The Fibrofog Theory.

I feel like I am back in the 9th grade, in chemistry class, proudly proclaiming I have a theory that I want to test. Of course, the theory I am suggesting would best be left to physiology professors to prove or disprove…I am going to argue my point for establishing my theory as fact;

Cognitive dysfunction experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers, often called “Fibrofog” is caused when the sufferer can no longer tolerate the chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a central nervous system disorder. The central nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves in the spinal cord.This means we are sensitive to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. It is not that we are emotionally over-sensitive. We physically feel things to the degree that people without fibromyalgia would not. It is a physiological thing. People with fibromyalgia are sensitive to unpleasant things, medically; this is called “noxious stimuli.” This stimulus can be smells, lights, noise, touch, this is our central nervous system overreacting to what is around us, including the pain we experience.

When we go to the doctor, we are asked to say where we are on the pain scale; 0 = happy face, 10 = sad, crying, agony face. As a person with chronic pain, you have pain, all-the-time, so you never experience the happy face. I know I don’t. The happy face and I are no longer an item. We haven’t seen each other in years! Unless given pain-relieving medication in the hospital, I don’t even get to flirt with the #2 face on the scale. The hospital no longer attempts to bring chronic pain sufferers down the pain scale to a happy face. We are asked at what level is our pain “tolerable.” Well, I’d like to try no pain (get me to that happy face) since I’m here, in a hospital, surrounded by medical professionals. The medical field no longer believes in relieving the pain that a chronic pain patient is in. Maybe they fear we are seeking medications for pleasure? How much fun can one have in a hospital? Those forms I signed that stated I am entitled to be treated for my pain… just what were those for then? I’ve never used the word entitled for myself, but the form that I signed did. So reunite me with the happy face!


Let me introduce you to the stage of numb, every person with chronic pain knows it. We have just come through a ‘flare’ (increased pain, coexisting conditions, and fatigue) or might still be in it! We have been battling hard pain for days, the fatigue is overwhelming, and our ability to manage our ‘flare’ is compromised by the extreme pain, lack of sleep, and inability to find comfort. We eventually surrender to the stage of numb. We become brain-dead; numb. Cognitively we check out. Words may not make sense, tasks are difficult to complete, simple math is complicated, everything is distracting, your memory is gone, and you cannot remember what you are looking for or even doing in the first place. You are experiencing a complete shut down because of a sensory overload, which I believe is the inability to deal any further with chronic pain. This is cognitive dysfunction; fibro fog.

We all know when we are feeling a little ‘foggy.’ Anyone who didn’t get a good night’s sleep knows when their memory is a bit impaired, a little off their norm. There is a tendency to interpret a cognitive impairment with cognitive dysfunction, the two are not the same. Lapses in memory, forgetfulness, not recalling someone’s name; these are examples of an impairment. You are well aware you are not good with memory, tend to forget where you put things and are bad at remembering names. An impairment that you can correct if you wish. Fibro fog is cognitive dysfunction. When you are in a  fibro fog, there is nothing you can do to fix it. You may not even remember the depths of the dysfunction you were in.

In conclusion, I have read a few articles about ‘suffering steps’ vs. ‘pain scales’ but have never come across one that I felt would serve the fibromyalgia community objectively. Pain is subjective, of course, but some steps take fibromyalgia sufferers from awareness to the extreme of dissociating with pain. A ‘step’ or ‘pain’ scale for chronic pain sufferers needs to be identified and processed throughout medical offices and hospitals.



15 thoughts on “The Fibrofog Theory.

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  1. I get the medical providers need for a number. However this game is my least favorite. For those who suffer chronic pain it’s like we’re being asked to run a fair race but we have to start later than the rest of the participants and run a completely different course. This blog takes me back to sitting in my doctors office one day. He had a new associate with him and we played the what’s your number game. I immediately responded with my standard “my pain scale or a real person’s pain scale” The new associate at that point thought I was a bit crazy. When I then said “fine we’ll say 4” my long time doctor said “put 9 in her chart” the new guy lost all hope for any sanity during that session.

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      1. Kim,Finding Dory is a brilliant film/movie- urge you to see it!! Am so Dory- am an optimist inspite of my challenges, have a very short short term memory, value highly my friends, love languages(Dory can speak whale ;-)), and keep on keeping on(keep swimming as Dory would say) no matter what! Pain scale have a big problem with as can smile even when pains are sky high- am weird like that! Just because pains are 9 or 10 out of 10(have had this many many times) does not always make you cry or angry like those pictures either. For me call everyone Fibro Challenged Individuals. Anyhow- just needed to say that! Not enough empowering words for us fibro warriors ! Please though do not misunderstand me- ask for clarification of what say first instead of assuming anything abut me- am most certainly not politically correct! Please check out my post Importance Of Using Positive Language over on Fibromyalgia & Me SG on MDJunction- think this will help you to see where am coming from better, okay. Hugs, Clara

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      2. My dear Clara! This post was not directed at any single person my dear! I feel awful that you would think that! This blog goes out to a number of sites. When I get feedback that is similiar -OR- no feedback at all… 😜 I take parts of comments I’ve heard from several folks and throw my ideas in a box, shake it up and out comes my new post! I think you are a very positive upbeat person Clara! I love that you want to empower people with Fibro. I’m advocating for them to just be heard. I, too, have had Fibro for 20 years! I’m working on living my best life with many bumps yet to go! You keep on being Dory! ~Kim

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      1. Adored this post Kim. Is it escape to numb or is it escape to dumb as in Dory dumb(Finding Dory the movie that is)?! Not keen on the word suffering that this poster uses- far prefer the word challenge/challenging/challenged/challenges as suffer implies victim whereas challenged/challenges implies being from a survivor mindset/thriver identity! For myself never ever use the word suffering in my vocabulary- it is challenged/chalelnges/challenging or sometimes struggling/struggles. So say- Am especially ially challenged by my chronic pain challenges today ;-)! Anyhow, did really love this article- so huge heartfelt thanks! Hugs, Clara 🙂

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        1. Interesting you take on words. I never saw the movie finding Dory. So my only recourse would be that the feeling of numb does not imply IQ. This is a temporary state that allows us an escape from “suffering”. Suffering is directly related to pain. I don’t see it as being a ‘victim’. I think sometimes when we explain our pain to those in the medical field we need to use these basic words with their intended meaning to ensure proper medical care is received. I take the same stance that we accurately recording our pain, our suffering, our syndrome symptoms bluntly as we experience these things.

          I do appreciate your challenge on the use of numb and suffering but I stand by my stance of being blunt and let their be no chance that our pain or Fibrofog is moved into a politically correct category when the truth of the matter is we suffer with fibromyalgia and we experience pain with Fibromyalgia. When I look up the meaning of challenged, I do not see it as beneficial to the fibromyalgia community receiving proper medical care.

          Thank you Clara for ensuring I deeply checked myself and the words I was marrying to Fibro in this article. I appreciate your candor!

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      2. Kim, Know exactly what it meant by numb- just was playing with words with my zany sense of humour! When said dumb was not putting myself down or anyone else with fibromyalgia- just was taking self lightly! Humour is so vital with this condition.Was not being politically correct either- no way Jose. Just personally think Suffer is not a helpful term. Yes, it is mighty tough dealing with fibromyalgia- know this personally as have had fibro for 20 years moderate severe to severely affected with a who myriad of fibro challenges along with various other chronic pain challenges. Yet, still find the word Challenged to be far more empowering a term!! Yes, we need to be blunt yet we can still be balanced with that bluntness of our terms. Honestly, think everyone with chronic pain does themselves a huge disservice by using the term suffer.Not saying what we are Challenged with is a mere bagatelle as have no reason to say that being that live this reality plus have been housebound as well as bedbound with FMS challenges many times!! Honestly think we can keep it real yet keep it empowered with our words. This is just my take on it! Have a massive problem with the pain scale too for many reasons which will go into on another occassion. What You will not get with me is politically correct- absolutely not! Keep it real, am sassy/feisty plus think outside of the box. Hugs, Clara

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  2. Clara, you do not like the pain scale, neither do I! For people with chronic pain what should we ask them? Just brainstorming here. I do not think the word challenged would fit to describe pain. And you believe suffering is not a helpful term… What would a person’s pain scale look like if she had chronic pain? What words we be used to see how much pain that person is in? Again, just brainstorming here, let me know what you think! This could be a very important task! ~Kim

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am so very happy I came upon your blog. You are so wise, and just RIGHT ON!!! It’s hard when you have chronic pain, but are forced to go on with your daily life when all you want to do is crawl in a hole. Thank you so much for starting this blog, and having a voice for us.

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