Fibromyalgia is in the news these days after superstar Lady Gaga disclosed that she struggles with this often debilitating condition. A lot of mystery surrounds this very complex diagnosis with most sufferers experiencing it in a completely unique way. It’s no wonder that it is surrounded by so many misconceptions. We’ll attempt to provide some clarity in this article. Education is key to understanding and supporting yourself or any of your loved ones who may be struggling with this often life disturbing and painful disorder.
MYTH: Fibromyalgia is not a real diagnosis.
FACT: Research has shown that Fibromyalgia is not a made up diagnosis. A review of research from 1955 to 2014 shows that the disease is characterized by a complex combination of symptoms, including a demonstrated heightened nervous system pain response, fatigue, memory problems, and sleep and mood disturbances. The condition is quite common, present in as much as 2% to 8% of the population according to The Journal of American Medicine. The fact that the condition is relatively new and sometimes elusive to diagnose and difficult to treat, means that this fibromyalgia patients are often met with skepticism from family and the medical community, which can lead them to avoid seeking treatment.
MYTH: Strong pain medications are the only way to help patients with Fibromyalgia
FACT: There are many recommended treatments that have been shown to have big benefits in reducing pain that do not require a prescription. The Mayo Clinic says that some studies show that acupuncture can help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms by inserting very fine needles into the skin at varying depths, possibly increasing the blood flow and pain receptors in those areas of the body affected. Many sufferers also find that regular massage therapy sessions help to reduce heart rate, relax and sooth muscles and improve flexibility in joints. Yoga and tai chi use meditative breathing, slow movements and deep breathing to help relieve stress and anxiety. Physical therapy and counseling can also provide drug free relief from the mental and physical effects of the condition.
MYTH: People with Fibromyalgia shouldn’t exercise.
FACT: According to the National Institutes of Health, regular exercise is one of the most useful treatments for fibromyalgia. Some people who have fibromyalgia may often be too tired or in too much pain to want to engage in physical activity, so it is best to start with low impact exercise such as walking or swimming. Resistance training has been shown to be very effective strengthening muscles and improving movement without the stress placed on the body when doing traditional weight lifting.
MYTH: Only women have fibromyalgia.
FACT: Although this condition is much more common in women, men are also effected. Around 80% to 90% of those diagnosed are women. The condition usually presents in middle age, between the ages of 20 and 55 but may also affect the elderly as well as children, although the development of symptoms in children can be slower.
MYTH: A special diet is required for people with fibromyalgia.
FACT: Although eating healthy can be a key to managing fibromyalgia symptoms, including pain, brain fog and exhaustion, there is no specific diet that a fibromyalgia patient needs to adhere to. It is suggested that sugar and simple carbs be avoided, as well as processed foods and MSG, but the same could be said for the rest of us. The key is to eat a balanced diet, full of fresh and healthy foods and be aware of how you are feeling after each meal. Keeping a journal can help you figure out if there are specific foods that worsen your fibromyalgia symptoms.
There is still a lot to learn about fibromyalgia, its causes and how to manage its often devastating symptoms. The condition can affect the quality of life of those afflicted, impact relationships and even remove the sufferer’s ability to work. While there is no cure, there is now more research being done than ever to figure out ways to manage and treat both the mental and physical symptoms that this mysterious condition can cause.