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By Way of Introduction

by Gary F. Zeolla
(a.k.a. Reepicheep)

The following message was posted in the "" Newsgroup.

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia on 8/27/01. Since that time I have been doing extensive reading on fibromyalgia. I’ve read through hundreds of current posts in this group and past posts using Google’s new newsgroups search.

I’ve also read through dozens of fibromyalgia (FM) related Web sites. At this point I’m on information overload. And eventually I want run a few things past the members of this group and relate my thoughts at this point. But first, I wanted to introduce myself to the group by relating how I came to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Last summer I was riding my bicycle rather extensively on a bike trail that basically runs through the woods. But after a few weeks I became overwhelmed with allergies, which made sleeping difficult. This led to some minor fatigue and getting a minor case of the flu, and eventually I had to stop riding my bike on the trail.

Then the fatigue worsened in January when I had another minor case of the flu. I then developed restless leg syndrome in February. The loss of sleep from this problem led to me developing a much worse case of the flu. I had a 100-101 degree temperature for over a week. It was after this that the fatigue became even worse.

However, I did manage to continue to work out with Nautilus equipment and walk for exercise. Then in May I started using free weights for the first time in 16 years. I had powerlifted in college, and it really was feeling good doing the powerlifts and other free weight exercises again. But then in June for some strange reason I decided to try using the bench press machine at the gym. The second time I used it, on June 8th, I pulled a muscle on the left side of my upper back (by the shoulder blade).

It didn’t seem too serious at the time. I took the next couple of days off and resumed lifting. I just avoided movements that seemed to aggravate it. But then the pain mysteriously began to spread to the front of my chest. The lowest front rib really began to hurt. It was not too bad at first, and I managed to continue lifting. In fact, the week of July 8th my lifting went so well that I actually had thoughts of competing again. Only now, it would have been in the Master’s division since I had recently turned forty. I checked the results of the Master’s divisions for powerlifting meets on the Web and saw that with some improvement I just might be able to be competitive again.

But then on Saturday, July 14 I went for a short ride on my bicycle to the local shopping mall. Coming out of the parking lot I turned to look behind me, and when I did, “something” just didn’t feel right on my left side. It was really bothersome the next day. On Monday, when I tried to lift, there was rather severe pain from where the initial injury was, around my side, to the rib in front. I worked out again on Tuesday, and was in even greater pain. The next day I went to see my “primary care physician” (PCP).

He said that maybe the pulled muscle in my upper back was irritating a nerve running around the side to the front, and suggested I take a few days off of lifting and treat it as a re-aggravated muscle pull. This didn’t make much sense to me, but I followed his advice and was feeling better by the next week. So I tried putting in a light workout, but the pain flared up again.

A chiropractor/ nutritionist from the south side of Pittsburgh (Dr. Winer) has a radio show. So I called in to see if he had any suggestions. He said it sounded like a misaligned rib and suggested chiropractic adjustments. One of the co-owners of the gym I was working out at is a chiropractor, so I went to him for an adjustment. I did feel a little better after the first adjustment, but the next two adjustments didn’t provide any further relief.

So I went to Dr. Winer’s office at his “Pain Release Clinic” to get trigger point therapy done. After several treatments I was feeling better. But then after what was to be the last treatment I tried putting in a light workout, but I had to quit halfway through due to a recurrence of the pain. This was August 4th, and the last time I even tried working out.

So I went back to Dr. Winer’s office for another trigger point treatment, but it provided no relief. And it was getting rather expensive going to him as my insurance didn’t cover it. But then I remembered that the outpatient physical therapy department for my local hospital did trigger point therapy, which would be covered. So I got a referral from my PCP to go there.

However, the trigger point therapy and the stretches they gave me to do didn’t seem to help. And then the pain very mysteriously spread throughout my entire left torso and then to the right side of my torso. At that point, it was obvious that I was not just dealing with a pulled muscle aggravating a nerve. In addition, over the last several weeks, I keep feel like I’m pulling muscles in both of my legs, and most recently in my left arm.

I have a neurological condition, so my therapist suggested I go see my neurologist to see if there was a connection. But when I called my PCP’s office to get a referral, the nurse suggested I come in to see my PCP.

I described my symptoms to him, and he began pressing on trigger points. I was sensitive to just about every point he tried. It was at that point that he made the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I was already somewhat familiar with FM as I have an Internet friend with the condition, and had even thought of the possibility myself. But I must say that I was hoping that this wasn’t the case! But at least it does explain my symptoms.

My PCP initially prescribed trazadone (an anti-depressant that is supposed to help with sleep as well), but when I read all of the potential side effects, I decided to hold of on starting it until I checked out other options. I used to take Klonopin and Neurotin for my neurological condition, but I have been off of all drugs since last summer. But my PCP suggested I might want to start taking them again, but again, I’d rather not since I know they can have side effects as well.

My PCP suggested I go ahead and see my neurologist just to be sure there wasn’t a connection with my neurological condition. I recently saw him and he didn’t see any connection. And interestingly, he didn’t think it would be best to start the Klonopin and Neurotin at this point. I told him I’d rather try various supplements first, and he agreed with that approach.

My next doctor’s appointment is with Dr. Winer on September 14. He is very much into supplements rather than drugs. So I’m hoping he will be able to help me narrow down what would be best for me to take. On his Web site is a testimony of someone he helped with FM, along with another one about someone he helped with fatigue and sore muscles, which might also be FM. So I’ll see if he can help me. I guess in a way I was “lucky.” From reading posts in this group and various Web sites, I gather that many people suffer with FM for years before being diagnosed. I was diagnosed probably about as early as I could have been. It wasn’t until the pain spread into my right side that I would have fulfilled the full diagnostic criteria of having pain in more than one “quadrant” of my body. And I was diagnosed immediately thereafter.

Then again, it is also possible that I have been suffering with minor symptoms of FM (or could they be called “pre-symptoms”) for some time. The allergies, the restless leg syndrome, the problems with sleeping from these and just from insomnia, and the frequent bouts with the flu all seem to be rather common to FM sufferers. And even my neurological condition seems to be something other FM sufferers experience.

With my neurological condition, what I get are what my neurologist calls “tics.” These are minor muscle twitches that can break out anywhere in my body. They are rather hard to describe, so the best I can say is they feel like the nerve in a small part of the muscle keeps “firing.” The feeling is rather similar to the feeling you get when using a TENS device, if the reader has ever used one of these. The tics are usually not painful, but they are very irritating. And if they start up at night, they can wake me up or keep me from falling asleep. If you have every used a TENS device, imagine wearing it at night and you get the idea. I’ve read many FM sufferers say they get “muscle twitches,” so this might be similar. But I’ve been getting these “tics” for over 12 years now.

Needless to say, with all of this going on, I’ve been rather depressed lately, hence why my PCP wanted to prescribe an anti-depressant. But who wouldn’t be depressed? A couple of months ago I was feeling rather good, and was even thinking of competing in powerlifting again. But now I haven’t even been to the gym in over a month, and it’s been weeks since I’ve worked out regularly. And I’m not sure if I will be ever able to lift again.

All I have been doing is slow walking and stretching. And from what I’ve read, that’s about all that is really recommended. I’ve even seen places where weight lifting has specifically been said to not be recommended. But I did ask my PCP if I would ever be able to lift weights again, and he replied, “We’ll get you lifting again.” So I will see what happens. But right now, lifting anything more than a few pounds can be painful.

I should also mention, up until about a year and a half ago, I was crippled with low back pain, and had been for six years. If fact, it was due to back pain that I had to stop powerlifting back in college. So I was crippled with pain for years, was pain free for a little over a year and was even able to start lifting weights again, and now I am virtually crippled by pain again. So yes, I am depressed!

I discuss in detail my back pain experiences in an eBook available on my Web site (see Overcoming Back Pain). And I am already considering if the mind-body techniques used in that regard would help with the FM. But a discussion on that will have to wait for another post as I know it would be controversial.

I also want to discuss and ask questions in regards to supplements. It looks like I was already taking several supplements that are often recommended for FM. I also have many other questions to be asked in future posts.

But for now, I will close by saying I am thankful that I was diagnosed as quickly as I was. It’s a depressing diagnosis, but at least I know what I am dealing with and can better address it.

><> Reepicheep <><

Disclaimer: The material presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only. The author is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any treatment program, one should consult your doctor. The author is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice in this article.

By Way of Introduction. Copyright 2001 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above Newsgroup Post was posted on this Web site September 5, 2001.

Dealing with Health Difficulties
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