Are we just imagining it, or is there a connection between Fibro, the common cold virus, and why the heck we feel so much worse?
Ok, as a Fibro, ME or Chronic Pain sufferer, you’ve probably just had your hackles raised at the mere suggestion of ‘imagining’ something. You’ve fought the Diagnosis Battle, you’ve got the scars. You’re used to defending yourself against allegations of an Imaginary Illness. But is there something about the common cold that makes your Fibromyalgia or Chronic Pain symptoms worse?
I don’t, for one second, think you’re imagining that you suffer longer and harder when Cold & Flu Season hits. And now we’re coming near the end of the season I expect you’re feeling pretty ground down by it all. In fact, as a Fibromyalgia sufferer myself, I’m getting pretty certain, on a purely anecdotal level, that something is coming in to play here. I think viruses are the enemy of Fibromyalgia sufferers. And I think the end of the season is a good time for reflection.
And I’m not alone. The web is dotted with desperate forum posts where a Fibro or Chronic Pain Sufferer is coming out of the hell of the latest cold, desperate with pain and fatigue. But try and find some scientific evidence and it’s pretty lacking. There is the odd bit online bit online which states you’ll suffer longer, harder, and experience complications and long term effects. Tough Stuff. There’s also growing evidence that we’re more likely to suffer secondary infections such as bronchitis, pneumonia or sinusitis. It’s not a pretty anecdotal picture.
For most it seems that the wafting of a virus in our near vicinity has our little Fibro Pain Gremlins whooping with delight at their energy-boost, whilst simultaneously our own Energy Levels themselves drop off the Fatigue scale to negligible levels. The pain associated with a Fibro patient getting a cold can have you begging for pain relief like a baby chick squawking for worms. Except you don’t have the energy, so it comes out as a pained moan that leaves those around you bewildered and scared, and possibly cursing at the 2 hour call back times for Out of Hours at 2am. It’s no fun.
There are two things we do know about Fibromyalgia that make it conceivable that there is really something in this Cold v Fibro battle. First, we know Fibromyalgia is like the most potent yeast in Paul Hollywood’s cupboard: it makes things grow outta control. As sufferers, we just know this. That little knock on your knee? Yeah, welcome to agony and purple bruising. And secondly, a whole big heap of us started this Fibro journey with a virus kindly kick-starting our symptoms. Viruses aren’t an innocent party where Fibromyalgia is concerned.
The result is we turn in to a bunch of neurotic germ-fearing paranoid Virus Avoiders. We get ridiculed for desperately attempting to avoid the common cold. But the Pain Gremlins are pretty skilled at getting your anxiety to shoot off the top end of the scale, just as quickly as the Viral Gremlins have your energy levels dropping off the bottom.
What can we do?
Well this is where we have two levels: the personal and the group.
On a personal level we need to be Fibro Virus Aware. As well as the usual Fibro mainstays of resting up and eating well, we need to be staunch defenders of our own health. We need to do things like make sure our Vitamin D and Vitamin C stocks are high enough to rival the Eiffel Tower. You need to get with the programme hygiene wise, and not cut corners in the toddler-snot-fest department. We also need to cut ourselves some mental slack: there’s enough anecdotal evidence here – you’re not imagining it, you’re not a wuss. You have a bugger of a condition.
And then on a group level, we need to also become our best advocates. We need to start talking, loudly, about what happens to our Pain and Fatigue Levels when a virus gets on board. We need to speak, and speak more, until the research field start to take this seriously.
So Get Talking
What about you? What are your experiences of being a chronic pain, Fibro or ME sufferer when you get a cold virus? What are your experiences of the medical profession and their understanding of it?