Fibromyalgia. Fibro. The f-word.
We’ve been treating fibromyalgia pain here for many years and I was talking to someone recently about how fibromyalgia treatment has changed during that time.
If you’re reporting pain to your doctor and they’re not taking it seriously, or you get the feeling that you’re too much trouble to them, or you think they’ve given up on you, or they suggest that you’re a “drug-seeker”, get another provider who specializes in fibromyalgia pain relief.
These days, we can do a lot to make your days better on a regular basis. There’s still no cure for fibro, and we still don’t understand exactly what causes it.
Fortunately, we don’t need all those answers to partner with you to treat fibromyalgia pain successfully. (More about how we treat fibromalgia pain.)
Ten or fifteen years ago, after labs and repeated visits to internists, neurologists, rheumatologists, infectious disease specialists and so on showed “nothing wrong”, many women with fibro were told that they were depressed, or inventing symptoms because they wanted more attention, or some other ridiculous idea.
Often they got no actual treatment at all before they came to us. If they DID get treatment, it was often drugs that seriously undermined their day-to-day lives and didn’t even relieve their fibromyalgia symptoms – things like muscle relaxants, sedatives, antidepressants, sometimes even narcotic pain meds, all of which drained their energy even more and left them feeling wrapped in a cognitive and emotional fog.
It was perfectly obvious to our patients that something real was wrong with them. OK, maybe scientists hadn’t invented the right lab tests yet, maybe it was a different kind of pain that doctors didn’t yet know fully how to diagnose or treat, but it was certainly REAL.
When you used to be energetic and alert and now you literally can hardly get out of bed, and you’re in constant pain, and you look at a form or a spreadsheet and the words and numbers are swimming, it is perfectly obvious that something serious is happening.
These days, far more doctors realize that fibro is real. We have specific diagnostic criteria we use. For example, we look for
- “tender points” (an understatement if ever I heard one!) – pain relief specialists are most skilled at assessing these; many internists and family doctors aren’t trained in how to do it properly
- Pain on both sides of your body, and above and below your waist
- Other symptoms, like extreme exhaustion and trouble thinking clearly
- We also rule out things like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis that share some symptoms
Pain relief specialists, acupuncturists, physical therapists and chiropractors now know much more about what works – and what doesn’t – for fibromyalgia pain relief. For example:
- It’s very important that physical therapy exercises for fibromyalgia minimize what’s called “eccentric muscle use.” (Our physical therapists will explain why, when you visit.) This even applies to home exercise, like an elliptical trainer or recumbent bike.
- Good treatment regimes must counteract what we call “pain postures” (picture a boiled shrimp, and you’ve got the general idea). They also need to specifically address balance, fall prevention, energy conservation, seasonal flares and other issues that are front-and-center with fibro.
- It’s become clear that each patient needs one treatment plan to manage flares, and a DIFFERENT plan to help prevent flares.
- Each person’s fibromyalgia pain cycle is unique, so treatment really must be individualized.
- Responsible pain relief specialists should screen you for other chronic pain like chronic headaches, because these are also very common and often under-treated for people with fibromyalgia.
My final advice: it’s vital for for your fibromyalgia specialist to take it slow. When you have fibro, you want someone who uses a methodical and practical approach to relieve your worst fibro symptoms first. You don’t want them to treat you with everything under the sun, at once.
There’s a saying: “Once you’ve met a person with fibro — you’ve met ONE person with fibro.” Everyone’s experience is different, so the idea is to find the fibromyalgia pain relief that works best for YOU, not to fill your days with treatments just because they might work.