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You’ve probably read about fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain, fatigue and fibro fog, but the list of possible symptoms is far-reaching and body-wide. Those tiny lists don’t even begin to describe our experience! I put together this “monster list” of 60+ symptoms to let you know that you’renotalone! The list is adapted from one put together by fibromyalgia author Devin Starlanyl along with other research.Knowing the full range of symptoms can help you track them, either to help your doctor reach a diagnosis or to help you identify triggers. It also helps to know you’re not the only person experiencing these!Some of the following are noted as overlapping conditions, which means they commonly occur with fibromyalgia but actually are conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated separately.

We can have any combination of the following symptoms, and to varying degrees of severity.

General Symptoms

  • Delayed reactions to physical exertion or stressful events
  • Other family members with fibromyalgia (genetic predisposition)
  • Sweats
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Cravings for carbohydrate and chocolate
  • Headaches & migraines
  • Vision changes, including rapidly worsening vision

Muscle & Tissue Symptoms

  • Pain that ranges from mild to severe, and may move around the body (See The 7 Types of Fibromyalgia Pain)
  • Morning stiffness
  • Muscle twitches
  • Diffuse swelling
  • Fibrocystic (lumpy, tender) breasts (as an overlapping condition)

Sinus & Allergy Symptoms

  • Allergies
  • Post nasal drip
  • Runny nose
  • Mold & yeast sensitivity
  • Shortness of breath
  • Earaches & itchy ears
  • Ringing ears (tinitis)
  • Thick secretions

Sleep-Related Symptoms

  • Light and/or broken sleep pattern with unrefreshing sleep
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep starts (falling sensations)
  • Twitchy muscles at night
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism)

Reproductive Symptoms

  • Menstrual problems
  • PMS (as an overlapping condition)
  • Loss of libido
  • Impotence

Abdominal & Digestive Symptoms

  • Bloating & nausea
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Pelvic pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (as an overlapping condition)
  • Urinary frequency

Cognitive/Neurological Symptoms

  • Difficulty speaking known words, other language impairments (dysphasia)
  • Directional disorientation
  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Paresthesias in the upper limbs (tingling or burning sensations)
  • Loss of ability to distinguish some shades of colors
  • Short-term memory impairment
  • Confusion
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Staring into space before brain “kicks in”
  • Inability to recognize familiar surroundings


Sensory Symptoms

  • Sensitivity to odors
  • Sensitivity to pressure changes, temperature & humidity
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Night driving difficulty
  • Sensory overload

Emotional Symptoms

  • Panic attacks
  • Depression (as an overlapping condition)
  • Tendency to cry easily
  • Free-floating anxiety (not associated with situation or object)
  • Mood swings
  • Unaccountable irritability

Heart-Related Symptoms

  • Mitral valve prolapse (as an overlapping condition)
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrythmia, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (as an overlapping condition)
  • Pain that mimics heart attack, frequently from costochondritis (as an overlapping condition)

Skin, Hair & Nail Symptoms

  • Pronounced nail ridges
  • Nails that curve under
  • Mottled skin
  • Bruising or scarring easily
  • Hair loss (temporary)
  • Tissue overgrowth (non-cancerous tumors called lipomas, ingrown hairs, heavy and splitting cuticles, adhesions)


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Fibromyalgia Mystery Finally Solved! Researchers Find Main Source of Pain in Blood Vessels


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10 Things You Need To Know About Loving A Cancer

People with the Cancer sign have a lot going for them – they have such a big heart, a warm, caring nature, a goofy sense of humor, and steadfast determination to reach their goals, among other things. They might hide behind their tough exterior sometimes, but behind the walls they put up, they have one of the most generous, compassionate souls you will ever come across.

Cancers have a very complex nature, and not many people know how to handle someone so complicated, raw, and pure. However, if you decide to get into a relationship with a Cancer, you will need this little crash course before things get too serious.

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Cancers may try to hide their emotions, but when you hurt them, it’s written all over their face. They might try to act tough and unshaken by heartbreak, but underneath, they have deep emotions running through their veins. As a Cancer myself, I must say that sometimes I get too caught up in my emotions, so much so that I let them carry me out to sea. Since Cancers are ruled by the moon, their emotions ebb and flow, just as the moon controls the tide.

Cancers love too easily and quickly, but their vulnerability makes them even more attractive and lovable. They will give you all the love they can muster, and then some, as romance and raw emotion come naturally to them.


Just like a loyal dog that you call your best friend, a Cancer will stay by you through the good times and the bad. They don’t leave when the skies grow dark and you can’t figure out which way to turn; instead, they guide you through the storm, taking care of you when you don’t remember how anymore.

Cancers have a natural tendency to nurture and take care of others, so you will never feel alone with a Cancer by your side.


Cancers love to listen to other people talk about their feelings all day long, and have very sound advice to give. However, when it comes to their own emotions, they keep them under lock and key for the most part. They don’t like to burden others, so they would rather handle problems on their own.

If they really trust you, a Cancer will share their issues and concerns with you…carefully and slowly. Just have some patience and remember that Cancers are highly sensitive; they want to make sure that you truly care before divulging too much information.


Cancers have pretty much accepted the fact that no one will truly understand them, not even themselves. However, they’ve realized that trying to decode the complexities of their mind would take away from their essence – some of the greatest mysteries in life have never been solved, yet, people can still appreciate them.

This is the attitude that most Cancers have about themselves, so they honestly don’t mind if you can’t read them or crack their codes. They know that having all the answers takes away from the fun of life, anyway.


A Cancer spends the majority of his or her time living in a fantasy land, high above the monotony and structure of modern life. They bore easily with rules and limitations, and would much rather create new realities from the ideas in their heads.

They normally don’t do well in jobs that require great logic and analytical skills – instead, they prefer solitary, creative endeavors that truly showcase their talents. They make wonderful writers, poets, artists, and storytellers due to their imaginative nature.


Cancers get easily overwhelmed by the fast pace of modern society, and need ample time to themselves to regroup and heal themselves. They have an empathic nature, and therefore absorb the energies of everyone around them.

Going to noisy, crowded places takes a lot of energy from them, so they need time afterwards to recharge and decompress.


A Cancer doesn’t like being told what to do; they have a natural tendency to break away from the mainstream and live life in a way that makes sense to them. They might have a quiet, contemplative personality, but when it comes time to take charge, they pull their weight and rise to the occasion. They have a lot of passion and soul, and care deeply for others.

These personality traits make it easy for them to carry others to success, and even create more leaders.


Like we said before, understanding a Cancer can take eons, because they seem to have a very fluid nature. Their ideas about things change constantly, and they have a turbulent, unpredictable demeanor, which you can expect from a water sign.

Oftentimes, Cancers feel as though they don’t even belong here, like they came from a totally different place and time to this Earth, for whatever reason. Some believe Cancers have the greatest ability to heal the Earth due to their highly psychic, motherly nature.


Cancers forever put other people’s needs before their own. If you need something, a Cancer will bend over backwards and run to the edges of the Earth to make sure you get taken care of.

In doing so, they often forget to take care of themselves, which leaves them feeling very imbalanced and empty. Because of their calling to help people, they need ample alone time in order to refill their own cup so they can continue serving others.


Cancers might seem quiet and reserved, but don’t let that fool you. Once you get them started, they can talk for hours on end about scientific theories, aliens, the universe, love, and other esoteric or philosophical topics. They enjoy deep conversations, and get excited once they find someone who can discuss things that ignite their imagination.

4 Clues You Are A Woman With Asperger’s

Ninety percent of Asperger diagnoses are for boys. Not because girls don’t have Asperger’s, but because it’s so much harder to identify in girls that they go largely undiagnosed. I didn’t know I have Asperger’s until my son was diagnosed.

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Asperger’s is a developmental disorder–often associated with Silicon Valley as the “Geek Syndrome“–that’s almost impossible to self-identify because central to the dysfunction is very poor social skills. But poor social skills means that you are missing social cues which means that you don’t know you’re missing social cues. Everyone in the room wants you to shut up and you don’t know it.

More importantly, people with Asperger’s often never gain the soft skills so important for workplace success. Aspergers comes with a high risk of depression, homeslessness and suicide. So identifying it in girls is important.

People can identify boys with Asperger’s because it’s a stereotype: Albert Einstein, the guy on The Big Bang Theory, the crazy genius who looks like a dork.

Asperger’s is much harder to identify in girls because girls with terrible social skills are still better than most men. So tons of women at work are walking around undiagnosed, and it’s holding them back from getting help.

1. You are out of step socially in terms of grooming or sex

Helga Weber
Helga Weber

A telltale sign of female Asperger’s is hair that’s always a mess. It seems too complicated to comb hair. Of course there are girls who don’t have Asperger’s who have messy hair. Or, if their hair isn’t a mess then they might have absolutely no idea what to do with guys. Girls with Asperger’s are late developers socially, and I found myself making sexual mistakes a fifteen-year-old would make when I was as old as twenty-nine. In the workplace, women with Asperger’s will have no sense of how to dress or how to present themselves to look like other women. And they will have no sense of why this would matter.

2. You are disorganized in surprising ways


A diagnosis of Asperger’s in girls often focuses on executive function. Executive function is the ability to stay organized, to know that all details are not of equal importance and ignore unimportant details.

For example, there is five minutes at any given time when your bank balance might not perfectly reflect your expenditures. There might be lag time. Most people ignore this, and keep track of their finances. Someone with Asperger’s would declare that keeping track of their bank account is impossible because the reporting system is so unorganized. If you argued with the person with Asperger’s, that person would think you are a moron for not understanding the shortcomings of banking technology.

In work, a woman with Asperger’s would seem reasonable every time she asks for clarification, but if you add up all the times she asks for clarification it would be way way more than any of her peers. She would think this is because she is precise and people around her are lazy thinkers. In fact, she is not able to figure out the details that people leave out because they don’t matter.

3. You are unpredictably detail oriented

Ally Mauro
Ally Mauro

Another person with Asperger’s would be amazing at balancing a checkbook because they like the rules, but they would have no understanding about why someone would spend their last dime to buy clothes for a job interview.

The pattern is not a particular thing that is off-key, it’s that the person is always off-key and indignant that other people think she’s off-key.

Poor executive function for a young person is maybe not remembering what you are doing second to second. Not bringing the right books home from school. Forgetting to brush teeth. (I didn’t brush my teeth consistently until I was 22. That’s when I figured out how to remember on a daily basis.)

I have very poor executive function. Sometimes I have complete disasters, like I can’t get my driver’s license after twenty tries at the DMV, or I can’t remember my own age and I fill out a form wrong and people think I’m intentionally lying. But mostly, I have a lot of people around me–paid and unpaid–to help me. Also, I have therapists who help my son who has Asperger’s and, if I watch closely enough, they help me, too.

4. Moving from one thing to another is difficult

Erik Schmahl
Erik Schmahl

A lot of executive function is about transitions. For example, there are two things you like to do, but moving between them is hard, so you don’t. You just never change. This looks like procrastination, or laziness, or irresponsibility in kids.

The relative strong social skills of girls makes it too easy to mask poor executive function. It’s a huge disservice to girls, who will go through life with off-putting social skills and not realize it and have no idea why success is so elusive. So much of what we put up with in quirky kids is completely unacceptable in the adult world–especially for women.

Also, poor executive function is genetic, which makes it even harder for parents to recognize it in a daughter (they are used to it in their family). And the genetic component makes it more likely that parents don’t notice–for example people with poor executive function have so much trouble with transitions that they unintentionally avoid them at home. People with Asperger’s are also attracted to people with Asperger’s, so it’s hard to recognize that you are out of step with the general population you when your friends are also like you.

So take a good look at yourself. If you are scatter-brained, with no follow though, if you are a little weird socially, with no attention to typical girl concerns (like appearance), then you might have Asperger’s. So many girls go undiagnosed. I was one of them. And I see all the help the boys are getting as kids. I would have liked some of that.

The best thing I did as an adult was to surround myself with people who understand my limitations and can function as a guide for me. My co-worker, Ryan, for example, helped me sift through the world of dating. And other co-workers help me get through meetings by knowing when I am likely to say something inappropriate and stifling it. If you think you might have Asperger’s, have yourself evaluated by someone who does that for a living. You can find them on your insurance plan, or you can use one of hundreds of tests online. And once you know, start trusting people who give you advice. The people with Asperger’s who are the most successful are people who understand their weaknesses and ask for help. Of course this is a great skill to everyone to learn, but especially people with Asperger’s.

10 Things to remember Not to Say to Someone with Aspergers

Inspired by Therese Borchard‘s piece about 10 Things Not to Say to a Depressed Person, I thought I would write my own list of things not to say to someone when they tell you they have Asperger’s Syndrome (AS).

1. I’m sorry (you have Asperger’s).

Don’t be.  I’m not.  Finding out that I had Asperger’s was the best thing that ever happened to me.  Yes, some days when I’ve particularly struggled with AS-related issues I wish I was better at certain things, but I am who I am, and I am where I am, because of Asperger’s, I wouldn’t change that for anything.

2. Can you get treated for that?
My objection to this question is the medicalisation of something I see as a difference in thinking.  I don’t subscribe to the ‘disease’ model, so I am not enamoured by the ‘treatment’ proposal.  Some aspects of my life respond to supportive therapies (for want of a better word), for example having AS makes me prone to anxiety and depression, for which I have found cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) rather helpful.  But I wouldn’t say that I have CBT forAsperger’s, or that my anxiety and depression are qualitatively different to those of a Neurotypical person – yes the things that make me anxious may be different, but the experience is pretty similar from what I can see.

3. Are you sure you’ve got it?
Yes.  It was a testament to our friendship that I confided in you in the first place.  Your doubt feels like you either think that I am a) so un-self-aware that I may have made a mistake, or b) a fraud.  You want me to be ok, but you are missing the point that I am already ok, and that this is a wholly positive and important ‘label’.  I don’t want to feel like I must justify my way of being.

4. You seem so normal…

This is a related statement which usually follows No.3, and should convey a sense of praise and admiration for all the effort I put in, day in day out, to ‘pass’.  However it feels like the opposite, like a denial of the hard work because there’s ‘nothing wrong with me’, and it comes with a value judgement that because I say I have Asperger’s, I am somehow deficient and abnormal.

5. Can I see what you’re like when you’re being more Aspie?
No.  Apart from the fact that there’s a reason why I try to act more Neurotypical (it reduces my feelings of self-consciousness, anxiety, and awkwardness for a start), it has become such a way of life for me that I am not sure that I would know how to undo it (or why I would want to).  I would be performing for you an approximation of my perception of what you want to see, like some sort of side-show.  It would be like me saying to you, “Can I watch you have an unpleasant and private Doctor’s consultation?” because I want to see what you are like when your guard is completely down.  Plus there have been times when, to paraphrase another great article, My Autism was Showing and you did not respond with joy or pleasure, you felt embarrassed and awkward for me.  You are asking me to reveal my very core, my true self, the self that I have spent most of my life trying to mask, even from my nearest and dearest.  You are asking me to be completely vulnerable and exposed when, if you truly knew me, you wouldn’t need or want to ask.

6. You like watching TV?  Get a life.
Get lost.  If I’ve heard this once I’ve heard it a thousand times.  I even saw in someone else’s blog (which shall remain nameless) that the No.2 way (of 9) to be ‘exceptionally boring’ is to watch a lot of TV.  In fact the whole of his post was basically a description of me, largely my Asperger’s traits and behaviours, which I found rather offensive.  I told him this in a tweet but all he did was follow me.  Perhaps he is looking for inspiration for the second part of his post on how to be ‘boring’.

7. You should get out more.
No thanks.  I have a bit of social anxiety, but mostly I really love my house.  You have to realise that I have actually considered going out lots of times, and about four days a week I do leave my house.  But I am always pleased to return, much as you must be pleased to go somewhere you like.  Why is there something wrong with my choice of favourite venue, just because it is my house?  I know who is going to be there and no-one tries to make me do things I don’t want to do.

8. You’re too sensitive, you shouldn’t let things get to you so much.

This one predates my diagnosis by a good twenty years and has got no less annoying with time.  Even if I could be ‘less sensitive’, if I knew that your cruel remarks were meant to be a ‘joke’, if I wasn’t hypersensitive to sound and light and pain and heat and crowds, if I could stop myself from crying the first instant that I was remotely stressed, then perhaps your comment would be valid.  I can’t, and perhaps you should be more sensitive to my sensitivity.

9. So do you not have any feelings?
I’m actually having one right now, and it’s not one of the fluffy ones.  Yes I have feelings, I’m a person!  I may have difficulty identifying them quickly, or articulating them to someone else, particularly when they are subtle, but I have them and they do affect me.  Sometimes there is a right-brain/left-brain block and I have to work out my feelings backwards via my actions, but they’re there once I know where to look.

10. Do you think you should have children?
Let me stop you right there.  Let me stop you before you make a complete idiot of yourself and I call you a “<ahem>king eugenicist” and never speak to you again.

I don’t get these questions every day, or all from one person, but these are the recurrent ones which make me feel uncomfortable and highlight some of the gap in understanding.  This is one of the longer posts I have written, but it is autism acceptance month after all.  Thank you for reading.

Fibromyalgia vs. Arthritis: Understanding Pain Types

Understanding Different Pain Types

Different pain conditions can cause very different kinds of pain. However, due to the subjective nature of pain, it’s hard for doctors and patients alike to know what’s making us hurt in a certain place at any given moment. For those of us with widespread pain, that can make it really hard to recognize it when a new pain condition comes up—and that means delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Something that can help is understanding the experiences of others when it comes to different varieties of pain. We can also learn proper pain terminology so we can communicate better with our doctors.

I’ve experienced a lot of different pain types stemming from: fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, myofascial pain syndrome, TMJ, carpal tunnel disorder, a bunch of injuries and more.

Some pain types originate in the central nervous system (CNS) while others are structural pain tied to a muscle, connective tissue, bone, or joint.

Fibromyalgia Pain

Fibromyalgia pain is widespread and can strike anywhere at the body at any time. It can frequently be in certain areas or be completely random. It is made up of myriad pain types. We’ve got:

  1. Hyperalgesia, which doesn’t cause pain on its own but amplifies all of your pain signals;
  2. Allodynia, which is pain from stimuli that aren’t normally painful (such as a loose waistband, mild heat, or air moving across your skin) and is often described as feeling similar to a sunburn;
  3. Paresthesias, a type of nerve pain/abnormal sensation that includes tingling and burning;
  4. Ischemic pain, which is when blood flow is low to an area and then rushes back, like when your foot falls asleep and then gets pins and needles;
  5. Fascial pain, which may stem from inflammation in the fascia (a web of connective tissues that covers and connects pretty much everything in your body—muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, etc.)
  6. Other pain types that aren’t yet medically classified but are commonly described by those of us who have the condition.

Ischemic, fascial and nerve pain will be discussed later in this article. You can learn more about types 1, 2, 3, and 6, including how they’re treated, here:

  • 7 Types of Fibromyalgia Pain

Fibromyalgia pain is unpredictable. Mine is currently in a long-term remission, but I used to get horrible stabbing, searing pain in my abdomen that would seem to bounce and ricochet around at random. One day, I could handle a fair amount of exertion before they started; the next, it might just take getting out of bed and walking to the kitchen. Other times, they’d hit out of the blue, not tied to exertion at all.

Flares would take me out of commission entirely. I’d lay in bed or on the couch all day, with level 10 pain that felt like I was being stabbed repeatedly. It was common for me to curl up in a ball and cry several times a day because I simply couldn’t do anything else. My flares lasted anywhere from 3 to 10 days and could hit at any time.

Nerve Pain

A lot of fibromyalgia pain comes from the nerves, so descriptions of it are much like those of neuropathy (pain from damaged nerves.) In fact, the drug Lyrica (pregabalin) is approved for both neurology and fibromyalgia.

Nerve pain can be tingly and burning, and it can feel like a bolt of electricity. Anyone who’s touched a live wire or the tines of a half-in electrical plug knows what that’s like. Another good example of nerve pain is bashing your “funny bone”—it’s not the bone that causes that distinctive and intense pain, it’s the nerves.

My nerve pain (from carpal tunnel, fibromyalgia, and mild neuropathy in one foot and leg) feels like it’s right at the surface. When it’s mild, I sometimes confuse it for an itch, and then I REALLY regret scratching it!

Ischemic Pain

“Ischemia” means “inadequate blood supply.” It’s also called “hypoperfusion.” The most common reference most of us have is a foot or hand falling asleep. You don’t feel much while the blood flow is low, but we all know what happens when you move or try to stand on the affected part. Ow!

In fibromyalgia, some research suggests low-level ischemia in the muscles. That means they’re deprived of oxygen, which makes them weak. Then, when blood flow does increase, you can get that distinctive prickly, burning sensation.

Exercise increases blood flow to the muscles, which is a possible reason that appropriate exercise, tailored to your specific exercise tolerance and fitness level, can reduce fibromyalgia pain.

In my experience, ischemic pain is most similar to nerve pain.

Connective Tissue Pain

The connective tissues include fascia, tendons, and ligaments. If you’ve ever had a sprain, you’ve experienced connective tissue pain.

Tendons attach muscles to bones, while ligaments connect bones to each other. The fascia holds pretty much everything inside your body together. You know the white filmy coating on a chicken breast? That’s fascia.

On top of having had several connective-tissue injuries, I have myofascial pain syndrome, which causes injuries to heal improperly. That leads to trigger points, which can cause both local and referred pain. (Trigger points are NOT the same as the tender points sometimes used to diagnose fibromyalgia.)

In my experience, connective tissue pain is achy, with sharper pain when you use the damaged part.

Joint Pain

SMC Images/Getty Images

Fibromyalgia doesn’t typically cause joint pain. If you have joint pain from another source, such as arthritis, hyperalgesia will make it worse. However, if you have sore joints, and especially if those joints sometimes get hot and/or red, it’s NOT from fibromyalgia.

Joint pain, for me, is distinctly different from fibromyalgia pain types. It feels like it comes from deeper in the body, it’s extremely localized, and it feels hot. Sometimes I can feel that heat on the outside, like when it’s in my hands and knees, but other times it just feels hot inside.

My arthritis pain is most similar to my fascial pain, and that caused a big delay in recognizing it. By the time my rheumatologist was convinced something “new” was going on, it had hit the majority of my joints. Just a few years later, it’s in all of them, to varying degrees. Even if I found a treatment today that stopped the disease from progressing, I’d still be living with a lot of joint damage.

Joint pain, for me, has been a lot easier to treat, though. I usually have good results from ice and anti-inflammatories, which have little to no effect on my fibromyalgia pain. Narcotics work better, too. Those treatments don’t necessarily make my joint pain go away, but they do ease the pain and increase function. Steroid treatments help, too.

Even so, arthritis pain is constant. The same places hurt every day, and while the intensity may rise and fall to a degree, for me, it always stays within certain parameters. For example, I can count on my hip pain to be a dull ache, somewhere between 4 and 6 on the pain scale, when I’m not very active. Then, a certain amount of movement will predictably increase it to a 9 or 10 and make it seize up.

Notice I said “predictable.” That’s something no one says about fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia vs. Arthritis

I’m not going to say that one of these conditions is “worse” or “more painful” than the other. They’re completely different and both vary considerably in severity from one person to another.

For me, fibromyalgia was completely debilitating during flares and caused considerable pain during remissions. At the same time, it involved dozens of other symptoms, including cognitive dysfunction (fibro fog), fatigue, dizziness, environmental sensitivities, and a lot of other things that made life difficult.

However, now and then it would really back off and I’d feel pretty darned good. During those times, I could get a lot done and felt almost “normal.” With arthritis, I don’t have those breaks. I have better times and worse times, but the variance is a lot less. Arthritis also causes a much smaller set of symptoms.

With fibromyalgia, I was fortunate and found a combination of treatments that put it into remission. I still have some symptoms, but they’re a lot milder. So far with my arthritis, I’ve been unable to tolerate treatments that slow the disease progression. I’m able to treat the pain, but my immune system continues to damage my joints.

That’s just my experience, though. Someone else may be able to slow the arthritis but be powerless against fibromyalgia. I’m sure every possible combination of outcomes exists. Every case is different.

Recognizing New Pain

The important thing for each of us is to pay attention to our bodies. Know your pain types and what appears to trigger them. That way, if something else crops up, you’ll be able to recognize it sooner. It can help to keep a symptom journal.

When you approach your doctor about new pain types, be sure to emphasize that it’s new and different from your other pain. Describe its nature—achy, burning, stabbing, etc.—and, if it’s similar to a pain type you’ve had before, mention that. You want to make sure your doctor understands that it’s not a worsening of fibromyalgia pain so that he/she will be willing to investigate.


A Promising New Drug Kills Pain Like Morphine—And It’s Not Addictive, Either

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Katz DL, et al. Medical hypotheses. 2007;69(3):517-25. The pain of fibromyalgia syndrome is due to muscle hypoperfusion induced by regional vasomotor dysregulation.

Kulshreshtha P, Deepak KK. Clinical physiology and functional imaging. 2013 Mar;33(2):83-91. Autonomic nervous system profile in fibromyalgia patients and its modulation by exercise: a mini review.

Liptan GL. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies. 2010 Jan;14(1):3-12. Fascia: a missing link in our understanding of the pathology of fibromyalgia.

What is the Difference Between Lupus and Fibromyalgia?

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Lupus and fibromyalgia are rheumatic disorders that share some symptoms and can be experienced concurrently by patients. Despite this overlap, lupus and fibromyalgia are distinct conditions that every patient will experience in his or her own way. In cases of lupus, the patient’s tissues, joints, and organs are attacked by the immune system. Fibromyalgia sufferers may manifest some symptoms similar to those associated with lupus but without experiencing inflammation, joint, or organ damage or many of the other complications that result from lupus, including a vulnerability to other infections such as colds, shingles, and pneumonia.

Lupus and fibromyalgia are both chronic disorders, but the latter does not cause inflammation or organ and tissue damage. Fibromyalgia is generally characterized by widespread muscle, tendon, and ligament pain, as well as specific tender points and fatigue. In contrast to lupus, fibromyalgia is not progressive and does not make the patient vulnerable to other medical problems or diseases.

The pathology of lupus is better understood than that of fibromyalgia, although the condition’s specific cause is still debated among medical professionals. Unlike fibromyalgia, lupus is an autoimmune disorder characterized by the body’s immune system, turning on its own joints, tissues, and organs. People suffering from lupus typically manifest some symptoms distinct from those of fibromyalgia, such as joint swelling, organ damage, and a characteristic facial butterfly facial rash or scaly body rash.

Blood and other tests can help a medical professional determine whether or not a patient has lupus. The antinuclear antibody test, double stranded anti-DNA test, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate are all blood tests that a doctor can order to diagnose lupus. In addition, a doctor may order a urinalysis or a kidney and liver assessment if he or she suspects that an individual has lupus.

There are no lab tests or imagining scans that can confirm a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Doctors who suspect fibromyalgia often eliminate similar conditions first and test the 18 specific points on the patient’s body for tenderness. A patient meets the criteria for fibromyalgia if he or she is tender in at least 11 of the 18 points and has experienced widespread muscle pain for more than three months.

The treatment for lupus and fibromyalgia can different significantly. Lupus is commonly treated with corticosteroids, antimalarial, or immunosuppressive drugs. In contrast, antidepressants, analgesics, and anti-seizure drugs are typical fibromyalgia treatment options. It is important for patients seeking a diagnosis to find a medical professional that is familiar with both lupus and fibromyalgia.


Regular readers know I’m very skeptical about the claims of new drugs, especially those advertised on TV with a voice at the end of the commercial reading the side effects at the speed of a tobacco auctioneer (I always listen carefully for “death,” that ultimate side effect).


You’ll see no commercials for either Savella or Xyrem on TV, the first because its manufacturer, Forest Laboratories, doesn’t believe in direct-to-consumer ads. The FDA hasn’t yet approved Xyrem for fibromyalgia, though it will likely get an FDA blessing by year’s end. However, many fibromyalgia physicians are prescribing Xyrem off-label, informing their patients about the pending FDA status. The Xyrem story is especially interesting, I think, but let’s take a look at both drugs.

Used In Europe for Five Years

Savella (milnacipran) has been used in Europe for fibromyalgia for about five years with excellent results. Though they’re largely unaware of it, Europeans are guinea pigs for the American pharmaceutical industry, trying drugs before they’re approved here. Savella acts by raising brain levels of stress-buffering serotonin and a second neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, which is involved in focus and energy. Although milnacipran is a unique molecule, the effect is theoretically similar to combining an SSRI antidepressant (like Lexapro) with a psychostimulant (like the attention-deficit disorder med Adderall).

US Clinical Trial Results

The clinical results in US studies, which had to be completed before FDA approval, have been impressive. Researchers tracked about 2000 fibro patients, 95% female, after three and six months of taking Savella. They asked about improvement in pain, improvement in overall perception of “positive change,” and improvement of physical function. In all categories, Savella scored significantly greater than a placebo (dummy pill).

Researchers knew what the main side effect would be before anyone swallowed the first pill. When you do anything to raise norepinephrine, you feel nauseated, and nausea did turn out to be the number-one side effect. To avoid this, patients start at a dose one-tenth of the maintenance dose and gradually increase it. Headache and constipation also occur, but less often. Anticipating your next question, no weight gain occurs with Savella.

If you start Savella, any drugs you’re taking that raise serotonin need to be tapered down (not necessarily discontinued, but lowered). Otherwise, Savella can be used with most other medications.

Xyrem Comparison

Xyrem was almost 20 years ago when I first learned from a massage therapist that the chemical that would ultimately be released as Xyrem could help fibromyalgia patients. “It’s pretty hard to find these days,” she said. “You know, it’s got a terrible reputation.”

“Terrible reputation” was an understatement. Gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, was available over-the-counter, but was rapidly being withdrawn by the FDA because of its high abuse potential. If you’re thinking, “I’ve heard of GHB…” you’re right, it’s the date-rape drug, a Mickey Finn of a sleep med that’s easily mixed with an innocuous drink for nefarious reasons.

How could GHB be helpful in fibro?

Researchers discovered what fibro patients already knew. On those rare nights where they slept deeply and well, people with fibro had less pain and more energy the next day. With GHB, you undeniably sleep deeply, and back when it was widely available fibro patients who tried it were telling their massage therapists (but not their physicians!) how this drug was helping them.

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recent research findings have uncovered novel mechanisms underlying fibromyalgia, ways for diagnosis and treatment.


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Fascia: A Hidden Piece of the Puzzle of Fibromyalgia Pain

By Ginevra Liptan, MD

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You may have heard from your doctor or a TV ad that fibromyalgia is caused by over-activity of pain sensing nerves. It’s true, this is one important source of fibromyalgia pain, but there are other even more important triggers of pain that must be addressed in order to get significant pain reduction. And unfortunately your doctor may not be aware of them.

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Many studies have shown that the fibromyalgia nervous system has become sensitized and therefore has overactive responses resulting in pain. This is the target of the three FDA approved medications for this illness, and these medications can indeed be helpful—usually resulting in about 30 percent reduction of pain.

In my experience, both as someone with the illness personally and as a physician treating fibromyalgia, utilizing these medications alone is inadequate. For me, I didn’t find any relief from that deep, burning ache in my neck and upper back muscles until I found a treatment that addressed my pain in a different way. It turns out there is another huge factor that may be the missing piece of the pain puzzle.

The massive connective tissue network that surrounds all of our muscles—think of the shiny outer coating on a raw chicken breast—plays a key role in generating the pain and muscle tenderness of fibromyalgia. In order to get more effective pain relief, both patients and providers need to understand exactly how this connective tissue (also called fascia) contributes to fibromyalgia pain, and use this information to target treatment.

You can feel your own fascia right now if you gently bend your head to the side, as if trying to rest your ear on your shoulder. You will feel a pulling or stretching sensation on the opposite side of your neck, from shoulder to jaw. What you are feeling is not actually stretching of the muscle—there is no one muscle that runs from your shoulder to your ear—but stretching of the fascia surrounding and linking all the muscles between those two points.

Medical understanding has lagged behind on this vital component of the body, but is finally catching up. The first Fascia Research Congress was held at Harvard in 2007 and started a tidal wave of research. We know that fascia is a continuous network of web-like connective tissue that envelopes all our muscles. This network of connective tissue contains lots of pain-sensing nerves and is about as sensitive to pain as our skin. Fascia can also contract, or tighten, in response to “danger” signals from the brain.

Fascia is the connective tissue “armor” of the body, tightening immediately in response to signals from the many nerves running throughout it. This provides strength in emergency situations and can be life-saving in the short-term. Researchers believe that a rapid contraction of the fascia is what creates the enormous extra strength that humans can produce in emergencies; for example, when a mother overpowers a mountain lion that is attacking her child, as happened recently in Colorado.

In fibromyalgia we know that the brain is mistakenly triggering the danger or “fight-or-flight” alarm bells all the time, instead of only in emergencies. This occurs not in our thinking brain, but in those areas that control basic housekeeping functions like breathing and digestion. Sustained danger signals from the brain to the muscles results chronically tight muscles.

As research advances, we are learning that the tightness lies not only in the muscles themselves but also in the fascia, that connective tissue casing that surrounds the muscles (think of the casing around a sausage that surrounds and contains the meat inside). And this sustained tightness of the fascia not only causes pain, it also generates inflammation, and contorts the muscles into painful knots called trigger points. If you want to dive more into the science supporting the role of fascia in fibromyalgia pain, you can read more in my article for Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy.

Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of treatments that reduce tension and that can “unstick” painful knots in the muscles and surrounding fascia. The treatment that has helped me the most personally is a form of manual therapy called myofascial release (MFR), specifically the John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Approach. This technique involves a combination of sustained manual traction and prolonged gentle stretching of fascia and is by the far the most effective treatment I have found to unstick the fascia and reduce fibromyalgia pain.

Two large European studies found that after 20 sessions of myofascial release, fibromyalgia subjects reported significant pain reduction. What is really great, though, is this provided more long-lasting pain relief, with most still reporting reduced pain levels one month after their last session.

I recommend that my patients try at least two to three MFR sessions to determine if it will help them. It may temporarily cause increased muscle soreness, similar to what you feel after intense exercise. But after a day or two the muscle pain should be much better than it was prior to the session. If you find it helpful, I recommend going once or twice a week for about eight weeks, similar to a typical schedule for physical therapy. After that it can be done as needed for pain flares. Most therapists will also teach you techniques using balls or other tools that you can do at home to extend the benefit of each treatment.

In addition to myofascial release, there are a few other manual therapies that can treat tense and painful fascia. Rolfing Structural Integration, or Rolfing™, is a manual therapy that approaches fascial treatment a little differently but can also be quite effective. A form of hands-on manipulation developed more than 50 years ago, Rolfing focuses on the fascia around the joints, with treatment emphasizing correcting posture and joint alignment in a series of 10–12 sessions.

A related therapy is osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), a combination of gentle stretching and pressure on the muscles and joints. Since this treatment is performed by physicians (usually osteopathic physicians) it is often covered by insurance. Health care providers can also perform trigger point injections to break up the painful muscle knots.

There are also several ways you can treat your own fascia. Learning these self-care tricks may be the most important step you take to manage your pain, and are a huge emphasis in my clinic’s treatment program. One way is to place a small, soft ball under any tight and painful areas of muscle. Allow yourself to sink onto the ball for a few minutes to provide the right amount of sustained pressure to allow the fascia to release.

Finally, Yin yoga (also called restorative yoga) is a slow, gentle form of yoga that includes supported stretching using props such as pillows and bolsters to settle into a comfortable position for several minutes, allowing the fascia to melt and soften. Check out yin yoga classes or videos to learn and practice the poses.

Understanding the contribution of fascia to fibromyalgia pain expands our treatment options. Certainly pain from the fascia is not the entire story of fibromyalgia pain—a hypersensitive nervous system that over-reacts to signals also needs to be addressed. But in my experience, tightness in the fascia is the spark that lights the pain fire and needs to be treated for really effective pain relief.

Some resources

  • To learn more about myofascial release and find a therapist in your area, visit myofascialrelease.com or mfrtherapists.com. You can also check out my clinic’s video that shows MFR in action.
  • To learn more about Rolfing, or find a therapist in your area, www.rolf.org To find an osteopathic physician (DO) who performs OMT go to www.osteopathic.org.
  • Learn how to do self-myofascial release with Myofascial Stretching: A Guide to Self-Treatmentby Jill Stedronsky and Brenda Pardy available on amazon.com




27 Real Symptoms of Fibromyalgia That Aren’t Just In Your Head

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10 true causes of fibromyalgia that your doctor will never tell you about

10 true causes of fibromyalgia that your doctor will never tell you about

It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects nearly 6 million or 1 in 50 people. Fibromyalgia is classically characterized by chronic pain particularly muscle pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, brain fog or cognitive impairment, depression and painful tender points throughout the body. Conventional medicine has yet to uncover the cause of fibromyalgia and only offers management of symptoms through pain medications and antidepressants.

Functional medicine, on the other hand looks to find the root cause of fibromyalgia and other chronic diseases, treating the problem at the root level thereby restoring the patient to health. As a functional medicine physician, I have helped many patients recover from fibromyalgia. Below are the top ten root causes of fibromyalgia I see in my clinic.

10 Root Causes Of Fibromyalgia

Gluten Intolerance: Gluten has been liked to more than 55 diseases and is often called the ‘big masquerader’. The reason for this is that the majority symptoms of gluten intolerance are not digestive in nature but rather neurological such as pain, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbances, behavioral issues, fatigue and depression.

Candida Overgrowth: Candida is a fungus or yeast, and a very small amount of it lives in your intestines. However, when overproduced, candida breaks down the wall of the intestines and penetrates the bloodstream, releasing toxic byproducts into your body causing a host of unpleasant symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue, digestive issues and pain. Virtually every one of my patients with fibromyalgia has had Candida overgrowth.

Thyroid: More than half of the people with thyroid issues have no idea they have one and 90% of these have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland. It is vital that your doctor check six different blood markers to measure your thyroid gland’s function. It’s imperative that your doctor use the optimal levels rather than the standard reference range when assessing and diagnosing thyroid disorders. Getting my patient’s thyroid levels into an optimal range, typically alleviates their fatigue, brain fog, sleep disturbances and depression.

Vitamin Deficiencies: Magnesium, vitamin D and B12 deficiency are the most common vitamin deficiencies I see in those who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I have had several patients completely reverse their fibromyalgia symptoms with magnesium alone. The best way to measure magnesium is a red blood cell (RBC) magnesium level, which can be tested through any conventional lab.

Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and Leaky Gut: There are more bacteria in us and on us then there are of our own cells. When these bacteria get out of balance through use of antibiotics or a sugar-rich diet we can lose our ability to digest and absorb nutrients, particularly B12. Gluten can cause SIBO and leaky gut and SIBO and leaky gut can lead gluten and other food intolerances. It’s a catch-22 and a vicious cycle. You must ‘fix the gut’ first in anyone with fibromyalgia or any chronic illness.

Adrenal Fatigue: Adrenal fatigue is a result of the chronic stress whether real or perceived. Chronic pain is a stress to the adrenal glands, though typically not the initial adrenal stressor. The initial stressor is usually something such as food intolerances, Candida, mercury toxicity, vitamin deficiencies or mycotoxins. My goal is to support the adrenals with adaptogenic herbs while we search for the root cause of the stress and correct it.

Mycotoxins: Mycotoxins are very toxic substances produced by toxic molds. Only about 25% of the population carries the genes to be susceptible to the effects of mycotoxins. Conventional environmental mold testing only tests for levels of mold spores and does not test for mycotoxins. I use a urine mycotoxin test in my clinic to determine if someone has been exposed to toxic molds.

Mercury Toxicity: I recommend that all my patients find a biological dentist and have their mercury amalgam fillings removed. Mercury is toxic to our bodies and can be one piece of the puzzle for those with fibromyalgia and other chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders and cancer. I then recommend heavy metal testing using a pre and post DMPS urine challenge test.

MTHFR Mutations: This is a genetic test you can get though any conventional lab. The more mutations you have at the MTHFR gene the less able you are to methylate and detoxify particularly toxins such as mercury and lead. The more mutations you have at this gene the higher your requirements for methyl-B6, methyl-B12 and folinic acid in order to keep your detoxification pathways working properly.

Glutathione Deficiency: Glutathione, a molecule, is the most critical part of our body’s detoxification system. Glutathione gets recycled in our body unless our toxic burden gets to high or we lack GSTM1 and GSTP1, the enzymes needed to recycle and produce glutathione. Taking glutathione or the precursors (NAC, alpha lipoic acid, milk thistle) often help my patients dramatically with fatigue.

As you can see from the above list, many of these causes are interrelated and often there is no one single root cause to fibromyalgia or any chronic illness. It is a combination of several or possibly all of the above. Because getting to the root cause can be complex, I recommend that you find a functional medicine physician in your area to help uncover the root cause for you. You do not need to suffer needlessly or mask your symptoms with pain medication and antidepressants. There are doctors like myself who can help you!

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Dr. Amy Myers, M.D. is a renowned leader in Functional Medicine. She has helped thousands around the world recover from chronic illness through her dietary based program, The Myers Way. Her book: The Autoimmune Solution was released in January 2015 by Harper One.

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Would You Try Marijuana Gum for fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain?Good news for people suffering from fibromyalgia and other forms of chronic pain! Natural relief may soon be available via marijuana chewing gum.

The cannabis industry is growing, and studies are showing that this super-plant can help to cure a multitude of aches and pains, from the relief of irritable bowel syndrome to minimizing pain caused by fibromyalgia. Of course, not all users want to use smoking marijuana in order to get that relief. Fortunately, now there’s a pleasant solution that will benefit everyone: marijuana-infused chewing gum.

Would You Try Marijuana Gum for fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain?

The active ingredient in marijuana, CBD, is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid, which means that you won’t get “high”, but you’ll still receive the pain relief from the CBD. How does it work? Peripheral nerves in the body are what detect pain sensations, and cannabinoids have been proven to block peripheral nerve pain, both chronic and acute, leaving you feeling happy and pain-free[1].

Axim Biotechnologies has created a chewing gum containing CBD called MedChewRx and is currently conducting medical trials. It’s set to be released in 2018. It will be the first official medical cannabis chewing gum, approved by the FDA[2]. Soon the gum will be sold in dispensaries, so you won’t need to wait long for that sweet, sweet relief.

Marijuana has been used to treat those suffering from irritable bowel syndrome, with symptoms like chronic cramping, bloating, abdominal pain, and constipation[3]. For them, news of this new product is life-changing, and there are many more chronic pains that can be relieved with new mint-flavored gum.

Marijuana Chewing Gum to Relieve Fibromyalgia Pain and Chronic pain

MedChewRx is a new chewing gum made with cannabis for the treatment of chronic pain, specifically fibromyalgia. The gum contains equal amounts of both CBD and THC (the active components of marijuana), delivering 5mg of each.

The benefit to chewing the marijuana gum as opposed to inhaling or eating it is that it can digested directly in the mouth, bypassing the liver for faster relief. There are other benefits to the chewing aspect for pain sufferers, including: (1, 2)

  • Neuroprotective and neurostimulatory effects on the mind
  • Stress relief
  • Stimulation of the cardiovascular system
  • Improvement of age-related cognitive decline

Chewing marijuana gum is also more socially accepted than smoking, and allows for those with fibromyalgia to get quick pain relief almost anywhere without fear of backlash from those around them.

Side Effects and Problems with Marijuana Gum

fibromyalgia treatment, marijuana gum

Professor John Zajicek, who runs trials for the company testing of the Fibromyalgia pain relief gum, states that this is not quite a home-run just yet. There have been some side effects reported so far, though it is unclear what those are, and the medicine displays a lack of the “peak”, or a less potent high, associated with traditional forms of cannabis.

For now, more research is being done into how this can be a safe, effective delivery method for cannabis for pain relief. The goal is to provide on-the-go relief for chronic pain sufferers so that they can continue to function normally throughout their day pain-free.

Current Marijuana Options for Pain Relief

1. CBD Oil

CBD hemp oil is made from high-CBD, low-THC  hemp, meaning they are non-psychoactive and won’t produce a high. It can be purchased in:(4)

  • pure CBD-hemp oil form
  • tinctures where they are diluted in alcohol or a natural oil base and flavored for better taste
  • capsule form
  • CBD topicals (salves, balms, and creams)

Knowing which is right for you depends on your type of pain and what you are using CBD oil for. Go here to learn more.

2. Smoking

It is known that as little as 3 puffs a day of marijuana help those suffering from chronic nerve pain due to injury, surgery, and illness, allowing them to sleep better and heal faster. The effectiveness of this remedy depends on the strain of cannabis and the strength. Your best option is to talk to your doctor, who can help you determine which is best for you. (5)

If smoking really isn’t for you, you can try using Glucosamine to help protect your joints, no pun intended. As we age, the amount Glucosamine our body can produce decreases. Supplementation may be useful in promoting overall good joint health.

3. Edibles

Marijuana-infused edibles, including cookies, brownies, candy, chocolate bars, drinks, snacks, and spreads, are a good option for those who want to use the drug for pain relief but don’t want to smoke it. Again, different strains will have varying strengths. One must also be aware that actually ingesting the marijuana delivers a much more potent high, so you need less of it. Most people don’t need a whole brownie, or even a half, to experience the effects. (6)

While this treatment method continues to be developed, we will share updates with The Hearty Soul community. Please share this exciting new cannabis delivery method with your friends and family to help spread awareness and promote this promising new treatment for fibromyalgia and other chronic pain.

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