I am a doctor with fibromyalgia. This is what I want people to understand about him. Hero image Fibromyalgia, a widely misunderstood disease, confuses and frustrates both patients and doctors. I know because I’ve seen him on both sides, as a doctor and as a woman with the disease.
This common chronic disease is characterized by generalized muscle pain, fatigue and mental confusion. It is estimated that currently 5 million Americans suffer from this disorder, and about 90 percent of those diagnosed are women.
Even so, there is still much confusion about what the disease really is and how it is treated. Here are five truths about fibromyalgia that are not widely known, even by most doctors:
1. Fibromyalgia is real and can be treated, but it requires a holistic approach.
Research on fibromyalgia has fallen far behind other diseases, bogged down by controversy and a century of discussions about whether it is a “real” disease.
This changed in 2002, when a pioneering study showed abnormalities in the way the brain processes pain in fibromyalgia. These brain imaging studies gave the objective data to show that fibromyalgia was “real” and unleashed a decade of intensive research that resulted in three FDA-approved medications that dull pain signals.
But those medications do not treat the often debilitating symptoms of fatigue and diffuse thinking called “fibrofog.” To achieve this, physicians and patients must know the different treatment options, especially holistic approaches, such as making changes in diet to reduce inflammation or adding supplements to increase the production of cellular energy.
2. It is no longer a complete mystery.
I often hear that the myth repeats that “we do not know what causes fibromyalgia.” Recent medical surveys reveal that most doctors still do not know how to help their patients with fibromyalgia, despite the existence of some very effective treatments. Fibromyalgia is often described in medical journals as “puzzling”, “mysterious” and “confusing”.
Television commercials that say that fibromyalgia is a condition of hyperactive painful nerves do not tell the whole story. In fact, pain processing problems are just the tip of the iceberg. A much bigger factor is a stress response (or danger) that has gone crazy and is constantly on “red alert”, leading to a chain reaction that results in fatigue, mental confusion and muscle pain.
The only way to obtain a lasting improvement in all these symptoms is to systematically address the negative effects on the body of a chronic hyperactive stress response. A chronically active stress response wreaks havoc by avoiding deep sleep and keeping muscles tense, resulting in pain and sensitivity; impair digestion and energy production; and throwing hormones out of balance. It also causes pain sensing nerves to increase the volume of their signals.
3. Fibromyalgia is primarily a sleep disorder.
Unfortunately, many doctors, including sleep specialists, are not aware of the sleep problems that accompany fibromyalgia. But fibromyalgia is in many ways a sleep disorder, a state of chronic deep sleep deprivation. Studies have shown again and again that patients experience inadequate deep sleep that is often disrupted by “awakened” brain waves. This starvation in deep sleep contributes to the fatigue, muscle pain and nebulous thinking characteristic of the disease.
Treating sleep is the key to treating fibromyalgia, and it is where I see the greatest benefit to reduce pain, fatigue and mental confusion. Sleep should always be improved before any other treatment works, so it is vital to treat this with your health care provider to treat hidden sleep problems such as obstructive sleep apnea and then add medications and supplements to help restore sleep. normal deep
4. Most doctors do not know much about fibromyalgia, and it’s not their fault.
Fibromyalgia is an orphan disease that is not claimed by any specialty and, on the contrary, clumsily covers the fields of rheumatology, neurology, sleep and analgesics. The majority of attention falls on the overwhelmed primary care physicians who do not have time to go in search of new treatment ideas among the sea of medical journals. The big medical journals neglect fibromyalgia. In fact, since 1987, only one study on fibromyalgia has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine , the most widely read medical journal in the world.
Since the busy primary care provider does not have time to actively seek new treatments for fibromyalgia, the research has to draw his attention in some other way, namely, by his patients. That’s why, in my new book, The FibroManual , I included a physician- guided health care provider guide backed by research for patients to point it out to their doctor.
5. There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are effective treatments.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia, yet. But we do not have cures for many chronic diseases, like diabetes and high blood pressure. What we do have are effective treatments that manage those diseases well enough to be minimally harmful to health. And powerful treatments for fibromyalgia are also available.
When people ask me if I have recovered from fibromyalgia, I say: “Yes.” I have found ways to feel much better and minimize its impact on my life. Ultimately, I still have fibromyalgia and there is no magic solution that completely eliminates all symptoms. It requires work, and I have learned that coherence in my self-care routine is essential to keep my symptoms under control.