Chronic pain is just one of the myriad of symptoms present within the fibromyalgiabody at any one time, but for me it is the most predominant one. Pain affects every aspect of my life. I pay for every physical activity I do; even the smallest task can lead to a flare of my symptoms.
Hyperalgesia is literally translated to excess pain: “hyper” means excess and “algesia” means pain. It is the medical term for pain intensification in fibromyalgia.
Allodynia is the pain you feel when your skin is being touched. For example, a mild pressure from clothing or a gentle massage causes pain or a light breeze blowing across your skin. It is hypersensitivity to stimuli that would not normally cause any pain.
Paresthesia is the odd nerve sensation that feels like something crawling, tingling, burning, itching or numbness, for example, a numb spot in the middle of your foot or a burning sensation on your back.
But to be honest, these words mean very little to anyone who doesn’t have fibromyalgia. So to give non-fibro people an idea of what it feels like to live with this painful and debilitating illness, I am going to describe the pain I experience, in a way I hope everyone can relate to.
1. Burning skin
Sometimes my skin feels like it’s on fire, it feels raw. Imagine spending hours in the hot sun without any skin protection. Then you take a dip in the sea and the salt water burns your damaged skin. Then you get dressed for a night out and your clothes rub against your skin raw. When you have fibromyalgia, clothing alone can cause this pain, no sunlight is required.
2. Throbbing/burning pain
This is a pain I find particularly hard to bear. It’s so severe it takes my breath away. It’s like a hot poker being forced into my body and can occur anywhere and everywhere. The pain comes in waves and is accompanied by nausea.
3. Joint pain
My joint pain is a dull throbbing pain. It mainly affects my knees but can affect other areas too.
4. Muscle pain
My muscles constantly hurt. Even the slightest activity causes them to throb and burn. I find it impossible to get comfortable when my muscles are throbbing – it makes me so restless.
5. Muscle twitches and spasms
I experience muscle twitches and spasms every day, they are pretty much constantly there. It’s like you have no control of your body, like some unforeseen force is manipulating you.
This is an odd symptom that I find hard to describe. It feels like an electric shock – a “zap” – that starts at the base of my skull, then travels to the top of my head and all the way to the tips of my fingers. It only lasts a second each time but it makes my whole body jolt.
7. Prickly feeling
Have you ever had a heat rash after spending too long in the sun? That’s what it feels like. Sore, burning and itchy.
8. Stabbing pains
You feel like someone is using you as a voodoo doll.
9. A cross between an itch and a stabbing pain
I’m sure there is a technical term for this but “a cross between an itch and a stab” is how I can best describe it. It happens deep in my muscles and it’s impossible to scratch the itch. It also causes jolts and twitches in the part of my body affected.
10. Bruised feeling
Not just on your skin but your insides also feel bruised, tender and sensitive. My chest and rib cage feel bruised a lot of the time which can make breathing painful. Some days it feels like you have gone 10 rounds in a boxing ring.
11. Migraine feeling throughout whole body
When I’m hypersensitive and flaring it feels like I have a migraine throughout my whole body, I feel raw. The slightest touch or movement sends pain pulsating around my body.
Imagine a healthy person goes to the gym after months of inactivity. They lift weights and have a full body workout. The next day they feel stiff and creaky, and struggle to move. A person with fibro wakes up every morning feeling like this. It feels like I wear a bodysuit under my skin that is two sizes too small.
13. Radiating pain
I experience pain that has a center point but radiates out from that point. The pain may begin in my back but also travels down my legs, for example.
14. Pain caused by touch
Even the slightest touch from a loved one can cause pain. I have to wear clothes two sizes too big, made from seamless soft material. I wear soft, flat shoes one size too big and I have to cut my hair short because it causes so much pain against my skin. Touch causes many of the types of pain I have described.
I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t experience a headache – it may be due to tension. My migraines are aggravated by stress and hormones. When they strike I become incapacitated. I lose my vision and the pain is so severe. Your head feels like it’s on fire, you feel like it’s in a vice which is constantly being tightened. The slightest movement, touch or noise sends pain pulsating around my head and face.
16. Skin crawling
It feels like you have a thousand insects scurrying around just under your skin. It’s actually quite creepy.
Some days the noise hits you like a brick wall. In an instant, you experience pain, nausea, dizziness, trembling and a looming panic attack. But it’s not just noise, I’m also hypersensitive to smells, light and touch. Yes, a smell like a strong perfume can cause pain.
Fibromyalgia is often accompanied by comorbid conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Contrary to what people may think, IBS pain doesn’t just occur in the bowels, it radiates to other areas of the body especially the back. It’s a stabbing burning pain. Trapped wind, in an already inflamed bowel, is one of the most painful symptoms of IBS, it’s overwhelming.
Pain isn’t the only symptom of fibromyalgia, but it is the symptom that has the biggest negative impact on my life and health. Do any of my fellow fibromyalgia and chronic pain warriors have any pain “types” they would like to add? Take care.