Fibromyalgia (FM) symptoms are characterized by chronic generalized pain, and can include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, joint stiffness, numbness or tingling, bowel/bladder dysfunction, and sometimes effects our ability to process thought clearly (cognitive dysfunction). It can come on fast, almost overnight, or, develop very slowly over years of time. This highly variable onset makes establishing a diagnosis very challenging, and can also sometimes take years before the diagnosis is firmly established. In fact, the term “fibromyalgia” was not formally recognized as a diagnosis by the American College of Rheumatology and American Medical Association until 1987, and it remains a diagnosis made by excluding other diseases!
MYTH: “Your symptoms are all in your head.” TRUTH: FM is a “MEDICAL DISORDER” where the nervous system’s ability to process pain is different when compared to those who don’t have FM. Why there is a difference between individuals is the big question. Some research suggests these brain processing differences may be the result of childhood stress, or prolonged or severe stress.
MYTH: “Only lazy, inactive people get fibromyalgia.” TRUTH: Research shows this not to be the case. In fact, most people with FM are focused and driven, and that stress associated with that intense drive may play a significant role in the development of FM symptoms.
MYTH: “There are no effective fibro treatments.” TRUTH: The good news is that as more studies on FM arise, we are beginning to understand more about FM, resulting in more effective treatments. The “catch” is that what works for one individual may not work for another making it essential to find a “good doctor” (or rather, a good team of health care providers) who is willing to listen and continually try different approaches until an effective management approach is found.
There are some specific conditions that go hand in hand with FM, and though it’s not clear which comes first (FM or the condition), a clear relationship has been established. Some of these co-existing conditions include irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis (several different types can be associated), chronic fatigue syndrome, various sleep disorders, post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety, depression, and others. Often, blood and other lab tests come back negative and hence, the diagnosis is made by excluding those other conditions. What is MOST important is that to feel your best, these other conditions also need to be managed.
As stated above, the management of FM is aimed at all the condition(s) affecting the person with FM. This is why a multidiscipline “team” of health care providers is so important, as we all have our own emphasis and perspective on what to do for patients. Options include: a clinical psychologist to manage the chemical and hormonal imbalances, a primary care doctor whom “believes in FM,” and a chiropractor to manage the musculoskeletal issues of FM. Other alternative approaches such as massage therapy, Yoga classes, and acupuncture can also provide significant relief. Nutritional counseling is also highly effective in the management strategy of FM. Most important is the fact that coordination between these various approaches be supervised. Since we deal with the whole person, chiropractors are the PERFECT CANDIDATE for that job!