When a Flare Isn’t

Fibro flares are commonplace.  Pain levels can hold steady for months and then the smallest thing can happen – a terrible day at work, a fight with a significant other, a weather change, a twisted ankle… Or something big – losing your job, a divorce, a storm, a broken leg…. And your body says, no.  There’s a fine line, however, between a flare and an actual medical emergency.  One of the most difficult things for fibro patients is to know the difference.  The second most difficult thing is to ask for help when you’re pretty sure what you’re feeling isn’t actually a flare but something to pay attention to because what if it is just a flare and you get that sinking feeling – you’ve wasted time and money… for nothing.

Flares, I think, happen not just during acute stress (injury – psychological or physical) but they can also happen before a medical problem becomes acute, almost like a warning alarm.  Several months after I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I landed in the hospital with a massive pulmonary embolism.  A few months before I woke up on the bathroom floor, I had a terrible flare up of fibro symptoms, but I ignored them as “just” fibro symptoms.  At the same time, I ignored symptoms of the pulmonary embolism.  This morning, I was in the Emergency Department with a sharp pain in my side.  I’ve had extensive testing on similar pains that have all come up as nothing, zero, nada.  I was on my way to work and swerved into the ED instead, just in case.

This past week I’ve been fighting a fibro flare, exhaustion, flu-like aches from head to toe, headaches, swollen hands and feet, painful joints, shooting muscle pains, the whole works.  Today, I find out I have a UTI that has gone into (or is on its way into) my right kidney.  I haven’t had any UTI symptoms until the pain in my back, but I have had this massive flare.

Letting my thoughts ramble then: what if fibro flares (or some of them) are actually the equivalent of flu-aches, the body fighting off what it perceives as an infection?  What exactly causes aches with a flu bug?  I wonder if whatever causes aches when you have a flu also runs rampant in fibro patients? I have no idea…

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