Today is the 5th annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, with Clara Hughes leading the campaign inviting all Canadians to talk, text and tweet and share on Facebook about mental health and help build a Canada free of the stigma of mental illness.
In a press release yesterday, Clara, Canada’s 6-time Olympic medalist and national Bell Let’s Talk ambassador since the launch of the initiative in 2010, said: “I’m really looking forward to kicking off the national conversation about mental health with Bell Let’s Talk Day 2015! Join us in the fight against the stigma that makes most who struggle with mental illness reluctant to ask for help.”
Mental illness is associated with other diseases, one of which is a type of arthritis called fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is characterized primarily by chronic widespread pain (CWP) in the muscles, ligaments and tendons, and a heightened sensitivity to touch resulting in pain that can last for months.
Other common signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Mood changes
- Numbness or tingling sensations in the hands and feet
- Concentration problems
- Pain in the chest
- Dry eyes, skin and mouth
- Painful menstrual periods
- Overwhelming fatigue, even after a good night’s sleep
The prevalence of fibromyalgia ranges from 0.5% to 5.8% and is more common in women than in men. The cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, but several theories exist. One is called “central sensitization”. The thinking behind this idea is that people with fibromyalgia have a lower threshold for pain due to an increased sensitivity to pain signals in the brain. It has been suggested that this may be related to the presence of higher than normal levels of a nerve chemical, called “substance P”, in the spinal fluid of people with fibromyalgia. This chemical transmits and amplifies pain signals to and from the brain. In other words, for someone with fibromyalgia, this theory suggests that the “volume control” for pain is turned up too high in the brain.
Other ideas about the cause of fibromyalgia include:
- Dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, which controls bodily functions that you don’t consciously control
- Chronic sleep disorders
- Emotional stress or trauma
- Immune or endocrine system dysfunction
Lifestyle changes can have a strong positive impact on the relief of fibromyalgia symptoms and enable a person to better cope with their disease. These include:
- Exercise – this is perhaps the single most effective “treatment”; exercise helps with managing the symptoms of the disease as well as contributes to emotional well being
- Reducing stress-find ways to deal with or minimize the stress in your life
- Getting enough sleep – because fatigue is such a central aspect of fibromyalgia, it is important to make sure that you get enough sleep.
- Balanced life – pace yourself, try not to take too much on in your work or family life
- Healthy lifestyle – eat healthy foods
When exercise and other lifestyle approaches are not enough, medications can be added to a person’s treatment plan to help reduce the pain of fibromyalgia and improve sleep. Always consult your doctor before starting a treatment plan. To learn more about fibromyalgia and other forms of arthritis, please click here.