When I was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia back in 2008, Lyrica had just become the first drug FDA-approved to treat it. At first I was so happy to see Lyrica commercialson TV, because I saw them as a sign that fibromyalgia was being validated as a real illness (people like my pain doctor notwithstanding). Plus, whenever anyone would ask me what fibro felt like I could say, “You know that commercial for Lyrica that shows the person’s entire body on fire? It feels exactly like that.”
But now that I’ve been taking Lyrica for over seven years I find myself arguing with the TV every time I see those commercials. Here’s why.
If you take the commercials at face value, they would have you believe that the following is true:
But for me, treating fibromyalgia is not like treating a sinus headache or strep throat, where the parameters of the illness are known and understood, there’s a standard treatment that clears up most cases, and there’s a predictable, linear improvement once the patient starts taking the necessary medication. Clear cause, clear treatment, clear effect.
Fibromyalgia for me, on the other hand, is a puzzle where the pieces are not only constantly moving, but also constantly changing size and shape. And speaking for myself and most of the fibro patients I know, there is no one thing that gets rid of all our pain. We’ve had to develop an entire range of tools to deal with our illness. So that’s the first moving part.
Second, not all the tools work for me all the time, or even work the same way from one day to the next. There’s a lot of throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. And what sticks changes from day to day; on really bad days, it can change from hour to hour, or even minute to minute.
Here are some examples of what’s in my toolbox:
- cardio (usually aerobic walking and recumbent bike)
- physical therapy exercises
- heating pad
- ice packs
- warm baths
- my TENS unit
- cognitive behavioral therapy
- Emotional freedom technique (EFT), or “tapping”
- anti-inflammatories (and constantly having to tweak the doses)
- non-narcotic painkillers (and constantly having to tweak the doses)
- narcotic painkillers (and constantly having to tweak the doses)
- epidurals and nerve ablations for my back
- mental health meds (and constantly having to tweak the doses)
- migraine and nausea meds (and constantly having to tweak the doses)
- my CPAP machine
- insomnia meds
Now, let me show you what it looks like to try and use these tools to manage my pain. Let’s take two hypothetical days, say Monday and Tuesday of the same week, and say that on both days my pain level is an eight.