In a recent Instagram post, Lena Dunham revealed to her followers that she suffers from fibromyalgia.
Photo: Lena Dunham/Instagram @lenadunham
Fibromyalgia involves widespread pain throughout the patient's entire body. For some, the pain might only be in specific areas, like the back and neck. Those with fibromyalgia also have extreme sensitivity, stiffness, and bone-wearing fatigue.
Diagnosing fibromyalgia isn’t straightforward; you first must rule out other conditions. And also, the cause of fibromyalgia is not clear, and there is still no cure. The only treatment available today targets the symptoms.
Actress and writer Lena Dunham puts fibromyalgia in a nutshell: “This is fibromyalgia. It’s little understood and so even though I have a lot of knowledge and support it’s hard to shake the feeling I am crazy.”
She writes, “But I’m not (at least not this way!) and you’re not. Your pain, whatever shape it takes, is yours and so it is real. I believe you when you say you hurt. I have learned time and time again how important it is to believe."
In a recent social media post, Dunham talked about her chronic pain. Fibromyalgia symptoms and pain can occur after a trauma, whether it be psychological or physical. After listening to Dr. Christina Blasey-Ford’s tirade against the supreme court nominee, Bret Kavanaugh, Dunham experienced psychological trauma. This trauma caused her to wake up at 3 a.m. after the day of Dr. Ford’s testimony with intense pain and tingling in her neck. Dunham’s wrists as well as her ankles and her fingers felt as if they would not move. Lena Dunham describes that she felt as if she was floating in gel, but then a line of pain ripped from her neck to her foot. Dunham was unable to do anything.
Dunham goes on to say that although she may appear totally able-bodied, her conditions are complex, and she does all she can do just to maintain a segment of her life. Keeping her work costs her everything she has in energy, feeling good, and pain. These feelings are typical of fibromyalgia.
Although Dunham appears to be entirely able-bodied, she says there are types of pain that others can’t see and don’t realize what she is going through.
Chronic pain is just one of the symptoms that comes with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Pain affects every aspect of your life, and if you do something physical, you will possibly pay for it later.
Fibromyalgia pain is unique because of its complexity, and the multiple systems involved, plus the severity. The three major types of fibromyalgia pain are hyperalgesia, allodynia, and paresthesia.
Hyperalgesia pain is the excess pain. It is the medical term for the pain of fibromyalgia. Allodynia is the pain you feel when you are being touched. Mild pressure from just a handshake can cause pain. You might even feel pain from a light breeze moving across your skin. Fibromyalgia is hypersensitivity to stimuli that usually should cause no pain.
The next type of pain is paresthesia or a nerve sensation that feels like tingling, something crawling along your skin, burning, itching or even numbness. You might have a numb spot on your body or a burning sensation somewhere else on your body.
Mighty contributor Jo Moss describes 18 types of fibro pain that you might not be visible. But just because it isn't visible, doesn't mean that she and other fibromyalgia patients don't feel it.
Types of Fibromyalgia Pain
- Hypersensitivity. Noise can affect you by causing pain, nausea, trembling and panic attacks. Smells, light, and touch cause hypersensitivity. Just a light on in a room can cause you to feel sick to your stomach or pain all over your body. Someone wearing strong perfume can set off the pain.
- Burning/throbbing pain. Sometimes this type of pain can be so severe it takes your breath away. One person living with fibromyalgia described the pain like a hot poker being forced into her body. The pain often comes in waves and is sometimes accompanied by nausea.
- Burning skin sensations. Think about your skin being on fire. Imagine getting a sunburn then dipping your body into salt water. The pain is intense, stinging, and almost unbearable. That’s what fibromyalgia pain can feel like when you are just putting on your clothes.
- Muscle pain. Muscles constantly hurt. Just walking around the house causes them to throb with pain.
- Muscle spasms. Every day you may experience muscle spasms. It’s almost like you have no control of your body.
- Joint pain. Your joints often feel as if a constant and dull throbbing pain lives in the bones of your joints. This pain can affect your knees, elbows, and shoulders with throbbing that eventually causes stress and annoyance.
- IBS. Irritable bowel syndrome is pain caused by fibromyalgia. IBS pain can radiate to your back and down your leg. Trapped wind and an inflamed bowel are overwhelming pains brought on by fibromyalgia.
- Skin crawling. Ever felt like you have millions of tiny insects crawling on your skin. The feeling is unsettling, creeping, and painful.
- Bruised feelings. You feel as though your skin and your insides are tender, bruised and sensitive. Your rib cage and chest to even breathe.
- Stabbing pains. It feels as if you have thousands of needles pricking into your skin. Getting a tattoo would be less painful!
- Migraines throughout your whole body. You throb all over your body. You are hypertensive, and you feel raw. The slightest touch or even movement sends pain pulsating all over your body.
- Zaps. Ever been tasered? With fibromyalgia, you feel as if you are being tasered everywhere on your body.
- An itchy and stabbing pain. It is hard to, but the pain you feel with fibromyalgia is almost like an itch you want to scratch until it bleeds. At the same time someone is stabbing you with a knife.
- Stiffness. Try walking around hunched over and unable to stand up. Fibromyalgia pain feels like you are 100 years old and every bone in your body refuses to move without pain.
- Radiating pain. There may be a center point of pain that runs to different locations of your body. Like a pain deep in your back that moves down your legs.
- Pain caused by touch. A tap on the shoulder, a brush by someone in a crowd, clothes that fit too tight, and even hair against our neck causes pain.
- Migraines and headaches. Those with fibromyalgia do not have a day that goes by that they do not have a headache. Headaches may be tension or stress or migraines that cause you to lose your vision. You feel like your head is on fire and the slightest movement or noise sends pain pulsating through your head.
- Prickly pain. Sore, burning and itchy is the best way to describe the prickly feeling you experience with fibromyalgia.
The most challenging part of fibromyalgia is not dealing with the pain, it’s the lack of understanding from friends, family, and even your doctors. No one can see your pain; they see someone who is unresponsive and not willing to do much. There is more to fibromyalgia than just the pain. It is also the brain fog or fibro fog, the inability to do what you want to do and the depression. The things you can do to help with the pain are mostly up to you; there is no medication to take away the pain of fibromyalgia, just medication that is targeted at the symptoms. Some doctors try, but they are at a loss as to what causes fibromyalgia. Like Lena Dunham, Lady Gaga, and many other patients, you just have to try and get through the day and live life the best you can.