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Fibromyalgia: Will You Share Your Experience? - Martha Beck

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More Videos from Martha Beck 23 videos in this series

Fibromyalgia: Will You Share Your Experience? - Martha Beck
Fibromyalgia: Will You Share Your Experience? - Martha Beck
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Martha Beck shares her experience with fibromyalgia.

Martha Beck:
Hi, I am Martha Beck. I am a life coach. I am columnist for O, the Oprah magazine and I write self-help books.

And I am here today to talk to you about fibromyalgia which is a painful chronic pain condition that I have had for about 30 years.

The onset of my symptoms came after I was hit by a car while training for a marathon. So I was very active and really identified with being out and around all the time. After the accident doctors told me, “Just lie down until you feel better.”

12 years later, I still hadn’t really gotten up. The pain spread from the area where I was hit which was in the hip, to all parts of my body including my hands, my back, and my knees.

There came a point where I couldn’t sit or stand or walk or use my hands without really, really crippling pain.

Now if you have pain in your body and nobody has been able to diagnose it, you may have fibromyalgia.

I really want you to explore that possibility because now we have found that there are medical diagnostic criteria for this condition and it’s a real disorder and doctors are now much more able to treat it.

We are just getting new information from brain studies and from studies on the spinal cord that show, yeah, people with fibromyalgia have a different body makeup than people without fibromyalgia. So there’s medical help on the horizon.

Now even if you don’t get medical help try some of the tips that I learned to start easing my symptoms when I started to really approach them proactively about 15 years ago.

The first thing that I did was I started keeping a pain journal. Every day I would write in my journal what I had done and how much pain I was experiencing.

And because of that I realized that times of high stress were causing my body to tense up and experience a lot more pain.

So I started relieving or removing stressors from my life and as a result I had far fewer symptoms. Another thing you can do is adopt what I call turtle steps, which is to start low, go slow and start taking a step every day toward making your body stronger.

So I was told for 12 years not to exercise because I was being misdiagnosed by doctor after doctor.

The doctor who finally, bless his heart, went and got his medical school textbook and he said, “I think there’s one paragraph in this huge book that says you may have this disorder.” And he read the symptoms and I thought ‘that’s it’.

And then he said, “Okay, the recommendations for this are exercise, vacations and massage.” And I said, “Can I have a note?”

And I left the office and went straight to the gym and had an incredibly painful workout with incredibly weak atrophied muscles, but the next day the pain was no worse so I went back and did it again.

30 years after getting fibromyalgia, 15 years after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia I am now more active and healthy than most of my friends.

So do not give up hope, people, and search the internet for information. Knowledge is power. You can get better. I am here to tell you it can happen.

About Martha Beck:
Martha Beck, Ph.D., is a writer and life coach who specializes in helping people design satisfying and meaningful life experiences. She holds a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and master's and Ph.D. degrees in sociology, all from Harvard University. She has published academic books and articles on a variety of social science and business topics.

Her non-academic books include the New York Times bestsellers “Expecting Adam” and “Leaving the Saints,” as well as “Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live” and her newest book, “Steering by Starlight.” Dr. Beck has also been a contributing editor for many popular magazines, including Real Simple and Redbook, and is currently a columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine.

Add a Comment4 Comments

I've had rheumatoid arthritis for about 25 years, and I was diagnosed with fibro about 3 years ago although I'm sure I had it much longer. It can be hard to sort the symptoms from the RA symptoms. My rheumatologist is board certified in pain management, rheumatology, and internal medicine, which makes me very lucky. He is passionate and very current in his areas of practice.

I didn't want a fibro diagnosis. It is still thought of as a whiner's diagnosis in much of the medical and nursing community. When I began perimenopause, I became anemic. I was anemic for several years, and finally it got to the point where I was going to need a transfusion. This is when the fibro got really bad. If you research, anemia is one of the things that can trigger fibro. That along with the RA made me a prime candidate. I had to quadruple my pain meds for about a year. The fibro was far worse than the RA, even though the RA is deforming my joints.

I still have both, but the fibro has lessened over all. Warm water exercise helps a lot of people. You can find a cheap program through the Arthritis Foundation website http://www.arthritis.org/. Other mild exercise activities such as walking and gardening can help as well, IF you remember to pace yourself. I find if I do anything longer than an hour I pay for it for days. So I garden or walk for an hour and stop whether I feel okay then or not.

Fibro is as frustrating as RA, but at least with RA people know it is real. Hopefully we'll get there soon with fibro. I am now in a running program for the first time in my life thanks to a great doctor, my own research, and the Couch to 5K training program http://www.c25k.com/. Exercise really does help, but you have to tailor it to your body's needs.

We have fibro and RA groups here on EmpowHER as well. If you would like to share your story or find support, please check them out.

September 21, 2010 - 7:09am
EmpowHER Guest

Thanks you for your encouraging words. I also suffer from fibromyalgia and it has turned my life upside down. I have heard fibro mainly effects the highly engeric type and I think it is true. I was a marathon runner and run 35-40 miles every week for 20 years before this disease hit. Now somedays I can't even make it to the mail box.

September 18, 2010 - 6:31pm
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Anon - Thanks for writing. Can you tell us more about how fibromyalgia has turned your life upside down? Do you have any type of support system? Is there something we can do to help you in dealing with this condition and moving forward with your life? We're here to help. Pat

September 20, 2010 - 5:32pm

Dr.Beck, Thank you for your article!!! Congratulations on finding a Doctor that actually diagnosed you. It took me a lot longer to finally get a diagnosis. Before all the doctors just wanted to treat the symptoms with pain pills and arthritis medication. I do not understand why so many are reluctant to treat this disease. The extent of my worse symptoms included swelling up all over my body and hurting from every joint to every muscle---very severe!!!Finally I found someone that shared with me, and I began to go a Gym that had an olympic size pool. I tried the classes, but found that inventing my own exercise regime worked much better for me. I still try to go when I can. Sincerely, Lioness111

June 5, 2010 - 10:46am
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