In my previous blog, you can answer a quick quiz to find out if you may have Fibromyalgia (FM). Then, it’s important to consult your GP or medical specialist to confirm this. So, managing Fibromyalgia: where to start?
FM varies greatly from one person to another. It is also possible to have other conditions along with it (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, Lupus or chronic fatigue syndrome). This is why a comprehensive individual assessment is important when making a diagnosis.
So, you may start by seeing a GP or specialist doctor. They will first eliminate anything else that could be responsible for your symptoms. This can take some time. The lab tests and other investigations cannot prove you have FM – they can only possibly rule out other conditions.
Then, a physical examination will check to see if you have widespread pain. It is not so important to note exactly how many “tender points” you have. It’s more about whether your pain is generalized over your whole body, rather than isolated to some parts.
Therefore, the latest diagnostic guidelines (2011) for FM look specifically for these:
- widespread pain lasting three months or more
- fatigue and/or waking up feeling unrefreshed
- problems with thinking, memory and other cognitive processes
Managing Fibromyalgia: where to start?
My previous blog explained the Central Sensitization of the nervous system that is responsible for the pain and other symptoms of FM.
Since the pain of FM is created and maintained by that combination of physical, neurological and psychological factors, it needs a multifactorial approach to managing it.
Prescription medications may help reduce the central sensitization and manage symptoms. These are often anticonvulsants, antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, sleeping pills and/or pain killers. But medication is just one tool in the toolbox for resetting this faulty system – you will need some others!
A team approach
Apart from meds, manage your FM with the help of an interdisciplinary team of healthcare practitioners. They will use a number of interventions. Stay actively involved in the treatment planning and make choices throughout. YOU are on the team!
Your team might include: GP, physiotherapist, Occupational Therapist, Clinical Psychologist, Dietitian and others (Chiropractor, Biokineticist).
It is helpful if the team works together to coordinate the best plan of action for you. The whole treatment plan is tailor-made and graded to help you progress. The team will help you understand Fibromyalgia and how it impacts you. They will advise you on relieving pain, staying active, stress management, sleep hygiene and more. Finally, they will equip you for long-term self-management of FM.
What about alternative therapies?
Yes, there are many alternative therapies available. Some of these have some research evidence to support their effectiveness and others don’t. To save time, money and disappointment, first read up on interventions from a variety of sources. Then ask lots of questions! There is no single cure-all for FM. And there are no quick fixes. It takes consistency, patience and perseverance to see results!
Fibromyalgia – your future
FM is a long-term condition and recovery varies from person to person. Studies suggest it isn’t progressive or degenerative. It is, however, important to keep generally healthy and as active as you can to prevent physical deconditioning that can lead to secondary problems. As you work together with a team of trained practitioners, your brain and body can be rewired and reconditioned to a more functional level!
Also: Mail me at email@example.com to receive a pdf of my Fibromyalgia information pamphlet.
2011 Modification of the American College of Rheumatology Diagnostic Criteria for Fibromyalgia- Patient self-report survey.
Fibromyalgia Fundamentals: There’s no time to waste! A 2017 publication of National Fibromyalgia Partnership, Inc. (NFP)
Unravelling Fibromyalgia—Steps Toward Individualized Management. Hauser, Daniel, Clauw & Fitzcharles. 2018. The Journal of Pain.