Does Norton offer a *human* anti-virus?
October 4, 2009 4:51 PM   Subscribe

My mom has been in constant pain for the past two months (likely from a virus). I'm hoping someone may have a suggestion to help her get back to a normal life. Details to follow...

Two months ago my mom (early 50s and always reasonably healthy) began coming down with a fever. It wasn't anything too serious, but it lasted about two weeks before dropping down to a relatively normal temperature. However, during this time, her entire body began to feel sore. It was a aching pain mostly in her arms, shoulders, neck, back, and sometimes spreading (although only faintly) into her legs and sides. This pain continues today and is only showing slight promises of receding -- two months in constant pain is not fun.

Some days are better than others, but many days she is mostly restricted to sitting on the couch the entire day to avoid any unnecessary movement which causes pain. It's not a strong pain, but (from what I can understand) more like a lasting ache or soreness; like you just ran two marathons and lifted weights for 8 hours straight. This lasts 24 hours a day and has made sleeping difficult as well.

She has been to a couple different doctors during these two months, but none know what the problem is. She has had a bunch of blood tests for west nile, flu, arthritis, infections, and others I can't recall, but all came back negative. However, two different doctors believe it might be a virus. This is our best lead right now.

She has also been going to the chiropractor once a week (she has had some back problems throughout her life) which has helped somewhat. The chiropractor has said it is possible that all of this is caused by her neck being out of place (which it was), but it's starting to seem like this is not the main cause.

I hate seeing her just sit around being sore and she hates not being able to get out of the house and do anything. I know you're not a doctor, but any insight or experience with anything similar would be appreciated. Does anyone know of any treatments for a virus? All the doctors have been able to suggest is taking Tylenol and waiting it out. But how long will we be waiting?

(In case it's of any use, she had a fairly routine operation to fix a twisted intestine about 6 months ago which was 100% successful. As far as we [and the doctors] know, the operation should not be a factor here, but it's worth noting.)
posted by Kippersoft to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
My mom has been dealing with something like this for the past several months. She was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. She's got good days and bad ones --generally is really hammered with pain/aches in the morning but will often start to feel a little better towards late afternoon. Aleve seems to help a little.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 5:07 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Hit post too soon. Doctors tell her that the Fibromyalgia may run its course after a few months or a few years. Very frustrating not to know anything more specific, though.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 5:09 PM on October 4, 2009

I don't know if this is one of the things the chiropractor has tried, but a lot of people with chronic pain report success (or at least temporary relief) with TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation). The idea is that you apply electrodes where it hurts and the electrical current somehow blocks pain signals. It doesn't work for everyone, or so I am told, but you might find a doctor or physical therapist with a unit you can borrow (mine often loan out theirs) to try out, or you can grab a new one for about $40 on Amazon.

I am currently using TENS' closely-related cousin Neuro-Muscular Electrical Stimulation (where the goal is to make your muscles move), and for what it's worth I can tell you that the treatment doesn't hurt unless I've turned it up so the muscle contractions are too intense or I accidentally stick the electrodes right over bone.

I know also that there are various drugs (like Neurontin and Lyrica) that get prescribed for, say, the pain resulting from shingles or fibromyalgia, and sometimes post-op pain so maybe those would be worth looking into, modulo the manufacturer's sleazy marketing practices. I was actually on Neurontin for an unrelated condition, so I can't say how well it works for pain, but I can say it's very light on the side effects, which is nice.
posted by sineala at 5:15 PM on October 4, 2009

You say she's been to a couple of doctors and that she's been tested for arthritis, but has she seen a rheumatologist? They are great at this sort of mystery and many of the likely causes of chronic pain would fall under that specialty. In my experience, many primary care doctors are skeptical of a person with chronic pain and fever, both symptoms of auto-immune disease, and don't pursue answers that aggressively or even necessarily know the appropriate tests to run.

All that said, 3 months of continued pain is considered the cutoff line for "chronic illness" by many doctors (and insurance companies) so she may have to suffer a little longer before getting a diagnosis.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:28 PM on October 4, 2009

What kind of doctors did she see?
She would want to start with Internal Medicine, Infectious Disease if available (those are less common) and possibly Rheumatology. You may also consider Fibromyalgia, though that diagnosis is controversial.

Chiropractors – meh, at best it’s a good massage with a strong placebo affect. They have there place, but I wouldn’t go to them for a serious problem. Is she under a lot of stress? It can manifest itself in physical pain (been there myself). Anti-anxiety meds and yoga help.
posted by texas_blissful at 5:35 PM on October 4, 2009

Best answer: Seconding a rheumatologist. My mother went to quite a few doctors and had a battery of tests before she was diagnosed with PMR. She describes the discomfort much like your mother: not pain, but more like how your body would feel after way too much exercise.
posted by contrariwise at 6:05 PM on October 4, 2009

Best answer: IANAD, but if I was your mom I'd ask to be screened for polymyalgia rheumatica.
posted by chez shoes at 6:17 PM on October 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

If it is fibromyalgia, the Know Fibro website may be useful when it comes to learning how to live with the syndrome.

My mom has had fibromyalgia for twenty years now. She manages it with exercise, diet, medication to help her sleep, and stress reduction. It usually flares when she has taken on too many activities and doesn't have enough time to sleep, exercise, and relax. Therapy is also useful to deal with life changes and depression.

You might also look at Dr. Gabor Mate's book When The Body Says No. It goes into the science and psychology of stress-based chronic illnesses.

I hope your mom is able to get some help. Chronic pain sucks.
posted by alicat at 6:38 PM on October 4, 2009

The chiropractor has said it is possible that all of this is caused by her neck being out of place (which it was)

In my experience, there is no disease or symptom that a chiropractor will not attribute to some part of the spine being out of place. It's just what they do. I would consider the advice you mother received to be VERY questionable, and I would advise you to ignore it in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:43 PM on October 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks a lot for the replies everyone.

Regarding chiropractors...
I know chiropractors get a bad rep. sometimes. However, she has always had some back problems (a minor case of scoliosis if I recall correctly) and every treatment does help her feel better. I do agree though that this is not likely not the cause.

You say she's been to a couple of doctors and that she's been tested for arthritis, but has she seen a rheumatologist?
She was just recently seen by a rheumatologist and is waiting on results from some tests.

Regarding Fibromyalgia...
I think this was mentioned by a doctor, but was later dismissed.

I'd ask to be screened for polymyalgia rheumatica.
This sounds very similar to what she's been going through. I'm not sure if this has been brought up by her doctor yet, but I'll certainly mention it.

I'm absolutely terrible with remember the names of conditions and pretty much anything to do with health and medical stuff, but all the ideas are certainly a big help. Thanks again everyone, it's very much appreciated.

However, I'm interested that no one mentioned anything about the idea this may all be caused by a virus. I mention this again only because two doctors independently believed this may be the cause. Does anyone have a similar experience with a virus causing this? Would this just be a fall-back diagnosis for something the doctor is unsure of?
posted by Kippersoft at 8:24 PM on October 4, 2009

Nthing PMR.
posted by docpops at 8:25 PM on October 4, 2009

"Viral illness" is also shorthand for "no fucking clue" in medical circles,fyi.
posted by docpops at 8:26 PM on October 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Lyme disease?
posted by fshgrl at 1:00 AM on October 5, 2009

My mother-in-law has suffered from a similar condition for many years now. I'm not sure what the precise diagnosis is - among family, it's always referred to as rheumatism. According to her doctor, it was possibly triggered by contracting toxoplasmosis, and the onset sounds similar to what you described: influenza-like symptoms for a few weeks, followed by crippling general pain that, in her case, never went away.

Despite the similarities, I'm hoping your mother will receive a different diagnosis, as my mother-in-law's condition is chronic and incurable. Although with good care, it tends to fluctuate, and she has lengthy periods when she is quite mobile and has a lot less pain. (She has learned to cope with the pain remarkably well and still leads an active life, travels a lot, studies, takes long walks, rides a bicycle...)
posted by sively at 7:52 AM on October 5, 2009

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