How I Dance with Fibromyalgia

I wanted to take a minute to talk about something that a lot of people may be wondering, which is how I am able to dance with fibromyalgia. 

I know this is a question that a lot of people have because it’s a question I have actually had myself, even in the midst of dealing with fibromyalgia in my own life. And the answer to that question can really only be answered by understanding what fibromyalgia is and how it affects the body. 

If you’d like to watch the video version of this article, you can find it at the bottom of this post.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia can be hard to describe because doctors still don’t know a lot about it. It is generally agreed by most doctors that no one has found one specific cause for fibromyalgia.

I like the way that my specialist describes it – he told me “Fibromyalgia is not all in your head, but it is in your brain”. By that he meant, it’s not something that you’re imagining; it’s your brain misfiring or misunderstanding pain signals. Fibromyalgia affects the central nervous system, and because of the way it works, I have good days and bad days.

Now, I’m not a doctor, so I can only describe it to the degree I understand it, but from my research and what I’ve been told by my own doctors, the general understanding of fibromyalgia in the medical community is that it is a disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain, especially in the muscles and connective tissue, and it is often accompanied by fatigue, headaches, sleep issues, and sometimes also memory issues.

My Experience with Fibromyalgia

These are all things that I personally experience, and I generally deal with one or more of these issues on a daily basis. All of the symptoms that come along with fibromyalgia can affect how much I am able to do from day to day, not only in dance and exercise, but also in everyday tasks. There are some days that I feel like I could run a mile, and other days that I have have trouble standing in the kitchen for more than five minutes to make breakfast. 

So every day is different when you live with fibromyalgia – at least it is for me and for a lot of people I know. I know some people sadly deal with extreme fibromyalgia everyday, to the point where they can’t ever get out of bed, and my heart really breaks for them, because I have experienced that some in my life.

I have had days where I’ve had so much pain and fatigue I’ve had a very hard time getting out of bed. And for me, that’s one of several reasons that I do keep dancing despite the pain and fatigue I experience, because movement and exercise can often greatly help. 

I know that may not be the case for everyone because fibromyalgia is a very broad spectrum when it comes to symptoms and what helps some people may not help others. But for me, I have to keep moving.

That’s actually something that my doctors agree with and emphasized as a necessary part of life for me – I almost always feel much, much worse if I don’t have some movement and exercise in my day. In fact, I actually stopped dancing for a while before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia because I wasn’t sure why I was have these physical issues, and during that time I noticed that my pain and fatigue actually got worse and more constant. 

Now that’s not to say that going back to dancing cured my fibromyalgia. As far as I have researched there is no complete cure as of right now for fibromyalgia, and I still deal with pain and fatigue and the other symptoms all of the time, but I do feel better over all when I keep moving.

I do have to be careful that I don’t overdo it or push too hard, because I might end up having what is referred to as a fibromyalgia “flare up” or a “fibro flare”, which basically just means that my body over reacts to what I’ve done and my symptoms become more extreme for a time – usually later that day or over the next several days depending on the intensity of the activity. 

So I have to be careful not to overdo things, which might even mean that on some days I can’t stand for over fifteen minutes at one time or my pain and fatigue will increase. It really just depends on the day, what I’ve done in the days prior, and things like that. 

My Diagnosis Experience

I also have joint hyper mobility syndrome, which is a separate medical issue, but it does produce a lot of the same symptoms and affects my body in some of the same ways that fibromyalgia does.

If you’ve listened to my podcast interview with Artfully Told, then you already know a little bit of my story, and if you haven’t listened to that yet, I’d love for you to hear it since I expound a little more on all of this as it relates to my past experience in dance, especially as a student. 

Even though my diagnosis for fibromyalgia is relatively recent and my diagnosis for joint hyper mobility was just about six years before that, I have obviously been dealing with these issues for a long, long time before I was officially diagnosed.

Anyone who has experience with fibromyalgia in particular knows that it can take years and years before doctors determine that they have fibromyalgia, and a lot of times people have a similar experience with diagnosing joint hyper mobility, which was the case for me as well. 

My Answer

So the answer to how I can dance with fibromyalgia is basically that I have good days and bad days, and on the bad days I keep working through the pain and fatigue and all the symptoms so that hopefully the movement and exercise actually ends up helping me in the long run.

I do what I can when I can… and when I can’t, I listen to my body and do what I can to take care of myself so that I hopefully feel better the next day. 

Other people with fibromyalgia might have a different answer because it’s a unique experience for everyone, but for me that’s how I keep going and keep doing what I love despite the pain and fatigue and other issues that I deal with.

I am very thankful that I have the ability to keep dancing, and I am grateful that I also have the ability to share my experience with all of you because I hope that my experience and honest discussion about my struggles might be an encouragement to you to keep trying and not give up on whatever it is that you love to do, no matter the health challenges or other types of challenges that you may face in your own life.

Watch the full video version of this article:

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