My Life with Fibromyalgia: An Open Letter to CDC

(Editor’s Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today reopened for public comment its proposed guidelines for opioid prescribing. Comments, which will accepted until January 13, 2016,  can be made by clicking here.)

By Emma Christensen, Guest Columnist

The over-regulation of opioid medications is so very wrong for pain patients. To withdraw their access to opioid medications is reckless and punitive.

Having lived with fibromyalgia for over 15 years, searching for credible medical help and treatment has been one of the most trying experiences of my life.

One physician I sought help from was so at a loss for treating the pain I was experiencing that he put me on heavy doses of morphine. When I learned more about the medication he put me on, I began to question if I truly needed that much in order to live. 

When another physician told me I was very young to be on that high of a dosage, I searched and found literature that supported using a low dosage of morphine to take the edge off of the pain. This method of pain reduction was done in order to allow patients to function using additional alternative solutions such as Tai Chi exercise, foam rolling and trigger point therapy to help reduce significant amounts of their pain. Eventually, I tried these methods and was able to step down to the lowest dose (15mg) that is available for doctors to prescribe.

emma christensen

emma christensen

This low dosage worked well. I felt like I was improving and having the first bits of success in pain reduction that did not require a pill or large amounts medication.  It was just enough to take the edge off the pain. This allowed me to begin to move, exercise, and use other alternative methods of pain relief.  However, it was not possible to do this without the opioid cutting into that first layer of pain. 

I describe pain as an onion -- I had just begun to peel it.  I could not do this without relying upon the small amounts of morphine I was prescribed.

I hate the fact that I have to take this medication. I hate the fact that there is not a better solution. However, all things considered, would you rather pay for a person to be on disability and all that goes with that? Or would you rather have them remain functional and working at a job supporting themselves? I chose to be functional and working, thereby keeping my self-respect and dignity.

The day someone wants to walk a day in my shoes with this painful condition, is the day that they can tell me how my doctor and I can treat my condition.  The pain is unbearable, horrific, and relentless. If I stop any of the methods I use to fight it, it can revert to the levels it was at before I began fighting it; as if I had never done anything to fight it at all.

The low dose morphine has helped me stay functional and keep my job all these years. It takes the edge off of the horrific pain that comes with having fibromyalgia. If anything, I have been more responsible than you have, as the “monitors of society” that wish to deprive me of the one thing that allows me to remain functional.

For years, I have taken only a 15 mg dose and not more, as was originally prescribed. I am prescribed two pills a day for 30 days. I have the extra burden of having to pick up the prescription in person and to sign for it, for each refill. For me, this means I must take time off from work to get the script (if my doctor’s office is not open on Saturday morning). This is another burden.  How much more difficult do you want to make my life?  Why can’t a quarterly prescription be available for someone like me who has a history of appropriate medication usage?

I am frightened to go without the medication because my pain is real. It hurts, fibromyalgia hurts, and it brings me to tears. Just moving my arms and legs is excruciating due to the myofascial knots and inflamed fascia that I endure with this condition.

If you want to question my need for this medication, go nose to nose with me and tell me why. Tell me what other solution you suggest that is just as good and will do what I need it to do, so I can work and keep my job. I have been out there trying every solution I can find for the last 15 years.

If you think you can solve the pain, solve it! Let me or any other person who lives with chronic pain be the judge of your solution, not you. It is very obvious to those of us living in chronic pain that the CDC’s opioid guidelines are being made by people who do not experience chronic pain themselves!

If I had a choice, I would not use this medication. I would not take morphine if I did not need it. I am against using illegal drugs.  In my lifetime, I have worked in two police departments, was married to a cop, and my father-in-law was a chief of police. Additionally, I hold a Master’s degree in Public Administration. I know full well what the abuse of drugs does to families and society.

However, that doesn’t give you the right to tell me and my doctors how to treat my condition.

Blanket mandates of restriction, without credible analysis of the situation, is not a substantial enough reason to deny a class of people who are suffering and in pain their medication.  Proposed regulations should not only solve an administrative problem; but, enhance the medical profession and the support the pain patient simultaneously. Any proposals that do not measure up to this standard are beneath consideration for good practices and reasonable implementation by professional public administrators. 

Like any other crime, incidences of abuse and misuse must be regulated and substantiated in a court of law following the principles of due process. To do otherwise is punitive and unjust towards people who are innocent of such allegations.

There is another reason I felt inspired to write this open letter to the CDC.  It is my education that requires me to respond. If I do not respond and say something now while I have a chance, I could be responsible for my own loss if they take away my medication. 

We all have to stand firm to let the CDC administrators know that they cannot make decisions in a vacuum.  If we allow them to get away with this, then we are less of a democracy and more dictatorship run by administrators who do not know the negative effect that they are having on our society.  My degree is all about building a "good society." Arbitrary rules against pain patients are not the solution to this problem.  You cannot solve a law enforcement issue by doing the minimum of public administration.

If you want to help chronic pain patients, such as myself, put your energies into finding a cure for the pain patients that require these medications to cope with their daily lives; remove the barriers to treatment. You can have my medical case files; my treatments are an open book, as far as I am concerned. I have never misused my medications and do not ever plan to. Please stop persecuting those of us who are ill and find a better way to spend your time.  I am one voice, but I speak for many people who are in pain.

This open letter to the CDC is intended to invite, stimulate and encourage further discussion and commentary on this most important issue of pain management and law enforcement of illegal drugs.

Emma Christensen lives in Illinois. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2000 after a whiplash injury from a vehicle accident. Emma is currently working to be certified as a fibromyalgia health coach and hopes to help others navigate their way through treatments in order to feel and be better.  She has a Facebook support group called Fibromyalgia Solutions.

Pain News Network invites other readers to share their stories with us.  Send them to:

The information in this column should not be considered as professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It is for informational purposes only and represent the author’s opinions alone. It does not inherently express or reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of Pain News Network.