If you have been living with fibromyalgia, you likely experience chronic muscle pain on a regular basis. Although this is just one of many symptoms within fibromyalgia, it can be relentless. This pain can occur due to layers of trigger points within muscle and connective tissue and around the tender “areas” of the fibro body.
Another issue with chronic muscle pain is the weakness that can and often does accompany the pain. This is the result of “inactive” trigger points that cause no pain at the moment but do cause weakness in the host muscle. This is what causes your shoulder to freeze or your hips to feel as if they have locked up on you.
The “weakness” is a result of either these dormant trigger points or the eventual non-use resulting from a lack of “activation” within the muscle. It is very difficult to work or activate muscles in the body that have active or inactive trigger points in or around them.
If you go to physical therapy for example and the exercises seem to cause more pain, this could be due to active trigger points. The goal is to be able to distinguish where trigger points may be causing chronic muscle pain and resulting weakness.
It may be necessary to get with a therapist trained in manual trigger point therapy or Myotherapy to help release these areas while working to decrease overall pain levels and bring more body awareness as well.
In the “Fibromyalgia Symptoms” article, we refer to what we call “the groove”. This is what many people with fibromyalgia experience when they find themselves consistently avoiding more activities of daily living and/or greater exertion.
The problem is that when we continually avoid using our major and minor muscle groups, they begin to weaken and atrophy. Many people with fibromyalgia chronic muscle pain find themselves in a “catch 22” of sorts when every activity or seemingly simple task leads to increased pain around muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.
So what does chronic muscle pain feel like?
Although it can vary from person to person, when fibromyalgia chronic muscle pain is present, it can affect not just the muscle, but the surrounding areas of tissue, tendon and joint as well.
People with fibromyalgia, often say that the pain actually “feels like” it is in the bone, not always the muscle. When the areas around the upper body are “flaring” this can be musculo-skeletal pain at it’s worst.
It can then be hard to distinguish exactly where the pain is coming from, but you can bet that the weakness and pain in the muscle is likely to affect surrounding areas. Burning, stabbing, and radiating in between muscles and joints, tendons and ligaments. The muscles often feel “knotted” and are painful and radiating upon touch.
Sometimes radiating pain from a nerve or muscle can feel like it is in the bone and surrounding joint area. For instance, the bone in the upper arm (known as the humerus) is often a place where trigger points can radiate from the neck, shoulder and clavicle area. Do you ever reach up to a kitchen cabinet for plates or a glass, and when you do, notice a shot from nowhere around your “humerus” in the upper arm?
Yes, and it’s not too humorous now is it? No, it’s not funny because it can leave the fibro person wondering what is going on? Why is it that just reaching my arm up could cause such a radiating pain?
Well, that is the combination of trigger points and myofascial pain and when in combination with fibromyalgia, can exhibit itself in any area of the body, but especially the more vulnerable parts related to “tender areas” of the fibro body.
How is it that chronic muscle pain has become so pervasive? Well, did you know that about 45% of our body weight is made of muscle?
And, doctors are not trained in treating muscle pain at it’s source. So let’s take you, for example, the person living with fibromyalgia.
If a treating doctor is merely throwing drugs and muscle relaxants at you, it becomes very difficult to address the fascia pain and the trigger points that are either “at rest” or active at any given time.
Because fibromyalgia affects multiple systems, the fibro body is also now dealing with the side effects of medication, or maybe multiple ones, and its effects on the delicate endocrine and immune systems.
And, unlike the familiar muscle pain of working out or pushing a muscle through the applications of strength training, this kind of muscle pain is ongoing and therefore referred to as chronic. It is not always related to any incident, injury or over compensation.
That is what I like to call the difference between a “hurt so good” kind of pain and a “hurts all the time” kind of pain that not only feels unproductive but is detrimental when left to become chronic and debilitating.
A hurt so good pain is what happens when we test our muscles and work to build muscle strength. A detrimental pain is often from overuse, repetition, multiple trigger points, tightness and lack of regeneration in the body (non -restorative sleep).
I believe one of the reasons that people with fibromyalgia often feel as if they are progressively getting worse is due to this very complex issue with chronic muscle pain, myofascial pain and the many symptoms within the various systems including both the nervous and endocrine systems of the body. It is therefore essential that we learn to mediate our pain in the most effective ways possible.
We may not be able to get rid of all pain and symptoms, but if we want to have more good days than bad now, and independence in our later years, despite living with fibromyalgia and all of its complexity, we have to be more proactive. It’s bad enough for a healthy person to let muscle atrophy and weaken, but for a fibro person, this can lead to debilitation and a greater propensity to loss of independence.
Whether you are newly diagnosed or living with fibromyalgia for a near lifetime like many of us, it is important to focus on the solutions for a better quality of life.
Solutions For Muscle Pain
There are barriers to finding a solution that works for many fibro sufferers:
If you are under the care of a doctor that is unfamiliar with fibromyalgia, you are likely on a prescription drug regimine. The drug will help initially, but then lose some of its effectiveness. Many fibro victims think their fibro is getting worse and ask for and get a higher dosage.
This cycle goes on unless your doctor realizes the medication is losing its effectiveness and changes to another one. Then, the whole cycle begins anew.
Many of the drugs prescribed for fibromyalgia have serious side-effects, and it becomes very difficult to separate those from the numerous symptoms of fibromyalgia. This vastly complicates your doctor’s plan to treat you.
Scientists have learned that even the powerful drug morphine, as we all know, initially helps to control serious pain, but you may not know that eventually, it turns on the body and actually contributes to the pain.
I’m not saying that you should not take the prescription medicines for fibro. You have to do what’s required for your fibro situation. But, know that there’s no “silver bullet” out there right now. These medications come with their own set of issues and complications, especially over the long term.
Another exasperating issue in fibromyalgia is the variability of not only the symptoms between individuals with fibro, but also their response to solutions.
Scientists conducting studies and clinical trials are thrilled if a third of participants experience a positive outcome. Then, of course the question that arises is, “just how positive was the outcome?”. Today, there’s no quantitative way to measure the degree of positive outcome.
There’s a standard set of questions that are asked of the participants, the answers to which are qualitative at best. However, using the tools they have, Drs. conducting clinical trials using both a real medication and a “fake” medication (placebo) have determined that there is only a 10% absolute improvement in pain using the FDA approved fibromyalgia medications.
Since I don’t tolerate drugs very well, they have not been an option for me. So I had to focus on non-drug methods to control my fibromyalgia chronic muscle pain. I have developed quite a “tool set” for chronic muscle pain that has worked for me even though I suffer with severe fibromyalgia and its primary co-conditions.
What To Do?
Basically, it’s a “trial and error” process, but it’s not without guidance. Literally tens to hundreds of studies of fibromyalgia are ongoing at any one time. Results are being published in Journals constantly.
Some of us in the field are continually updating our published advice. That pertains to this website and my facebook pages, Living Smarter with Fibromyalgia AND Fibro Fit People. And, I have used all the suggested treatments I’ve included here in the website.
In the case of suggested supplements, I have checked out various brands for their history of quality and their degree of involvement in ongoing research into fibromyalgia. One very important characteristic I look for is the bio-availability of the ingredients. It varies widely from brand to brand.
In several cases the supplement I recommend is five-times more effective at the same dose level as other well-known brands. This then becomes both an effectiveness and an affordability issue.
I am not saying that I recommend only these brands; however, the ones I recommend are of good quality, and I’ve used the product myself and with clients ongoing. Also, I will be with you as you traverse this website always trying to offer insight as to how you should go about prioritizing with supplementation, because more is not better.
Steps You Can Take To Relieve
Chronic Muscle Pain Of Fibromyalgia
- A recent trial study found that the supplement acetyl L-carnitine successfully improved pain and depression about as well as duloxetine (Cymbalta), a prescription drug often used for fibro. The duloxetine, however, also improved psychological symptoms. The dosage of acetyl L-carnitine used was 1500 mg/day.
(NOTE:You should always talk to your doctor about any supplement and its dosage before taking it.)
- Researchers at Wake Forest Medical College found that light to moderate exercise did not increase the fibromyalgia pain for a group of fibro patients; however, their overall fibro symptoms, including pain, improved.
- Just published in April, 2015, Spanish researchers found that higher physical fitness is consistently associated with lower fibromyalgia severity in women with FMS.
- Checkout the “Benefits of Exercise” article to learn that a double blind clinical trial found that 12-weeks of moderate strength training led to a 35 to 49% improvement in the pain of fibromyalgia among a large group of fibro women.
And, only 9% of participants in the study had to drop out.
Fibro-Girl’s Treatment Recommendations
- Avoid fasting when pain is moderate to high. Also, see recommended nutrients at bottom of this article.
- Try a low carb diet to reduce glucose levels (See Fibro Diet)
- Use mind body techniques such as deep breathing, visualization, and meditation to calm your inner self. (See Mind Body & Coping) Introductory Yoga postures along with training in the yoga breathing techniques can also help, but no intense stretching or long sessions.
- Avoid stressful situations as much as possible
- Walking and light exercise including both strength and low impact aerobics (start slow). I include many suggestions for exercise throughout the website and on my facebook page, Fibro Fit People. When I say “start slow”, I also mean to “fire” your concept of exercise and start working with me on better adaption to daily activities first.
- Think positive. “Fire” your “Negative Nelly” as I said I did on my Mind Body Connection page. No more “why me?”. That also means avoid focusing on “symptoms talk” except with your doctor, and do focus on anything positive, no matter how small. Because of the way we’re “wired”, anything we focus on consistently, grows bigger.
- Both passive and active physical therapy:
– Heat/Ice Packs
– TENS Units
– Rolfing (more intensive)
– Myofascial Release (foamroller)
– Bowen Therapy
– Trigger Point Therapy
– Acupressure Therapy (see the Be-Active brace below)
The “BeActive” Brace For Low Back Pain
- The patented pressure pad in the brace applies targeted pressure to the specifc point that provides back pain relief! BeActive is now FDA approved for Class 1 Medical Devices!
- Helps relieve lower back pain associated with Sciatica!
- Quick and easy to apply . The Beactive wrap should initially be worn for up to 2 hours at a time. If it remains comfortable, the wrap can be worn for longer periods as needed.
- Works on either right or left leg! The Beactive wrap fits the calf circumference sizes 12.5 inches to 18 inches measured around the fullest part of the calf. The Beactive wrap is effective when worn on a single leg on the side of the pain.
- Discreet and easily hidden under clothing.Nature’s Pillows “BeActive” Brace
Follow on my Facebook Fitness page, Fibro Fit People. Living with FMS/CFS/ME and MCS for almost four decades now and a Nationally Certified Trainer specializing in fibro and holistic fitness, I do get it. It is more than fitness; it’s also adapting to daily activities of living, injury prevention and more.
- Try supplementing with magnesium and malic acid.
- Also, read the CoQ 10 Supplement article
- Malic acid and Magnesium work synergistically to address cellular energy deficits, reduce muscle and tendon pain and in the metabolizing of carbohydrates. For optimal benefit when taking both malic acid and magnesium, they are best taken with the B-complex family of vitamins, particularly B-6 (Refer to my supplement page for the best multi-vitamin and B-Complex with NO additives)
- L-Glutamine (amino acid) is also an essential to nourishing muscle while helping to relieve the pain and burning we often feel within muscles. It is an essential in healing leaky gut issues as well. I address this amino acid throughout the site and on the Leaky Gut article. I recommend using the powder over capsules. Between 2-4 grams per day is helpful. Always check with your doctor or naturopath for your individual dosing and needs.
- acetyl L-carnitine for your chronic muscle pain is another option. Carnitine helps to provide cellular energy which in turn helps those aching and burning muscles in fibromyalgia and chronic pain.