FYBROMYALIGA FACTS AND FICTION
Although there is a lot more known about fybromyalgia today, it wasn’t too long ago that most doctors were un-educated in this little known disorder. Here are some of the myths about fybromyalgia and the facts countering the fiction.
MYTH: FIBROMYALGIA IS RARE
Of chronic pain disorders, fybromyalgia is the most common type. It is estimated that more than 5 million people in the United States have fibromyalgia. Personally, I know several people who suffer from this debilitating condition.
MYTH: FIBROMYALGIA IS ALL IN THE HEAD
Even though fibromyalgia has been described for centuries, it wasn’t until 1981 that the first scientific study formally confirmed fibromyalgia symptoms and tender points in the body. Since that time, researchers have further tested pain reactions in people with fibromyalgia. It’s thought that overactive nerves cause the pain of fibromyalgia. Imaging studies show that the brains of people with fibromyalgia have more activity in reaction to pain. Studies also have shown that people with fibromyalgia feel pain more intensely at lower levels than people without the disorder.
However, there are doctors out there that still think this disorder is “all in the head.” These physicians are becoming the minority as most doctors jump on board with knowledge in this syndrome. Although fibromyalgia is not just “in the head,” it is still important to understand that the condition is stressful, especially when it goes undiagnosed. Stress can also make fibromyalgia worse.
MYTH: DOCTORS DIAGNOSE FIBROMYALGIA WHEN THEY CAN’T FIND A “REAL” DIAGNOSIS
Although fibromyalgia is very much a real condition, it is true that diagnosis of fibromyalgia often takes time. Many people take several years to properly diagnose because there is no specific lab test for it and your doctor can’t see it on an x-ray or do a blood test to confirm it. Rather, he or she relies on your symptoms and a physical exam. Moreover, the symptoms often overlap with symptoms of several other conditions so these other conditions must be tested for as well.
In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology developed guidelines for diagnosing fibromyalgia. Today, these guidelines are widely applied. In addition, there is an abundance of studies validating this form of chronic widespread pain, more than 4,000 published fibromyalgia studies.
MYTH: FIBROMYALGIA IS A “WOMAN’S DISEASE”
The majority of people with fibromyalgia are women; about 80%. But since fibromyalgia is a common condition, that means many men are diagnosed as well. Just because this syndrome affects more women than men, labeling this disorder a “women’s disease” is very unfair to the men who are also affected by fybromyalgia. Having a stigma placed on this disorder makes it more difficult for a man to want to receive diagnosis since most men do not want to appear weak or un-masculine.
Fibromyalgia occurs around the globe and it appears in all ethnic groups and cultures. In fact, fibromyalgia is also seen in all age groups, from teenagers to older people. However, the symptoms more typically begin in a person’s 30s. The people that I personally know are all in their 30’s.
Studies have found that women with fibromyalgia do tend to have a lower pain tolerance and more symptoms than men. In my opinion, the reason for this is that a woman’s gender makeup is more complicated than a man’s. The extra menstrual processes and hormonal changes that occur as a result of these monthly processes can cause extra tenderness and lower pain tolerance. Both genders, however, respond similarly to fibromyalgia treatment as well as other non-drug treatments such as exercise.
MYTH: THE PAIN OF FIBROMYALGIA IS MILD
Some people only experience mild symptoms when they are being properly treated. For others, however, the pain can be severe. It can have a significant impact on quality of life. Simple things once taken for granted, like working, going for a walk, household chores, and taking care of their families can become difficult, if not impossible. Symptoms also often get worse under stress or even under certain weather conditions. One person I know with this disorder has to lie down every 20 minutes or so in order to find relief from pain. It is very difficult for her to attend to her family or spouse.
MYTH: THERE IS NOTHING THAT CAN BE DONE TO TREAT FIBROMYALGIA.
Although fibromyalgia cannot be cured, there are a lot of treatments available for the disorder. For many people, getting a validating diagnosis can mark the beginning of a new journey toward relief of some symptoms. People with fibromyalgia are able to reduce their symptoms through lifestyle changes and other treatments. Exercise, diet changes, massage, acupuncture, and chiropractic treatments are just a few of the options out there. There are also several medications that can provide some relief from symptoms.