Poor and less educated suffer the most from chronic pain

Poorer and less-educated older Americans are more like to suffer from chronic pain than those with greater wealth and more education, but the disparity between the two groups is much greater than previously thought, climbing as high as 370 percent in some categories, according to new research by a University at Buffalo medical sociologist.

The results, based on 12 years of data from more than 19,000 subjects aged 51 and over, excluding those diagnosed or treated for cancer, provide several kinds of bad news about chronic pain in the United States, according to Hanna Grol-Prokopczyk, an assistant professor of sociology at UB and the paper’s author, published in this month’s issue of the journal Pain.

Chronic pain levels are also rising by period and not just by age, meaning people who were in their 60s in 2010 reported more pain than people who were in their 60s in 1998. “There are a lot of pressures right now to reduce opioid prescription,” says Grol-Prokopczyk. “In part, this study should be a reminder that many people are legitimately suffering from pain. Health care providers shouldn’t assume that someone who shows up in their office complaining of pain is just trying to get an opioid prescription. “We have to remember that pain is a legitimate and widespread problem,” she says.

The study also serves as an argument for investing more into research for other treatments.

“We don’t have particularly good treatments for chronic pain. If opioids are to some extent being taken off the table, it becomes even more important to find other ways of addressing this big public health problem.”

Tens of millions of American adults experience chronic pain. A 2011 Institute of Medicine report (now the National Academy of Science Health and Medicine Division) noted that chronic pain affects more people and costs the economy more money than heart disease, cancer and diabetes combined. Yet most research on the condition has asked only whether people had chronic pain or did not.

Grol-Prokopczyk’s groundbreaking study is among the first to look beyond either the presence or absence of chronic pain to examine instead matters of degree, asking whether the pain was mild, moderate or severe. Her research, based on the Health and Retirement Study, which asked participants if they were “often troubled with pain,” also follows the same subjects over 12 years, as opposed to most studies that illuminate a particular point in time.

“I found that people with lower levels of education and wealth don’t just have more pain, they also have more severe pain,” she says. “I also looked at pain-related disability, meaning that pain is interfering with the ability to do normal work or household activities. And again, people with less wealth and education are more likely to experience this disability.”

People with the least education are 80 percent more likely to experience chronic pain than people with the most. Looking exclusively at severe pain, subjects who didn’t finish high school are 370 percent more likely to experience severe chronic pain than those with graduate degrees.

“If you’re looking at all pain — mild, moderate and severe combined — you do see a difference across socioeconomic groups. And other studies have shown that. But if you look at the most severe pain, which happens to be the pain most associated with disability and death, then the socioeconomically disadvantaged are much, much more likely to experience it.”

More research needs to be done to understand why pain is so unequally distributed in the population, but Grol-Prokopczyk says it’s critical to keep the high burden of pain in mind in this period of concern over the opioid epidemic.

“If we as a society decide that opioid analgesics are often too high risk as a treatment for chronic pain, then we need to invest in other effective treatments for chronic pain, and/or figure out how to prevent it in the first place,” she says.



17 of the Worst Symptoms of Fibromyalgia (and How People Deal With Them)

Fibromyalgia manifests itself in different ways for different patients, but most can agree that all the symptoms are life-altering. It’s not always clear how (or if) they can be treated, and the physical challenges can all too easily turn into emotional challenges as the things you used to do become more and more difficult.

We asked our Mighty community with fibromyalgia which symptoms they consider the worst and how they cope with them. If you’re experiencing these difficult symptoms as well, check out the strategies they use, and don’t forget that you aren’t alone in dealing with the hardships of fibromyalgia.

Here’s what the community told us:

1. “Never-ending fatigue. I’m still trying to figure out what helps, but so far, certain homeopathic medicines are working. My online support group helps tremendously! And there’s always Netflix. Cuddles from my cats help, too!”

2. “When I feel like I’m walking through quicksand. The only thing that helps is to take a break for a day and rest.”

3. “To me, the worst part of fibro isn’t the pain/stiffness or the constant fatigue, it’s my non-existent social life and constantly feeling alone/misunderstood. Even on the awful days, I always find some way to cope or I just lay in bed and whine to my pets. But it’s hard to find a way to ‘cope’ with the loneliness and the depression that follows it.”

4. “The worst is the joint stiffness and joint pain I get, the nausea, and being tired all day and then not being able to sleep at night. I’m a huge fan of the heating pad, and keeping hydrated, and taking my days one day at a time.”

5. “The whole body stiffness as if you’ve worked every bone in your body the day before. No way to deal with the pain, but working out does help…. lessens some of the stiffness. I really notice it more when I don’t do cardio. I tell my family I work out to lose weight, which is true, but it’s more so to help with the stiffness.”

6. “When something always hurts, it’s hard to focus. When you never get good sleep, getting through a work day without a nap is incredibly difficult. I use essential oils to help with both. I make sure I get the best sleep that I can and rest when I can.”

7. “Pain in every part of my body! Some days it even hurts to breath. I pamper myself on those days and do only what is necessary. I save a book I know I will get lost in reading, have a few naps, and try to relax my tight muscles to minimize the pain. I cuddle and pet my dogs a lot, too. I live by myself in the Minnesota up-north woods far away from the noise and stress of living in a city. The quiet and solitude help keep me relaxed.”

8. “For me it’s the cognitive issues. I can hide the pain, but when I can’t form words or get lost in familiar places and see the look of pity on faces of others, I want to cry. I used to be confident and outgoing. Now I just want to hide away.”

9. “Worst symptoms for me are the random hand twitches. I deal with them by making jokes.”

10. “Not having an internal thermostat. I’m rarely just a comfortable temp. Always hot or freezing! I try to dress with layers and know where fans and fresh air are when possible!”

11. “Waking up achy like I hiked 20 miles, feeling like I didn’t sleep at all, and feeling like my head is stuck in the fog. It feels like I’m jet-lagged all the time, walking through quicksand with the body aches of the flu… I try to have a positive attitude about the good parts of my life and manage the best I can.”

12. “The inconsistency. One day you may be feeling relatively good and the next day you are unable to get out of bed. Fibro doesn’t care if you have things to do that day; if it is a bad pain day, it is a bad pain day.”

13. “The worst symptom would have to be my loss of self. I worked hard for the life I had. I was happy. But now I feel like such a burden. No matter how positive I am or how much I smile, I struggle with the constant removal of independence. I’m not sure how to love or even like what I’ve become. I do have amazing support from my partner, and I appreciate it it more than he will ever know. Time together will make a difference. So will finding new happy moments and places.”

14. “The worst symptom is a specific kind of pain; it feels as though I’m being stabbed, in random order, with a red-hot electrified knife all over my body. There’s no relief. All I can do is rub my feet/hands/legs/arms, curl up in a ball and wait for it to pass.”

15. “I have good days and bad days, but on the bad days it feels like every joint in my body is screaming. On those days I take a nice long epson salt bath with bubbles and calm music; it always helps.”

16. “Fibromyalgia flare-ups are the worst. The pain is unbearable and it is felt in every joint, every muscle, every nerve. The fatigue is overwhelming, and sleep is often kept to a minimum since the pain is so severe. Flare-ups happen because of stress, weather, overexertion, and unfortunately, sometimes there’s no reason at all.”

17. “Feeling alone. I have found a great online community, and I cherish the couple understanding friends I have.”




To the Person Who Told Me Fibromyalgia Doesn’t Exist

I may not be able to explain what fibromyalgia is. I’ve heard it’s a muscular thing, a nervous system thing and a genetic thing. But for me, it’s a real thing.

I’ve been dealing with it for the past four years when the symptoms started a few months after my first depressive episode. All of the sudden, at 18, I was exhausted. I had no energy, I found myself sleeping more often and keeping up with life and daily activities were way too much for me.

If I went out one night, I had to spend the rest of the weekend recovering from the exhaustion that it caused. I could sleep for 12 hours and still feel like I’ve been sleep deprived for three months.

And the fatigue — oh, the fatigue. Have you ever felt tired after taking a shower? I have. You can’t imagine how much energy you need to stand up on the shower while using your arms to apply shampoo and wash it all off. It’s an immense effort.

When the shower is finally over, you have to decide what to clothes to wear and put them on. But you’re exhausted, like you just ran 50 marathons. So you just sit on your bed, looking at your closet and wishing tiny fairies would pick up your clothes and dress you while you just rest there.

Clear? OK, let’s continue because we’re far from being over.

Imagine having your skin covered in dark, purple bruises. They’re the kind you get when trip over a desk, and they hurt just by touching them. Yep, those. Now imagine one little kid per bruise, touching it, poking it and pressing it with a tiny but strong little finger — all day long and all over your body.

In addition, imagine your body covered in needles that randomly pressed into your skin. It makes you feel like you have a thorn somewhere in your muscles. As every part of your body is in pain, but you can’t locate the pain, and you aren’t comfortable in any position. Your legs can’t stand being up for a long time, but when you sit down, your back hurts. And when you lie down, your arms hurt.

I forgot the stiffness. Your muscles feel like they were replaced by concrete overnight, and you can barely move. And it hurts. So you have to use your magic gadgets — a cane in my case or a wheelchair for others.

Amazing, I know.

Let’s continue to the cognitive part. In addition to all of that, you start forgetting things. You forget where you are, what you were going to do or what you just said. You have trouble concentrating and your memory sucks.

How could I forget to mention fibromyalgia’s BFFs: depression and anxiety? And this story cannot end without mentioning dry mouth, the swelling of legs and feet, migraines, oversensitivity to light and sound, body temperature issues, horrible menstrual pains, restless legs syndrome and digestive problems. And that’s it for now (that’s all I can remember, anyway).

Sometimes — most of the time, to be honest — you get all of the symptoms together. And there’s no cure for it. None. You can use palliative care in order to live your life in the most “normal” and “functional” way.

So to the person who told me fibromyalgia doesn’t exist, the next time you judge a condition you know nothing about, try talking to the people who live with it daily. More research may be needed for fibromyalgia, but it does exist. I live with it the best way I can, and while I’ll have awesome days when I forget most of the symptoms, there are days in which getting out of bed is physically impossible.

I’m lucky enough to be able to live my life in the most functional way I can by walking with a cane every now and then and canceling plans when needed. But I know people whose lives have been completely impacted by fibromyalgia.

So please, before you say fibromyalgia doesn’t exist, think about having all of these symptoms for just one day.



Fibromyalgia , Medical woes, expenses cloud family’s hope of merry Christmas

Eight-year-old Benjamin and Abby, his 13-year-old sister, have had good Christmases in the past.

This year, that may not be the case.

Recent medical issues affecting them and their 51-year-old mother, Alice, has changed their lives. The financial strain that followed threatens just how merry Christmas will be in terms of gifts.

To be sure, there are items on the childrens’ wish list. Benjamin would like the Five Nights at Freddy’s video game and the stuffed toys associated with it, a Pittsburgh Steelers bedspread and Heelys — “Any color, size 3 and a half,” Benjamin said.

Besides having her two older sisters come to visit from the Midwest and spending time with the family, Abby simply would like a camera.

“I’m into photography,” Abby said. “When I grow up I want to be a photographer.”

However, inside their modest, three-bedroom, low-income apartment in a complex near the Annaville area, the greatest gifts the family has — or could receive — cannot be wrapped in paper or tied with a bow.

“You get up and you do what you have to do no matter how much pain you have in your heart or in your body,” said Alice, adding the family relies on love and its faith to endure this tough stretch. “We’re pretty happy people, you know. We don’t have a lot and our life is real different than what it used to be. … It’s a thing of the past. But we’ve learned there’s more value at home than there ever could be outside. So we’re OK with that.”

“It just came down to what you get is what you get. You don’t have to have a bad Christmas,” Benjamin said. “It’s a fun Christmas every day for me.”

Abby and Benjamin represent thousands of youngsters who will be helped by the Caller-Times Children’s Christmas Appeal. The names of those profiled are changed to protect the privacy of the families, who will be featured in the newspaper to Christmas Eve.

Since 1973, the Caller-Times has reported the plight of needy children during the holiday season. Every cent donated to the drive benefits the children because all overhead costs are borne by the Caller-Times, United Way of the Coastal Bend and participating agencies.

Participating agencies include the Boys & Girls Club of Alice, Duval County Christmas Committee, the Kleberg County Welfare Department, Nueces County Department of Social Services, the Odyssey After-School Enrichment Program in Rockport, Sinton for Youth Inc. and the Women’s Shelter of South Texas.

A victim of domestic violence, Alice was forced to stop work as a nurse in 2013 because of her health. She suffers from lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and is having tests to evaluate liver abnormalities. She maneuvers with a walker. After 18 months of treatment, Abby is in remission from lymphoblastic leukemia, a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many white blood cells. Benjamin has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

They are living on a minimal income from Abby’s child support and Benjamin’s dependent benefits. Benjamin’s father, Orville, had been assisting but now is on a fixed income after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

“I try and do everything as possible for my mom because she’s having a hard time trying to get around,” Abby said, sobbing gently. “So if she’s trying to go somewhere, like the dining room or living room, I try to move everything out of the way for her.”

A donated, oversized L-shaped sofa is the dominant feature inside their cramped apartment. There are neat, but old stockings hanging from a shelf. A Christmas music box softly plays in a nearby bedroom, trying to spread good tidings amid trying times.

“You can look around. This stuff is what we’ve had for years. We take good care of it,” said Alice, who said she donated to the Christmas Appeal in better times. “But what is important to us is how much we love and how much we can give. It’s not about taking. We have never been that way. We’ve been very giving people all our lives. I believe that even when you have nothing you still have a lot to give.

“Where people may look at us and say that we’re poor, we’re very rich,” she said. “We’re rich in love, rich in life, and we’ve been blessed.”


22 Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because You Have Fibromyalgia

When you’re fighting an invisible illness like fibromyalgia, the battles aren’t always obvious to outsiders. When you turn down an invitation or opt to take the elevator instead of the stairs, it’s all too easy for people to assume the reasons why — without realizing that in fact, you’re just doing your best to manage your symptoms.

We partnered with the National Fibromyalgia Association to ask our Facebook communities what everyday things they do that people might not realize are rooted in their fibromyalgia. Their answers reveal the secret struggles fibro warriors deal with every day — and that if friends and family are paying attention, they’ll see how hard their loved ones fight to deal with the painful effects of fibromyalgia.

Here’s what they told us:

1. “Not showering every day or keeping up with laundry. People see me as lazy but in reality, I’m prioritizing what I can do each day. Otherwise I’d be out for a month. It’s hard for people to understand how much energy and effort it takes to do the most simple tasks.”

2. “I keep a lot of my curtains closed and the brightness on devices on lowest; when I’m having a flare light hurts me so much. My smell and hearing are too sensitive. Repetitive noises are agony to me.”

3. “Napping. I hate sleeping during the day. I feel miserable when I nap, but if I don’t lie down, I will fall down. Some of my friends love to nap and envy me when I tell them I spent the afternoon in bed. To me, though, napping is just one more way my life is not my own now.”

4.I clench my jaw really tightly when in pain (probably just looks like I’m pulling weird faces!). Also people think I’m strange for not drinking alcohol, but it reacts with my meds and a hangover feels a million times worse!”

5. “I rub my hands a lot and sometimes my feet. Most people don’t think this is anything more than self-comfort. The reality is, the weakness and pain in my hands, arms and legs is something I deal with every day.”

6. “This weekend I was at a wedding. Most people at my table were dancing and were trying to tell me to join them. They don’t know I was bravely smiling through the pain and that it was a two-hour battle just to get dressed up and show up. There was no strength left for dancing.”

7. “Google-Earth-ing everywhere I have to go (or am considering going) and have never been before to assess if the building would have stairs (inside and out) and a parking spot nearby.”

8. “I wear a lot of fuzzy socks because I have cold feet issues. Having fibromyalgia means when I get cold my pain gets elevated even worse. Ugg boots are also helpful because they are soft and warm.”

9. “Avoiding family gatherings as much as possible. I come from a very big and loud family who likes to hug. I’m surrounded by all of them and the kids are running a round and everyone is talking laughing and having a good time. No one realizes how huge that sensory overload is for me.”

10. “A prime example is ‘test-driving’ chairs to find the most comfortable one. At work, there are several office chairs in the main work area that are used by various people on all shifts, so they get moved around and swapped for each other pretty often. When I’m working in that area, I sit in each chair for a few seconds to see which one is going to cause me the least amount of pain throughout the day (the chairs are identical, but some are older/used more than others). People who don’t know I have fibro may find it odd or humorous, but I think even people who do know seem to find it ‘amusing’ at times.”

11. “I’m soon to be 27 and have the memory of a goldfish. I mix up words and stutter so bad. People don’t realize I have fibromyalgia and this is why I do this.”

12. “Taking a deep breath as I reach the entrance door at work, putting a massive smile on my face. Chest out, shoulders back… keeping on my ‘I’m OK’ face until I crumble back into my car at the end of the shift.”

13. “I really don’t talk much because I have fibro fog and find it hard to carry on a conversation. So this sometimes makes me appear disinterested in others, but that isn’t the case at all. I find it hard to find the words to say.”

14. “When I have to stand for more than a couple of minutes I rock back and forth to distract myself from the pain. Most think it’s just a nervous habit, but in essence it’s my pain control.”

15.Giving up my social life. I go to work, and I come home. That’s all I can manage to do. I have to choose between going to church, family activities, and meeting with friends over rest. And lately, rest wins.”

16. “Sometimes I’m having a really bad flare and can’t get out. Rather than admitting my weakness, I say the kids are sick or something, so no harm, no foul. It makes me uncomfortable admitting it, and it makes them feel even more uncomfortable/angry/disappointed, etc.”

17. “I walk out of work when my shift ends and drive right home. I don’t say goodbye to anyone because if we end up chatting it’ll be even longer until I get to lounge at home and rest.”

18. “Turning down TVs and radios when people come in the room. The noise sensitivity makes sounds get louder the more there are different sounds. Each added person, instead of making it harder to hear something, amplifies the sounds.”

19. “When you take an extra day off work from a holiday weekend. It’s not to just play around and be lazy. It takes me days to recover from travel, from cooking the Thanksgiving turkey, from Christmas shopping, even from just sitting in an uncomfortable chair eating a holiday meal with family and friends.”

20. “In college, people don’t realize I always tell them, ‘I have to go to the bathroom, be right up with you guys’ because I don’t want anyone looking at me me while I slowly climb my painful way upstairs. So I always make up an excuse to be the last one to go up, and alone.”

21. “I text instead of calling because I’m not sure how I’ll sound over the phone, and I can make the text sound positive without acting.”

22. “I take a few minutes every so often when I’m out, like when I go to the bathroom or pop to the kitchen, and just sit and gather myself. Allow myself to feel the exhaustion and pain then breathe and go back in.”

What are some things you do that people don’t realize you’re doing because you have fibromyalgia? Share in the comments.

Cannabis Science Develops Pain Patches for Fibromyalgia Patients

Cannabis Science, a company specialized in the development of cannabis-based therapeutics, recently announced the development of two new medications for pain relief in people with fibromyalgia and diabetic neuropathy nerve pain.

The two new pharmaceutical pain relievers will be marketed as transdermal adhesive patches that deliver a certain dose of medication into the bloodstream by absorption through the patient’s skin.

Transdermal drug delivery routes have the potential to promote healing of an injured area of the body. This delivery method can be superior to other types of medication delivery, including oral, topical, intravenous, intramuscular,and others, because of the additional control over the dose administered to the patient.

The patch provides a more controlled release of the medication, either through using a porous membrane to let the medication be absorbed gradually by the skin, or through embedding thin layers of the medicine in the adhesive that melt with the patient’s body heat.

Cannabinoids have an extensive record of medicinal applications, dating back thousands of years. Currently, a number of peer-reviewed scientific publications are documenting the underlying biochemical pathways that cannabinoids modulate.

These patches will contain high potency cannabinoid (CBD) extract, the second major cannabinoid in marijuana after THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). The extract slowly enters the bloodstream and then penetrates a patient’s central nervous system to act as a pain reliever.

CBD has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties with no known psychoactive effects. Research has shown that CBD can be an effective treatment for many types of pain, particularly inflammatory pain. Some studies also have shown that CBD might outperform traditional medication when treating inflammatory pain.

“While we strive to increase our land capacity for growth and facilities to produce our own product to supply our scientists with proprietary materials to make these formulations, we are also busy researching more potential needs for Cannabis related medical applications and developing the methods for delivery of these medications,” Raymond C. Dabney, Cannabis Science CEO said in a press release.

“As more states nationwide [in the U.S.] legislate for the legalization of cannabis and cannabis-derived medications, we here at Cannabis Science are focused on developing pharmaceutical formulations and applications to supply the huge growing demand expected over the coming few years,” Dabney stated.

Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect 2%-8% of the population. Patients with fibromyalgia experience chronic widespread pain and a heightened pain response to pressure.


10 of My Most Embarrassing Fibro Fog Moments

Embarrassing fibro fog moments happen to me all the time. Some days I don’t know if I should laugh or cry. Unfortunately, most fibromyalgia fighters have to battle fibro fog to some degree.

1. Short-Term Memory Loss

This seems to be an almost daily occurrence for me: I get in the shower, wet my hair and then totally blank on whether I washed it or not. Because I have naturally curly, dry hair… I don’t want to wash it daily, especially not more than once a shower! And if I do remember if I washed it that shower, I can never remember the next day so it’s hit or miss. This is a daily frustration I have not found a working solution for.

2. Forgetting Conversations

My poor husband — I do this to him way too often. He mentions something and it feels like the first time I am hearing about it. Even after arguing about it, I still have no idea if I am right. Sometimes I do think he believes he said something to me but didn’t. At least that’s my story…

3. Forgetting What I Am Doing

The confusion from standing in rooms with no idea why or what I went to get or do. I know, this happens to everyone sometimes… you walk into a room and totally forget why or what you are doing there. During a fibro fog moment, when it happens a little too often, you really start to wonder if you are losing it.

4. Getting Lost, Even With GPS

I have always claimed to be directionally challenged. Me and a paper map? Forget it, I’ll never get there. I have forgotten how to get home before — just totally spaced! I can take it to an all new level by doing it with my GPS telling me where to go. Siri has to reconfigure so often I wonder why I use it at all. Half the time I think Siri just is messing with me on purpose — a U-turn here? And if I piss her off too much she gives me the silent treatment. Seriously, I get no audio!


5. Easily Distracted

I bounce from one thing to another before finishing what I was doing.

I have a personal example of this. Yesterday, a blah day, I thought I could handle doing some household chores. I decided to start laundry and starting sorting and putting lights in the machine. I got thinking about the towels I had forgotten to grab, went to the washroom, got sidetracked by the dog sleeping in the bedroom, went into the kitchen, started the dishwasher, realized I forgot sorting clothes, went back to laundry, got a load started, went to have a shower, went back into the kitchen to a half-unloaded dishwasher, finished that, went check laundry — I had forgotten to turn it on. Then I went and had a nap.

6. Verbal Confusion

This can be forgetting the next word I was about to say, or unintentionally subbing another word in that doesn’t make sense. My family gets a chuckle listening to me, to my embarrassment. I do too when it’s pointed out that I used a different word then I was trying to say. Sometimes the subbed words are funny! Kind of like when auto-correct changes a word and totally loses the meaning, but funny as hell.

This is a recent Facebook post my husband put up. Slightly embarrassing!


7. Forgetting Simple Details

I often forget basic information, of course, when I need to remember it most (filling out doctor’s form ). It’s helpful to have Hubby there, he’s used to it. I also use my Note App to keep information handy that I often need. You can laugh away forgetting your own phone number, because really, who calls themselves? It gets a little less amusing when you draw a blank on the simplest of questions that should be ingrained in our brains.

Perfect example: I argued with a doctor about how old I was, I added a year, and the doctor actually did the math to prove I was a year younger (I was wrong). This was not one of my finest moments.

8. Awkward in Social Situations

Everyone forgets a name or a spouse’s name from time to time, and that can be uncomfortable enough. Now amplify that by 100.

Maybe I’ve seen a good movie, read a good book or maybe heard a great new song. I need to make small talk, so I recommend it to someone and draw a blank. Now imagine doing that all the time. When you are trying to sound professional, or at least somewhat intelligent, this can be handicap. Halfway through a sentence I forget what I’m saying or discussing. Wondering if I just said out loud what I was thinking. Realizing five minutes into a conversation that I am already lost.

9. Missing Important Dates

I don’t know if this is a fibro fog thing, a not working thing or probably both. I never know what the date is or half the time what day of the week it is, so even if I do remember a birthday, I still usually miss it. I have given up on relying on my memory — any and all appointments, birthdays and other important information all go into my iPhone calendar with an alarm!

10. Losing Things

I know people do this all the time: look at something and it needs a safe place to live, so you do that, only to forget where that safe place was. I do that, too. I have a verbal checklist I do just to leave the house, so I remember everything (theoretically). I try and leave everything I need by the front door so I don’t forget to take it (although it might live in my car a lot too long). I am slowly working to downsize and de-clutter. If everything has a home, I am hoping it will make locating lost objects easy!


World Osteoporosis Day 2016: Fibromyalgia, kidney stones, psoriasis, heart disease, and breast cancer

World Osteoporosis day is coming up on October 20, so in light of this we present our top articles discussing osteoporosis as well as other associated conditions such as fibromyalgia, kidney stones, psoriasis, heart disease, and breast cancer.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that commonly affects women – as well as men. Osteoporosis typically develops in older age and is characterized by a loss of bone mass, which makes the bones weak and brittle. This increases the risk of fractures, potentially leading to further complications.

The goal of World Osteoporosis Day is to raise awareness while offering prevention tips for the bone disease.

Fibromyalgia may raise osteoporosis risk

Fibromyalgia may raise the risk of osteoporosis. A condition characterized by widespread pain, fibromyalgia can result in limited mobility and lack of sunlight exposure – factors that increase the likelihood of osteoporosis in a patient.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by the loss of bone mass. Factors that contribute to bone strength include exercising, eating calcium-rich foods, and getting adequate amounts of vitamin D, which is easily absorbed through sun exposure.

In the latest study, researchers evaluated vitamin D serum levels and bone mineral density in female fibromyalgia patients and healthy women.

recurring-kidney-stone-patientsRecurrent kidney stone patients at higher risk of heart disease and osteoporosis

Recurrent kidney stone patients are at a higher risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. The findings suggest that close monitoring of recurring kidney stones could help protect patients from heart-related problems.

Nearly 10 percent of men and seven percent of women will develop kidney stones, and over the last few decades mounting evidence has shown that individuals who have experienced kidney stones have an increased risk of developing other conditions, including hypertension, chronic kidney disease, and heart disease, but the mechanisms involved were long unknown.

The researchers speculate that the rise of heart-related conditions due to recurring kidney stones may be associated with abnormal calcium deposits in the blood vessels. Vascular calcification is strongly correlated with heart-related disease and death.

psoriasis-osteoporosis-treatmentPsoriasis and general bone loss linked, may help osteoporosis treatment research: Study

Psoriasis and general bone loss have been found to be linked and studies suggest it may help osteoporosis treatment research. Researchers from the Genes, Development and Disease Group found that psoriasis patients experience higher levels of bone loss as a result of the disease.

Their findings, published in Science Translational Medicine, described the molecular communication that is established between the inflamed skin and loss of bone mass. The research unveiled a possible treatment for psoriasis with already available drugs that could benefit bone health, too.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that affects two percent of the world’s population. Manifested as inflammation and scaling of the skin, psoriasis increases a person’s risk of developing a type of metabolic syndrome by predisposing them to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.


osteoporosisOsteoporosis linked to coronary heart disease in older people, both could have similar causes: Study

A potential new risk of heart disease has just been discovered. In fact, it has to do with osteoporosis.

If you’re over the age of 50, you’re at higher risk of developing osteoporosis – women and men alike. Osteoporosis is when the bones in our body become weak and brittle and can increase the risk of fractures.

You may not think a bone disease may affect your heart, but it does. This link between the two diseases is according to a new study by the University of Southampton.

osteoporosis-breast-cancerOsteoporosis drug denosumab may lower breast cancer risk in women: Study

Osteoporosis drug denosumab may lower breast cancer risk in women, according to research. The Australian researchers found that women who have a high risk of breast cancer may greatly benefit from a bone loss drug as it was found to halt cancer cell growth contributing to tumors. Women with the BRCA1 gene mutation are at a greater risk for breast cancer, compared to women without it.

The research is still at its early stages, so you won’t find denosumab commonly prescribed as a means to lower breast cancer rates just yet. The findings must first be reproduced in a large human trial.

When BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes are healthy, they work to repair DNA, but if either gene develops a mutation, the risk of ovarian and breast cancers increases.


When I Was Asked, ‘How Can You Take Care of Your Kids When You’re on Painkillers?’

When I first began seeing doctors for my condition they put me on Tylenol-3 with codeine. For the first time in as long as I could remember I felt good. It turned the pain down from an eight to a three. I even remember putting on my running shoes and going outside and taking a short jog around the block. But my joy was short-lived as the judgement quickly began and guilt set in.

The stigma around opioids is growing. People seem to lump illegal drugs and prescription opioids together and equate addiction with responsible patients taking prescribed medications. So it inevitably came, the question that made me question myself as a parent. “How can you take care of your kids when you’re on painkillers?”

What kind of question was that? I felt like my parenting was improving with pain medication. I could actually move my body without excruciating pain which meant I was in a positive mind-state more frequently, which meant I could play and bond with my children.

People don’t realize how much chronic pain can affect your life outside of the physical symptoms. Chronic pain makes you tired, depressed, anxious, angry, grumpy and frustrated. Before pain medication, I was almost always in a bad mood. I would snap at my husband and kids. I could not tolerate loud sounds; even the sound of my kids’ voices could be like nails on a chalkboard. I would literally have a physical reaction like an electric storm to some sounds.

At one point my daughter even asked me, “Mommy, why are you angry all the time?”

But when that person asked me that question, I began to wonder — is it bad parenting to take opioids? Does it affect my parenting? Do people see it as the same as being drunk or high? I began to judge myself and felt guilty when I took a pill in front of my kids. I felt like a drug addict. I felt ashamed for taking my own prescription medication. I would sometimes not take it to see if I was a “better mom” without my meds. And I was completely miserable. I could barely move around and was in the darkest, angriest mood, not because I was a drug addict needing a fix, but because my body depends on a prescription medication to function as close to normally as it can get. It was then that I realized there is a difference between addiction and dependence.

There is an entire “mom culture” centered around drinking wine while parenting which people laugh about and raise their glass to. So why do people feel it is OK to make this judgement on a pain patient? I am prescribed Tramadol for a reason and that reason is to improve my quality of life. I am able to function like a normal, happy, energetic and attentive mother when I take my meds. Without them I am an angry zombie.

When I tried my little no-med experiment, my husband saw the agony I was dealing with — an invisible illness becoming visible. He knew I was trying not to take my opioids to prove the judge and jury wrong. When he couldn’t take it anymore, he gently said, “Joanna, just take your meds. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Your doctor gave them to you for a reason.” I asked him what prompted him to tell me to take my meds and he responded: “Because I can see you’re in pain and struggling… And you’re really hard to be around when you’re in pain.” He added the last bit with a chuckle.

So there I had my “proof.” I am literally a happier, more functional person when I take my opioids regularly. And you know what? It is not open for public comment. No one has the right to judge me based on societal stigmas, especially not someone who doesn’t have chronic pain. You think parenting is hard? Try doing it when your body feels like it’s been sat on by an elephant then set on fire. Then tell me if opioids make you an impaired parent or a better one.


Why You Shouldn’t Blindly Accept Your Fibromyalgia Diagnosis

I’d like to preface this column by saying I believe fibromyalgia is a very real condition. It exists, and it’s life altering.

With that being said, I think those of us with fibromyalgia should question our diagnosis. I’ve been reading Dr. David Brady’s new book, “The Fibro Fix.” In it, he references a study in the journal Rheumatology indicating only 34 percent of patients initially diagnosed with or suspected of having fibromyalgia actually have fibromyalgia. That means a staggering 66 percent of us may have been misdiagnosed!

Let that sink in for a moment: Two-thirds of us may be living with undiagnosed medical conditions that could potentially be treated!

My own journey is a perfect example of why we shouldn’t blindly accept our diagnoses. I have been misdiagnosed every step of the way.

My first fibromyalgia symptom was extreme fatigue. I was diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency and given a prescription to boost my levels. Around the same time, I was having extreme pain in my right hand, which was diagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome based on symptoms.

Months passed, and I was still exhausted. Looking for answers, I read a list of hypothyroidism symptoms online, and it mirrored what I was feeling. Thyroid testing showed my levels were in the high-normal range, but my primary-care doctor diagnosed me with hypothyroidism based on symptoms and gave me a Synthroid prescription.

More months passed, and my thyroid numbers went down, but I didn’t feel any better. The pain in my hand had migrated up my arm and gotten worse, so I headed to another orthopedist for a second opinion. This one actually ordered testing, which found I didn’t have carpal tunnel at all!

The orthopedist didn’t know what was causing my pain, so I was referred to a rheumatologist. All of my blood work came back normal, and I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

During this same timeframe, I was also diagnosed with overactive bladder – again, by a doctor who diagnosed me based on symptoms and not an actual diagnostic test.

When I finally had a test, it showed I didn’t have overactive bladder. My test result should have been a clue to my urologist that something else was wrong, but he kept treating symptoms without looking for an underlying cause.

Last year, I began to feel burning in my feet. I went to a podiatrist who spent 30 seconds looking at my feet and proclaimed I had plantar fasciitis. Over the next six months, I had three sets of steroid shots in both feet, three laser treatments and several weeks of physical therapy. In the end, I sought a second and third opinion from two more podiatrists. These podiatrists ordered x-rays, an MRI and nerve conduction testing. The verdict? I didn’t have plantar fasciitis! I was diagnosed with neuropathy and referred to a neurologist.

The podiatrists wanted the neurologist to do a thorough blood workup to see if he could identify the underlying cause for my neuropathy. The neurologist glanced at my previous lab results, saw that I didn’t have diabetes and hadn’t had chemotherapy, and diagnosed me with idiopathic neuropathy – meaning the cause is unknown. It was just another fibromyalgia symptom, he said.

When I asked for the testing recommended by my podiatrists, the neurologist said it was too expensive and refused to order the tests. Utterly frustrated, I walked out of his office in tears.

Last May, I was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease and other tick-borne coinfections. Turns out, all of these little clues that my doctors had dismissed for years now fit together in a perfect puzzle. Pain, fatigue and brain fog are primary symptoms of Lyme (as well as a host of other conditions). Lyme can also cause symptoms that mimic overactive bladder.

And my burning feet? Oh, that’s one of the main symptoms of bartonella, a common tick-borne infection. My three podiatrists should’ve asked more questions when I told them the burning was confined to the soles of my feet. Neuropathy typically causes numbness, tingling and pain in the entire foot.

I have spent the past six years shuffling from doctor to doctor. How did they get it so wrong? I don’t have hypothyroidism, plantar fasciitis, overactive bladder or neuropathy!

Do I even have fibromyalgia, or is that a mistake as well? Lyme is commonly misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, but it is just one suspect that should be ruled out. Dr. Brady lists more in his book: myofascial pain syndrome, disc degeneration, tendonitis, disc bulges, osteoarthritis, mitochondrial dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, thyroid conditions, chemical/food sensitivities, medication side effects, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes and the list goes on.

We’re told fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning our doctors are supposed to rule out all other causes before coming to the conclusion of fibromyalgia.

But did that happen in your case? Were all of these alternative causes (and many others not listed above) ruled out via proper testing and clinical deduction?

What if you fall into the 66 percent who are misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia? What if your symptoms are treatable, and you could get your life back?

This is why we should never stop looking for the underlying causes of our symptoms. We have to be our greatest advocate, ensuring that our doctors tick off all of the alternatives before labeling us with fibromyalgia. Our health literally depends on it.