This flare is going on a week and it’s some of the worst pain I’ve had in over a year. But then I wonder… “Is it really?”. Is it really the worst pain I’ve had in a year? Or does it just feel that way because it followed such a nice period of (almost) pain-free calm?
I’ve often felt like we are constantly adapting to pain; that we are learning to tolerate pain, more and more, the longer our illness continues. Studies have shown that those of us with Fibromyalgia actually have a higher pain tolerance (we can withstand higher levels of pain than normal people). This is how we can walk around with a pain level at 6 and no one is the wiser. This is how when we go to the Dr or PT and they ask “What is your pain level?” we actually have to stop and assess ourselves to figure it out, because after a while we just stop thinking about it. We know it’s there, but we do our best to ignore it and to just live through the pain.
However, when we’ve had a nice calm period where our pain levels lower and our energy levels are raised, we get used to not being in pain (or to being in a lot less pain). Even during my best days (which managed to last a little better than a month this time) my pain level was still between a 2 and a 4, but it was low enough that I didn’t even notice it. The first flare that started October was more of an absence of energy flare than a real pain flare. Yes, my pain increased but only back to a 5 or 6. And that flare only lasted a couple of days. This time the flare has hung around for a week and it’s been more of a pain flare than an energy flare (the energy isn’t there either, but mostly I just HURT). Today, I’d say the pain is a 7 or 8 but increases when I move certain ways or do certain things. Earlier I was trying to cut some coupons and just holding my arm up to cut the coupons cause the pain in my arms to increase to a 9.
Chances are the pain now isn’t any worse than it was in my last flare (which sadly lasted for several months) but it feels worse. I think, however, that it only feels worse because I’ve gotten used to a lower level of pain. When the pain is higher it can slowly increase without a great deal of notice on my part. However, when the pain has been low (2 to 4) and then suddenly jumps up to a 7 or 8, you can’t help but take notice and feel like it hurts more.