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What Does Fibromyalgia Feel Like?

Reprinted with the kind permission of Sarah Borien and A Life Less Physical [1]
Last week was the start of my fibromyalgia flare up and it struck me that I use that phrase often but it doesn’t really mean anything to a lot of people. Fellow spoonies [2] probably identify with it and those close to me know it as “uh oh, something bad happened,” but what does it actually mean? How does it feel?
So this week, every time I experienced pain too noticeable to ignore I thought about what it actually felt like. Here are some of my feels from during the week: 

  1. I feel like I’ve trapped a nerve in my neck; I can’t turn it to the left so I’m a bit worried about driving to and from work.

  2. I feel like I’ve just had a tetanus shot in my right arm. It aches, but I can identify a sharp, bruised pain right in the middle of the ache.

  3. I feel like I’ve slept on a cold, hardwood floor for two nights. My lower back hurts and the rest of my body aches – it feels like I need a good stretch.

  4. I try to stretch but bending feels like I’m trying to bend a plastic ruler, I can’t really do it and I fear if I force it, I may snap.

  5. I’m itchy. All over. My arms and legs are itchy, my eyeballs are itchy, the palm of my hand is itchy.

  6. I feel like I’m walking through treacle. It’s not impossible by any means, but it’s hard work.

  7. I feel tired. So flippin’ tired. Like I went for a really long country walk that ended with a hike up Scafell Pike.

  8. I feel like I’ve been in a car crash. Not a bad one, but my bones feel bruised all over.

  9. I feel like I walked in to a table and bashed my knee. Both knees actually.

  10. I feel like my muscles are made of jelly, like they have no strength. Please don’t ask me to lift anything. 

So that’s what it felt like this week. And all the while, I’m smiling and working and no one would have a clue to look at me that inside, everything’s just a bit sore.
I’m not telling you this so you feel sorry for me, but just to show you that – for many of us with fibromyalgia – every day is a bit of a struggle, but more often than not, you would never know. There have been many, many blog posts addressing the “but you don’t look sick” mindset. It’s true, most of us don’t. But that’s mainly because we’ve managed to perfect the ability to manage our pain and our day-to-day life. We don’t do the things that make pain worse, we just do the things we need to do to get by. And quite honestly, I’m feeling pretty proud of all of us right now.

Sarah Borien lives in a country cottage in Oxfordshire with her husband and their two cats. She has had fibromyalgia since 2009 and is passionate about finding and sharing new coping strategies. Sarah authors her blog, A Life Less Physical [3], and has written for New Life Outlook (Fibromyalgia) [4].