The Reality Behind Juvenile-Onset Fibromyalgia

The Reality Behind Juvenile-Onset Fibromyalgia

Over time, more and more health conditions have been discovered, which has ultimately led to a more informed healthcare system. These breakthroughs have been thanks to a neverending goal of creating more efficient treatment options, which is being done as technology improves and becomes more complex. Although these said health conditions have seen their share of innovative treatment options, diseases still remain that are hard to explain and some have yet to find a concrete solution. 

In addition to this, rare and severe health conditions present a whirlwind of challenges for not only the individuals looking to find a cure, but also the patients and their loved ones. Rare conditions are often accompanied by a limited amount of treatment options, which adds to the already difficult task of combating a severe condition. This scenario can best be highlighted in what is known as juvenile-onset fibromyalgia

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Juvenile-Onset Fibromyalgia

According to Mayo Clinic, “juvenile-onset fibromyalgia affects 2 to 6 percent of school children, mostly adolescent girls. It is most commonly diagnosed between ages 13 and 15.” This shocking statistic provides a small glimpse into a disease that may very well be misdiagnosed, leaving children feeling fragile and potentially more susceptible to judgment and bullying.

One article posted in and composed by Christine Lynch, looks into what it is like to grow up with fibromyalgia at a very young age. Lynch discusses the difficulty of being understood, as she mentions that her condition was often “Dismissed by my mother and our family doc as ‘growing pains.’” 

The pain Lynch felt was also accompanied by a weakened immune system, a vital symptom tied to living with fibromyalgia. This was especially difficult when sickness would go around school, as her sickness often lasted significantly longer than the other student in her class. 

When recounting these instances in her early life, Lynch comments that, “If the other kids had the flu for one week, I had it for three. Some years I missed more days of school than I attended.” In addition to the weaker immune system and the widespread pain felt in her body, Lynch also dealt with insomnia. Induced from the pain she was feeling, the insomnia led her to find ways to cope. 

With this Lynch remarks that, “My mother (an avid Jack Paar fan) occasionally whispered at my bedroom door, 'Are you still awake?' Thus, I was introduced to late-night entertainers other kids my age would never meet...Perhaps my mom understood my plight better than I knew. At any rate, this access to grown-up activity made my pain more bearable.”

As any individual diagnosed with fibromyalgia may know, getting outside and exercising can prove to be a difficult task. This is often thanks to the unbearable pain felt within the body’s joints. Upon this experience in her life, Lynch searched for a happy medium by which she was able to exercise while not experiencing as much pain. From this, the activity of swimming was discovered. 

The activity enabled Lynch to partake in a healthy cardiovascular exercise while ridding of the painful impact that running or other activities would induce. In the article, Lynch goes on to explain the difficulties handling the high and low temperatures growing up. In hot climate, she reported experiences of nausea, and in the cold she spoke of how she would layer her clothing to compensate. Swimming, as she mentions, was her best way to handle the hotter temperatures.

Even today, diagnosing fibromyalgia is not always an easy task for medical professionals. This is due in part because some of the key symptoms associated with fibromyalgia resemble other serious health condition, creating difficulty when it comes to pinpointing a certain health problem. As previously mentioned, Lynch discusses this as a major problem in her youngest years of having fibromyalgia, as everyone around her dismissed it. 

A key breakthrough for her, however, came in 1990 when she points out that, “diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia first became available…I learned there actually was a name for my condition. Hallelujah! I was not the hypochondriac I always thought I was. Of course, the diagnosis didn’t cure me. But I did feel better about myself. I was less disappointed in my limitations and more proud of my achievements.” This excerpt helps to point out the relief Lynch felt upon learning that what she had experienced growing up and was still experiencing was in fact a legitimate health condition.

Relevant studies

In the piece mentioned above, Lynch discusses the benefit of swimming as a form of exercise as she grew up with fibromyalgia. The benefits of swimming do in fact stretch past Lynch’s personal preference however, as the activity of swimming has been identified as an effective treatment for fibromyalgia, according to a study conducted at the Federal University of Sao Paulo. The research surrounding this idea suggests that swimming is just as effective as walking is in terms of relieving pain in fibromyalgia patients. 

It is imperative to understand however, that certain physical activities are much better for fibromyalgia patients relative to other forms of exercise. In most cases, patients must partake in lower-impact activities. When discussing this very idea, the study, as seen on the website Science Daily, states that, “Physical exercise is an essential component of any treatment for fibromyalgia, and plenty of studies have demonstrated that low-impact aerobic exercise offers the most benefits.”

A key finding from this study is that swimming provides an alternative for fibromyalgia patients who may very well not prefer walking as their favorite type of exercise. In addition, some patients may experience a majority of their pain in their knees, making it more difficult to walk for long periods of time. Swimming then can provide a better solution for these instances, as it does not put as much strain on this region of the body.

For the research effort, the population consisted of 75 woman with ages ranging from 18 to 60 years old, and did not live an active lifestyle. The study essentially split the population into two randomly selected groups, with one group taking up swimming and the other group walking. The groups both went about their respective training sessions three times a week for a total of 12 weeks. 

Throughout these training sessions, each subject was observed based on a variety of factors. These factors included pain intensity and quality of life, which ultimately enable the researchers to compare the overall effectiveness of both exercises.

The future for young fibromyalgia patients

Due to the fact that the prevalence of juvenile-onset fibromyalgia is rare, it is important that the patients that suffer in the nation and abroad are given the necessary treatments to reduce their pain. This can be done with a focus on families being diligent in ensuring their children are healthy and not at risk for fibromyalgia at a young age. 

If the patients do in fact have a diagnosis of early-onset fibromyalgia, then the proper treatments can be administered to better the child’s quality of life. For a variety of obvious reasons, this can have a positive outcome for the child and their future, and increase the likelihood of a more fulfilling life experience. 

All of this is possible with the proper distribution of information, enabling the society at large to be more knowledgeable about caring for patients with fibromyalgia.