Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fibromyalgia Flare-up? Here's What To Do...

Ever watch a movie or TV show where the crew of a ship detects an enemy? What does the captain do next? Why, the captain orders the crew into battle stations and sounds a red alert.

Well, at the first sign of a flare-up, I go into my own red alert mode.

For me, that means doing things like:
  • canceling trips outside the home for appointments, engagements and events
  • cutting back on all physical activities--chores, driving, shopping, arts & crafts
  • scheduling lots and lots of extra rest and sleep
  • pulling out medications and self-care items to combat increased symptoms: pain medications and patches, muscle rubs, ice packs, heating pads
  • delegating tasks and asking for extra help from my support system
  • increasing the use of pleasant distractions, like music, movies and TV shows
  • engaging in a lot of soothing and encouraging self-talk, i.e. 'You can get through this.' 'With some extra rest, you will be O.K.' 'Just take this one day at a time...'

How long I need to do these things depends of course on how intense and severe my flare-up is. Early on, my flare-ups from overdoing things were pretty epic, requiring a few weeks to overcome. My absolute worse flare-up, after my failed attempt at Hepatitis C treatment back in 2007, took about 3 months of post-flare recovery time.

I developed my personal flare-up response plan over time. It became a real priority after I learned the hard way that ignoring a flare-up and continuing to push myself had big, bad consequences--like a 7 day migraine headache that required a trip to the Emergency Room. (By the way, like knee pain, migraines are a symptom I only get when I am flared up.)

To put things into perspective, having a flare-up plan isn't just another burden and bother of living with fibromyalgia. I've come to see it as an important self-management tool, one that people living with other chronic illnesses use too. For example, people with diabetes develop a sick day plan to deal with the high blood sugar that comes with having a cold, flu or stomach bug.

Getting a heads up when I am heading into a flare-up is one of the benefits I found to tracking my symptoms and their severity. So now, if I see that my symptoms are getting worse, I can cut back and rest up right away. I've discovered that an early response to a flare-up 1) prevents the flare-up from getting worse and 2) help me recover and get back to my "normal" chronically ill self sooner.

In addition to taking steps to recover and calm my body down, I also take some time to figure out the cause behind my flare up. I do this to learn what factors contribute to my flares, some of which I shared with you yesterday in the section So what causes flare-ups? My goal is to learn what factors are under my control and then take steps to prevent these things from flaring me up again.

This is not always as easy as it sounds, both in finding the culprits and figuring out how to combat them.

For example, I recently flared-up and found myself scratching my head. I know I hadn't overdone it and the weather wasn't the culprit. Turns out, a few days later I came down with a cold. It seems the cold virus started a flare-up several days before cold symptoms appeared.

I can't always prevent myself from getting sick, so this is one flare-up culprit I need to accept as being out of my control.

Tomorrow I am going to talk about how I learned to stop the push/crash flare-up cycle and move towards living life inside my energy envelope. Plus I want to share with you my current goal of finding to the "sweet spot," my term for living well with chronic illness while also storing energy for healing.

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Anonymous said...

I have a really low immune system, so if the weather is decent, and I haven't been over doing it, and start to feel pain I know right away I'm coming down with something. I have a basket full of my knee braces, heat bags, heating pads, eye masks etc. and I know to get them out and stay as warm as possible.

Jacqueline said...

I was getting flared up Sunday evening and then worse on Monday. When I spiked a temp and realized I had a stomach bug on Tuesday, it didn't occur to me until reading your entry today that the flare may have actually been triggered by the virus in my system.

So today, I'm combating the ongoing fever as well as trying to ease my muscle pain from physically getting sick the past day or so. I hated getting sick before fibromyalgia, but the muscle pain all over is more intense and that I absolutely HATE!! I tend to roll my eyes at my husband (who has the flu today,) when he complains about "body aches" with the flu. Really?! Do you know what body aches REALLY are?!

Chronically Creative said...

I've recently come across your blog and love it! It's such a wonderful and helpful blog! Great post, I'm always trying to figure out what causes my fibro flares. I find my fibro gets worse even three weeks before a cold comes on so I understand how frustrating it is. Looking forward to reading more awesome posts from you!

Wishing you a great new year!

I also blog a little on fibro also and my search for creativity despite chronic pain. Feel free to stop by http://www.chronicallycreative.net

Sharon Stevens said...

OMG I just stumbled across your blog. I will definitely be joining it.

I am in a flareup now. I HATE FLARE UPS!! they come at the most unopportune time when I have a real deadline I have to meet and my mind is jello.

Does anyone have trouble with their handwriting coordination when in a flareup? omg my writing is atrosus (ms?)

Warm Fuzzies,
Mustard Seed Originals

IndyRose said...

I strained my shoulder shoveling snow and now EVERY joint hurts. You have given very practical self-helps for a flare up, thanks!

Fibromyalgia symptoms said...

I suffer from the same chronic condition and started a similar website. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Shannon said...

Sounds like I need to gather together a Fibro rescue kit. All I have for taking action now is epsom salts and pain medication. Maybe I will start a donation fund on my website lol. So broke, just like many at this time of year.

Anonymous said...

I am in a bad flare . Many times like now a virus onset has nothing to do with my flare symptoms but I run rather high fevers and feel very flushed in this much pain. Do you just ever have fevers because youre in too much pain ? All I can do is let the tears roll quietly down my face as I try to be still in the Lord asking Him to hold me, sometimes flares come from over exursion some from not enough this one is too much pushing doing etc because I still can't belive at age 33 since age 19 this is it lol no fix , my husband is away ten weeks at a time my beautiful five year old is precious and he tells me to soak but that means more energy then being wet and cold so sometimes I just freeze and pray I hope people are at least looking for a cure for us too ..... I suffer greatly however a moment does not pass that I dont think of others suffering and how I'm blessed with gods strength to serve others when he calls me yet I would shock everyone if they knew how badly I hurt right now because I look fine :) I like your idea and your voice I feel better now

Matthew Harper said...

Thank you SO MUCH for providing these tips. I'm only 22 and I'm suffering from some pretty epic flare-ups, I don't yet have the wisdom that you have but I appreciate your sharing. I will definitely try these techniques. THANKS!

Matthew Harper said...

I just started a Fibro blog tonight, as a means of educating all of my friends and family because they don't understand my pain and exhaustion. I'm trying to write it with some tongue-in-cheek humor. Like I said it is only 4 hours old and I haven't yet honed my writing style for this project, but it's a start.

I would be so appreciative if you took a look at it sometime. Again thanks!


sckowgirl said...

thank you so much..i have been looking all over the internet to find out what to do when i get a flare up..most of us who have fms know when they get a flare up..they know about the pain, etc..but, don't know what to do to stop the flare up..i know what triggered my flare up..and although it is so hard i keep pushing myself..go to work, feed the animals and just keep on going..people say i look ok and think i am just trying to be lazy or play hookee from my job..thank you for answering the question, that i could not find anywhere else..oh, by the way, i am calling in sick to work today and getting back in the bed..kathy

Naomi Edwards said...

Hi, I really enjoyed reading your post, I can relate to it on so many levels. I was diagnosed with probable MS for 5 years but last year Severe Fibro... I am having a flare up right now which is the reason I found your blog..it is nice to see I am not alone and yes I do the self talk quite often.... as Echart Tolle says " we can deal with what is in this very moment..it is when our mind races to the future and past it becomes overwhelming...easier said than done right! I just got back from outpatients , there was a 4 hour wait and I just couldn't do it! I would rather be home and settled. Thank you for giving tips on how to avoid flare ups, trust me , I will remember every word you wrote. thanks so very much

christine.vizzini said...

Prayers to you! I am 34 and I get the fever symptoms also. My body temp is all over the map and I am very sensitive to temp changes. Getting in a cold pool on a hot day takes FOREVER! But once I am in it is amazing for the pain. Once I am in the pool you can't get me out lol! I wish I had more pool access but being that I live in MI its seasonal. This is definately an invisable disease. I look fine on the outside, smile through the pain that is killing me inside. How was it being pregnant? I am scared to have a child bc the pain is so horrible I am scared that pregnancy isn't something I can make it through. Thanks and stay strong.

Anonymous said...

To Christine and anyone else wanting a baby. I am 57 year old and have had fibro for 30 years before they even called it fibro I had twins when I was 49 and another baby when I was 54 I knew God wanted to use me to help others Here is my story First I found the right maternal fetal specialist who helped me pick the meds I could stay on while pregnant those were Elavil Klonopin Tramadol and Soma. All my children all girls are perfectly normal. My doctor had been practicing for 40 years and he said it would be worse to take me off my meds and the baby then to let me stay on. My fibro got better while pregnant until the 3rd trimester and my anxiety with twins was throuh the roof but my second baby I knew what to expect and it went much better. I hope this helps anyone who reads here to not let anything stop you from having children. They are awesome! gail

Luwanda said...

I have fibro as well just found out and now my flare ups are worse and I don't have a support group and I don't know alot about this and now I'm trying to make a decision to go on disability. Im scared

Anonymous said...

I have had fibro for 40 years. Since I was 17. The first time I went to a doctor he treated me with condescension and insults. Needless to say I never returned to the medical community for help. I went to a support group a few times a few years ago but the people there seemed to be as disabled by the myriad of drugs they were taking as they were their Fibromyalgia. I have been able to minimize my pain and fatigue through the years with diet, supplements and postural exercises. I have raised 3 kids and been able to keep on living. No, I can't eliminate this problem. I have to always manage it, but don't give up! There is hope. I am nearly pain free these days. I have been so bad that I could barely make it up the stairs to bed at the end of the day. I am thinking of starting a blog, but haven't yet. If I do I'll let you know about it.

Anonymous said...

I have had Fibromyalgia for about 20 years. I have found that when i eat anything tomato based or white potatoes they cause me to have flare ups. I hope this may help some of you. i have also cut out most night shades as well. I felt better and ate some potatoes this past week and now i hurt like I've been in a fighting match and lost.

Jo from Wa.

Anonymous said...

I just stumbled across your blog, and I do plan to read it whenever you post. I am practically in tears due to a flare. I was fine yesterday, but got really sleepy - I slept 18 hours, and woke up in the depths of one of the worst flairs I've ever had. No idea what brought it on, but it's hit me hard, both physically and emotionally. I want to be able to plan things, but I have to come to grips with the fact that I can't. I'm into roughly my 20th year with fibro, and I feel every day of it today. I wouldn't wish this on anyone, but it nice to know I'm not alone.

Denver, CO

Anonymous said...

Being in a flare is one of the worse things for me. Not only is my body screaming in agony, the pain in turn depresses me so...it is a vicious cycle. I've pushed myself too hard because I desperately want to make a meal for my family or clean my house. I ALWAYS end up in excruciating pain and feeling like my husband and son deserve better than what I have to offer. Thank you for "Fibro flare kit" idea.

Does anyone else have bad fibro in feet or hands? Looking for some helpful ideas in those specific areas

Cgull said...

I've had FM for many years and other than horrible days long migraines, I'm having the worst "overall" flare-up I've had so far.....all joints, deep muscles, stabbing nerve shots, painful sleep disruption, dull-not quite a migraine headaches, etc., etc. The second night of no sleep lead to the shakes and teeth chattering, and my short sleep sox that I wear to keep my feet warm actually were hurting my burning, prickling feet. It's a lonely feeling even with my husband caring but sleeping....so I looked severe FM flare-ups and found your blog today. I don't feel quite so alone now and may have picked up some pointers...Thanks

Jay Delvalle said...

I am having such a hard time with this flare. My head, neck and back are killing me. Now, I have the craziest kind of pain on my legs... It starts deep and it goes right to my skin. It feels like shocks of electricity. I can't resist rubbing only that then, I get bruises.

I feel so tired lately which kind of blows because its summer and I want to be out. I push myself sometimes, because you know... Attitude is everything, anyhow, I push myself and try to have a fun filled day only to double my suffering for the next couple of days.

I feel bad about complaining because I know it can be annoying but it's hard not to feel defeated.

I hope you all get better in time to enjoy some of the summer.

Anonymous said...

Every fiber of my being is in total flare up.I cry alone, I think my family sick of hearing it. Therefore I choose to suffer in silence. No one understands fibro, neither me. I wish there was s cure. I'm praying for all of us. I'm at work and the people I work for don't understand it and expect me to be here all the time, which I am. I can't go on like this I feel like ill just drop dead. I push myself daily for family. They don't get it! Well I'm tired and need to go. Hopefully ill remember this site and return. Prayers for all of us.

Unknown said...

I'm in a flare just now like I've never had before. I thought I knew what pain was. It is intractable, nothing I've done has helped, and I am beside myself. I go to the doctor for an oxygen check in the morning and I pray she can give me a shot of some kind. I cannot take medicine by mouth for pain, it wrecks my stomach. Lord, help us to find relief somehow, some way. Show us what to do. Lay Your healing hand on us if it is Your will; otherwise, give us grace to bear it and to be thankful it isn't worse or permanent.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Obamacare. I am not kidding either!

Tracy said...

Being overweight doesn't cause Fibro. It MIGHT make the pain worse but is not a cause.