Liz Farrell, 37, is a bank clerk from County Wexford in Ireland who suffers from terrible joint pain caused by fibromyalgia
“This year will be the first time in three years I will be able to go to my family for Christmas instead of staying in on my own in agony with chronic joint pain.
I have four brothers and sisters and my mum and dad have been married for 55 years so Christmas is pretty big in our family, there are usually about 20 of us round the Christmas lunch table. It’s been heartbreaking missing out on it for the last few years but last year I barely had enough strength to open my presents, never mind travel to see my family.[quote]I have fibromyalgia and until six months ago I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t work in fact I could barely get out of bed.[/quote]
I developed symptoms about three years ago. I started getting really bad pains everywhere. It happened about ten months after my husband was very ill. He has spinal stenosis, a degenerative condition of the spine and he needs a lot of care. When he was really ill he had a metal cage put into his neck as otherwise his bones were going to collapse. We had to pay 10,000 euros to have the operation to rebuild his neck. We had it done privately as the risk was he might be paralysed if we waited for it on the pubic health system.
At the time I was working full time and I was so stressed trying to find the money as well as sick with worry about him.
Over the space of a few months all my joints swelled up and it got to stage where I could not get out of bed or walk. Eventually I ended up in hospital. Before ending up in hospital my doctor had told me it was stress but it just got worse and worse and I was in permanent agony.[quote]They did hundreds of tests of me and could not find anything wrong with me. They said I simply had unexplained joint swelling.[/quote]
At first they told me to take Paracetamol. I ended up taking 800 mg a day and eventually I started to feel really ill and they did a blood test on me and found I had liver damage from the amount of Paracetamol I was taking.
I was seen by four different specialists and eventually they diagnosed me with something called ‘reactive arthritis’ which is like arthritis but it’s caused by a virus. I eventually got an appointment with a rheumatologist.[quote]I had blood tests and also a pressure point test which is where they press on certain point on your body and if there is pain when they press then it’s a way they can diagnose Fibromyalgia. I had pain on 12 of the 16 points and so he immediately diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. I had no idea what that was at the time.[/quote]
Once I knew what it was it was a relief, although ten was to come the real challenge on how to treat this awful and debilitating condition. By this stage I had had ot give up my job as I was in too much pain to really leave the house let alone work.
However it was the medications I was given which was to really change my life. At first they gave me a drug called Cymbalta but I had an allergic reaction to it and my tongue swelled up. It’s an antidepressant as Fibromyalgia is thought to be triggered by incorrect psychological pain signals. Cymbalta is thought to re-direct the brain signals. But I could not take that so they came me Lyrica (150mg a day), which is not an anti-depressant, it’s an anti-anxiety relaxant used is often used for treating epileptic spasms. I was having terrible muscle spasms and so the doctor also gave me a medication called Tramadol, which is an opiate based painkiller.
When I was taking them both I felt completely spaced out. I lost my memory and I felt like I was living on another planet. I thought I can’t go on like this. I was unable to function on these drugs.[quote]I was like a zombie and I was falling asleep the whole time.[/quote]
The dosage of Lyrica I was on was really high, I was unable to drive and was barely able to function. I was also on the NSAID Mefac which is a strong anti-inflammatory because my joints kept swelling up.[quote]Due to the drugs I also put on a lot of weight, I gained two stone in a year.[/quote]
I was desperate to get back to work and my father said ‘right we need to sort this’ you can’t go on taking all these drugs.”
So I started the long process of researching more natural forms of anti-inflammatory treatments and painkillers that were not drugs. I spent hours scouring the internet until I happened to come across an interview with a lady who had really painful arthritis but who was intolerant to NSAID’s wand who had also searched for a non steroid alternative for her pain and joint swelling.
She had found a product called Celafen. I immediately looked it up and found out it was a cream that you rubbed on the areas of pain. I thought a cream wouldn’t be any good at all fro my level of pain and how bad my joint s were but I thought I’d give it a go. I thought even if it eased the pain a bit at least I could try and cut down slightly on the drugs I was taking.
I was amazed that within half an hour of putting the cream on my knees and my neck the pain started to eased and the swelling went down. I applied it several times a day for a week and by the end of the first week I was able to start reducing my daily intake of painkillers.[quote]Over the period of a few months of using Celafen three times a day I was able to start taking less and less of my pills. After six months was able to completely come of Tramadol and Mefac, and I was down to just 50mg a day of Lyrica. I felt like a new person.[/quote]
The pain in my joints was about the same as on all the drugs, which was manageable. But the most amazing thing was that I felt completely normal again, like my old self. I was able to start driving again, which I had not been able to do it two years. It was like coming to the end of a prison sentence, to have that freedom back again.
I have felt so much better that I was able to start work again last month. I work in a bank and I have to do a lot of walking around and I’m able to do it, I take my Celefen with me to work and as soon as I feel my joints aching I use it and within half an hour the pain starts to ease. It’s like a miracle.[quote]Due to Celafen I have been able to drive again, go back to work and I’ve been able to loose two stone in weight as I am able to starting walking my beloved dogs again every day now. I honestly feel I would not be able to get out of bed without this cream.[/quote]
I tell everyone about Celafen at the arthritis support group and clinic I go to once a week where there are several other women with Fibromyalgia. Lots of them have tried it both for Fibromyalgia and for normal arthritis and they all find it incredible at reducing the pain and swelling really quickly, quicker in fact than pills.
Facts on Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect 2–4% of the population,with a female to male incidence ratio of approximately 9:1
Fibromyalgia (FM or FMS) is characterised by chronic widespread pain and allodynia (a heightened and painful response to pressure). Its exact cause is unknown but is believed to involve psychological, genetic, neurobiological and environmental factors.
Fibromyalgia symptoms are not restricted to pain, leading to the use of the alternative term fibromyalgia syndrome for the condition. Other symptoms include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness.
Fibromyalgia is frequently comorbid with psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety and stress-related disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder.
The term “fibromyalgia” derives from new Latin, fibro-, meaning “fibrous tissues”, Greek myo-, “muscle”, and Greek algos-, “pain”; thus the term literally means “muscle and connective tissue pain”.
There is evidence that environmental factors and certain genes increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia – these same genes are also associated with other functional somatic syndromes and major depressive disorder.
The brains of fibromyalgia patients show functional and structural differences from those of healthy individuals, but it is unclear whether the brain anomalies cause fibromyalgia symptoms or are the product of an unknown underlying common cause. Some research suggests that these brain anomalies may be the result of childhood stress, or prolonged or severe stress.