hear there isn't a lot one can do about it.

But, thank you for sharing, at least I know that "yes, it is supposed to hurt" and I am not just imagining the pain.