Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Is CMP?

I originally posted this on my facebook page, but I'm slowly weaning myself from that site. I hope to reach a larger audience here.

If anyone has ever lifted weights in high school, run two or three miles too many or been involved in competitive sports, you know the "pain of stiffness" ..... That is what we deal with. We walk like elderly people, wake up every time we roll over, swell in random areas of our bodies and fall into a fog that makes the simplest of decisions insurmountable.

Welcome to CMP

CMP, or Chronic Myofascial Pain is a neuromuscular disorder, affecting the muscles and fascia directly. What is fascia? It's that transparent "skin" we have over our muscles and organs (think about that thin skin you see on chicken breast... that stuff). It runs throughout our bodies, both just under the skin and deep within, over our organs and tissues. It's everywhere. So imagine that when something goes wrong with this, it affects your whole being. There is not one area you can point to and say, "It hurts here." It hurts. It hurts everywhere.

CMP is not Fybromyalsia. Please just take a moment and let that sink in. They are two different things completely. One is a disease (CMP) while the other is a syndrome (FMS). If you'd like to understand the difference, please take a moment to google it. I'll wait.

*elevator music*

Done? Okay....

What we do know about CMP is that it is caused by Trigger Points. You can press on one area of our bodies and we feel pain in another (that's the "referred pain" point). Pain can be triggered throughout the body by hitting one of those points, by stress, by too much cold, too much heat, not enough sleep, sleeping in a weird position, sitting in one position for too long, too much physical activity not enough physical activity, and a change in the weather, just to name a few.

What happens around the trigger point is interesting too (if chronic pain can be classified as "interesting"). Think of a weight lifter. What do they do when they are training? They work one muscle to the point of exhaustion. When it reaches that point, the muscle relaxes, unable to do any more. With CMP, a muscle or muscle group will tighten, and continue to tighten, until it's rock-hard. It does not relax. Ever. I have hard lumps in various places all over my body, but mostly in my shoulders, back and arms. An overworked muscles cannot breath. It's starving for oxygen and is releasing toxins.

As far as the fascia goes, to put it in the simplest of terms, it's "sticky." No, it's not supposed to be sticky, but it is. So we have the equivilant of inner skin sticking to our muscles, organs and tissue, which are completely bound up, and no hope for any real relief. Toxins continue to build up, wearing us down.

Chronic pain is something I live with every day of my life. It is not who I am. It does not define me or my personality. Sometimes I "push through" in spite of the pain, and then I pay for it the next day. Sometimes I'm really careful and I pay anyway. Those are the days I spend in bed. It's impossible to explain to those who do not live with chronic pain how deeply it affects your life. Walking my son to the other side of the apartment complex and watching him slide down the slides, then walking him back is enough to send me to bed for the rest of the day. I have to break up my house cleaning into very small, managable portions. I can do the dishes, I can sweep and vacuum, I can clean the bathrooms, or I an cook dinner. I just can't do it all in the same day.

Emotionally, I think, it takes its greatest toll. It's easy to believe the voice in your head telling you how weak you are; telling you how useless you've become and telling you to take up a nice hobby, like reading sappy love novellas. Without a strong support system, CMP and chronic pain can become truly unmanagable.

Sometimes the pain causes me to fall into a mental fog. I don't remember people's names like I should. I forget appointments (thank the gods for smart phones and their ability to set reminders for EVERYTHING!), and much to my horror, I sometimes forget the simplist of words. ("You know... that thing you use in the kitchen... it flips things over!!! YOU KNOW!!)

Yes, I yell sometimes. I'm sure it looks like I'm angry at the people around me, when in truth I'm frustrated and hurting. I hate it when I yell... I do. But that's when I know it's time for me to go sleep for a while...

There are meds out there to help manage the pain. I haven't been on them for almost a year now. I don't know how I function half the time, but like I said, this would be absolutely unbearable w/o an amazing support system, which I have in my husband and children. Without them, I would be lost.

So to those who suffer from chronic pain, I feel your pain. Not YOUR pain, exactly, but I do relate. You are not alone. And for those who don't, do not feel sorry for us. Do not feel guilty and do not take our anxiety (ahhh...another symptom I forgot) as your own. All we need from you is a little understanding when we don't get things done as quickly as we should, a little patience when we can't think of a word or worse, your name, and a little help when we can't clean the house or meet up with you for lunch like we promised we would.

Thank you all, for your love and support.

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