Finding Relief from Fibromyalgia
Finding Relief from Fibromyalgia.
Do you feel like you’ve been run over by a bus? This is how people with fibromyalgia often describe their symptoms in an effort to illustrate how painful and debilitating it can be. Fibromyalgia is one of the invisible diseases, a condition that has no outward signs and no definitive method of diagnosis. Much like depression (with which it’s often associated), you can’t tell someone has fibromyalgia just by looking at them; and getting the right diagnosis can be a lengthy process. These factors exacerbate the effects of fibromyalgia and often make people feel even worse, which is why an expert assessment is so important if you’re experiencing symptoms.
For most people with the condition, the main symptoms are constant pain throughout their body that fluctuates in severity, and chronic fatigue. You may also experience digestive problems or irritable bowel syndrome, problems sleeping, or headaches. Another common symptom is what’s known as fibro fog – having trouble remembering things and being able to concentrate. The symptoms vary from person to person, and can be similar to the symptoms of other health issues such as rheumatic illness, thyroid disorders, and even MS.
Diagnosing fibromyalgia presents something of a challenge, because there’s no blood test or other diagnostic tool that can definitively identify the problem. Diagnosis is often made after excluding all other possibilities, so you may well get tested for diabetes, lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems, or nutritional deficiencies when you first visit your doctor. It is important to rule out any other cause, so these tests aren’t a waste of time. Furthermore, as fibromyalgia can present as a secondary condition related to one of these primary causes, getting any confirmed health problems treated should help with the fibromyalgia symptoms.
The one physical examination finding that has classically been associated with fibromyalgia is the pressure point test. There are specific points on the body that when pressed cause a flare of pain in fibromyalgia patients, and if a skilled neuromusculoskeletal specialist examines these tender spots they will be able to confirm the likelihood of fibromyalgia being the cause. There are 18 spots around the body, and for a positive diagnosis, you must have been sensitive to at least 11 of these for a period exceeding three months. Having said that more recently literature no longer focuses on the presence of tender points in order to make a fibromyalgia diagnosis. For example, when other symptoms are present, widespread chronic pain in the absence of tender points can still be quite consistent with fibromyalgia. Self-diagnosis can be counter-productive, as it takes expert knowledge to correctly differentiate between fibromyalgia and other possible causes for the underlying symptoms such as muscle, nerve, ligament, and tendon injuries; hypermobility, different forms of arthritis or immune disorders, and arterial or venous disease.
A regular doctor may well advise you to take pain-relieving medication, and may suggest you address any lifestyle issues that would improve your overall health. Other than that, the most common advice is to learn to live with it. However, specialists like the staff at Piedmont Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation have the expertise to assess you for treatable conditions that are likely to be related to or making your fibromyalgia worse, such as muscle and ligament problems, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or RSD), and nerve problems. There are also immune system, infectious disorders, environmental and lifestyle issues that can make fibromyalgia worse so an expert in musculoskeletal medicine who is holistically minded will examine multiple aspects of your life that may be important including diet, stress, anxiety, hormone imbalance, sensitivity to weather, feelings of depression, and exposure to toxins. From there a treatment plan can incorporate an educational component to help you make healthy lifestyle changes. Don’t take this to mean that there is nothing more that can be done however as that is simply not that case. The experts at Piedmont Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation have many options at their disposal and will work with you to determine which approach or approaches are best for you.
Getting help for fibromyalgia
Correct diagnosis is the primary goal, so that treatments can be targeted appropriately. Find a neuromusculoskeletal specialist who will look at all the factors that could be contributing to or causing your symptoms and then recommend ways to address any underlying problems. This approach is known as reducing total load, whereby every potential aggravating factor is assessed and treated. It’s important to be an active participant in your treatment, and follow agreed upon recommendations. In addition, managing your diet, sleep, exercise, and learning relaxation techniques, are things you can do in between office visits on your own. Fibromyalgia treatment is a specialty of Piedmont Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, so if you’re looking for the best care and the highest clinical standards, call the clinic today.