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Fwd:Fibromyalgia:Five Things You Need to Know

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Fwd:Fibromyalgia:Five Things You Need to Know

Post  byrd45 on Sun Feb 21, 2010 11:32 am

Fibromyalgia: Five Things You Need to Know
For people living with fibromyalgia, the pain is very real. The chronic, widespread pain and tenderness is persistent and debilitating and can impact a person's life. Some fibromyalgia patients may also experience other symptoms, which can prevent them from sleeping well, performing everyday tasks and enjoying life to its fullest.

More than five million Americans are affected by fibromyalgia, but the condition can affect people differently, and many health professionals are still learning how to diagnose and treat the condition. Patients can face misdiagnoses and often learn to cope with the pain for a long time. For some patients, it can take up to five years to receive a diagnosis. But there is hope.

Clinical understanding of fibromyalgia, its origins and treatment options, has improved in recent years. It is now thought that fibromyalgia is related to changes in the central nervous system that cause the brain to process pain signals abnormally, increasing sensitivity to pain—or put another way—the "volume control" for pain is turned up, so even a hug or handshake can be painful for someone with fibromyalgia.

If you suffer from the chronic widespread pain of fibromyalgia, you can get answers, manage symptoms and find support with some basic knowledge and the right tools.

Five things you need to know about fibromyalgia

1. Pain isn't the only sign. Chronic, widespread pain that lasts for at least three months is a classic sign of fibromyalgia. You may wake up with stiff muscles or find that you are fatigued or having trouble remembering things. Fibromyalgia can also coexist with other health conditions, such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome and mood or sleep disorders.

2. Diagnosis may be challenging. Clinicians must rely on your symptoms and medical history to make a diagnosis, since there is no lab test or x-ray to confirm the disorder. A healthcare provider may ask you to react to specific "tender points" on your body, as defined by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) diagnostic criteria. The ACR guidelines state that pain at 11 out of 18 tender points may indicate fibromyalgia. "Undiagnosed fibromyalgia can be debilitating for patients," said Daniel Clauw, MD, director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan. "In addition to the ACR guidelines, additional tools are in development to help facilitate the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and capture the full range of symptoms that often accompany the pain, including physical functioning, sleep and overall well-being."

3. Fibromyalgia isn't just a woman's disease—men get it too. The large majority of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women, but some believe this may be due in part to men underreporting their symptoms. "Men have been taught since childhood to shake it off," said Bob Hall, founder of the website www.menwithfibro.com. In his eight years running the site, Hall said he has seen men succumb to gender roles and try to ignore their discomfort. "Men aren't taught to show pain," said Hall. "But eventually they reach a point where it doesn't shake off, and they have to do something. That's what usually triggers them to go to the doctor."

4. Be persistent about getting help. Many people with fibromyalgia have encountered skeptics—co-workers who may not understand why you have trouble getting out of bed, family members who may not appreciate why you're so tired and healthcare providers who may not have much experience diagnosing the disorder. But, trust your instincts and seek medical advice. Find a healthcare provider who listens to you.

There are also many online resources that can help you on your path to relief. The American Pain Foundation (APF) has a variety of materials, including a self-assessment and online toolkit and educational webinars, to help you recognize the symptoms of fibromyalgia, find the right care provider and get treatment. With the help of these resources and with the support of family and friends, you can start to feel more in control of your body. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your symptoms, other health problems you may have, as well as how the pain interferes with your daily life. This will help you work together to find the best treatment plan.

5. You can live well with fibromyalgia. "There's a misconception on the part of patients that there's nothing you can do to alleviate your pain. But that's not true," said Dr. Clauw. The best first step is to get an accurate diagnosis. Then, take charge of your treatment plan by:

Taking note of what parts of your body are tender and when the pain comes and goes.
Learning how to describe your pain, and creating your own pain scale to chart its severity. See APF's Targeting Chronic Pain Notebook as a resource.
Talking to a healthcare provider about your symptoms and how to adapt your daily activities.
Managing the stress and fatigue that may be associated with your pain.
Keeping a record of which medications and non-drug therapies work for you.
Finally, joining a support group in your community or online (check out PainAid, APF's online support community) can be helpful. Talking with others about fibromyalgia can help relieve the burden of living with the disorder and may provide you with new information on therapies and management strategies.
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