Patellofemoral Syndrome

I had a doctor dry-needle my left knee pain yesterday, which is an experience I can only describe as having an MD treat my body like a voodoo doll. It was extremely painful, but I think it did some good. She said I have patellofemoral syndrome, which I’d guessed, but she also said the words no athlete wants to hear—“stop running for a week.”

It’s hard to know whether athletic injuries that I accumulate are truly as bad as they feel, or if fibromyalgia exaggerates the pain. That aspect of fibromyalgia—the intensified sensitivity to injury—is one of the ones that makes me crazy. I never want to back off a good workout if there’s not much of an injury, but on the other hand, I don’t want to keep going to agony if there really is something badly wrong. It’d be nice to have a more normal sensory pattern so that I could have a better gauge of how bad I’m hurt.

I won’t be able to run for a week because of the knee, but I fully intend to walk, lift weights, and do lots of stretching. I’m not sure if other fibromyalgia patients experience extreme inflexibility, but I do. My tight hamstrings make it difficult for me to even sit upright with my legs extended, and my neck is barely capable of side-bending. I’m planning to use this latest painful setback as time to develop a good, long-term plan for improved mobility. I just hope this knee pain lets up soon, because it’s making me a little nuts right now.

Running from Pain

Ever tried on pants that were several sizes too small, stretching the seams to the max? This morning, the muscles across my upper back felt like overburdened seams, straining and ripping. I was angry, depressed, cynical, and miserable. I begged my girlfriend to tell me everything would be fine. She couldn’t. So I went for a run.

I made it 61 minutes and 42 seconds in the Florida summer heat. An absolute fury built inside me while I ran. My upper back and neck felt like a feather being pulled apart down the middle, and I could’ve sworn someone stabbed me in the collarbone and left the knife there. The worse the pain, the stronger the fury.

I lucked out today. It’s hard to say that athletes with fibromyalgia luck out with much, but the fury cooking inside me allowed me to wrench loose some of the locked facet joints and muscles spasms. I swung my left arm at an odd angle while I ran, and by the half-hour mark, the tearing sensation gave way to crepitus and popping. And then release, physical and emotional.

Not all days bring such luck. I’ve run many miles where I couldn’t even turn my head to look for cars because muscle spasms locked me in a straight-ahead stare. Sometimes my hips and knees feel like they’re on fire when my bodyweight lands for a footfall. But not today.

I hate fibromyalgia. It may kill me one day, but I’m going to fight every second not only for my life, but for my lifestyle as an athlete.

Owning Life with Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia nearly owned my life. Recently, I realized that I have to take ownership of fibromyalgia, or I would have no life at all.

I can’t say that I had an actual “ah-ha” moment, but hitting rock bottom (and dwelling there for quite some time) required me to change or die. Lyrica has definitely set me on a more even, comfortable plane, and I now feel like I have the help I need to own my life as much as possible.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on my bicycle lately, and the freedom I feel on two wheels is priceless. It’s also a lot less pounding on my body compared to running, which is theoretically helpful for athletes with fibromyalgia. My bike is a hybrid that allows me to sit up almost completely straight, a necessity with my neck problems. I sold my road bike because my neck couldn’t handle the requisite hunched-over, looking-up position. The hybrid bike is a blessing on so many levels, and I’m finding myself able to ride it comfortably for more than an hour most days of the week.

Headphones and outdoor sports have long created controversy. Some people—including me—think it’s dangerous to exercise outside if your ears are plugged and your favorite music is blasting. But fibromyalgia changes everything. The disease process creates so many life-altering limitations that especially as an athlete, any sense of freedom (and maybe a little risk) is greeted with enthusiasm. I found myself blaring classic Linda Ronstadt songs on my iPod while pedaling around town yesterday, and I loved it.

As an athlete with fibromyalgia, I’ve learned that my life is limited by pain. I’ve also learned that an off-key sing-along on the bike can make my day. “Love is a rose!”