A rider who is just starting to return to the saddle after a long battle with fibromyalgia wants others in a similar situation to know “you are not alone”.
Brandon Lovely, who has showjumped internationally up to 1.40m level, had stopped riding completely last summer before his diagnosis with the condition, which causes pain all over the body.
The 22-year-old had been suffering since he was 16, but as doctors said he had a low risk of developing the condition, as he was young and male, it took a great deal of time and effort to get his diagnosis.
“I removed myself from riding to see if the pain would stop, or anything would change, but nothing did,” Brandon told H&H.
“It took so long to get the diagnosis; so many tests. It was awful; I was missing riding, and going through it all was horrendous.”
Brandon said the pain “feels like you’ve been run over. It’s literally all over, and that’s the only way to describe it”.
He said the pain was in different places in different times, and worse at some times than others – but he always managed to keep going.
“It’s just a love of riding – when I’m on a horse, I don’t feel the pain,” he said. “But I’ll ride, and then get off and be lying on the floor, everyone knows me for that.
“Everyone thought I was just overworking myself, but it turned out to be the fibromyalgia.”
The condition, which can also cause fatigue, concentration and memory issues and difficulty sleeping, is difficult to diagnose. Its exact cause is unknown but it is thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system processes pain messages. In many cases, it appears to be triggered by mental or physical stress.
Brandon said his diagnosis came as a huge relief, and that although there is no cure, he has learned to manage the condition.
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“I’ve completely changed my diet; I’ve cut out things I was intolerant to, which has definitely helped,” he said. “I make sure I do the correct exercises, to keep everything strong, and I know what causes my flare-ups.
“I’m definitely not in as much pain and knowing what it is helps the mental side of things too; the stress from not knowing really brought out my symptoms.
“I’ve just started riding again now at home; only a handful of horses but I’d like to find someone else to ride for and get started again this year.”
Brandon wants to raise awareness of the condition, and help anyone else suffering with it.
“If I hadn’t pushed to get it looked into in my little spare time, I may never have known I had this condition and could still be suffering more than I am,” he said.
“I want other riders with the same condition or other neurological issues to know they’re not alone. Don’t give up; keep at the doctors until you get the answers you need.”
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