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Fibromyalgia: It’s not all in your mind

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Fibromyalgia is nearly as tough on doctors as it is on patients. There is no simple, objective test to diagnose fibromyalgia, so it can be difficult for us to get a handle on. Its main symptoms–stiffness, muscle and joint pain and fatigue–mimic many other health problems.

We don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, though a recent US study suggests that in more than half the cases, pain and other symptoms are caused by faulty signals from the nerves. We do know that about 90 percent of the people the condition affects are adult women.

A large number of sufferers go through several doctors before they get a diagnosis. Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that can cause chronic pain like arthritis. So rheumatologists often make the diagnosis.

Some scientists think people who have fibromyalgia are sensitive to stimuli that others don’t find painful. Though painful, the condition doesn’t damage or cause deterioration to the joints or muscles.

To make a diagnosis, physicians have to rule out other health problems like depression, inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid, lupus, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

We don’t have many medications to treat fibromyalgia. There are only 3 drugs approved by the FDA to treat the condition. We use Duloxetine and Milnacipran, which are antidepressants and Pregabalin, a drug used for neuropathic pain.

What helps?
There is no magic bullet for fibromyalgia, but I’ve got a few suggestions that can help you take charge of your own health, and help you to a better quality of life even with the syndrome.

1 Get enough sleep; get to bed early enough to get 7 to 9 hours

2 Eat a healthy balanced diet.

3 Exercise. Gentle yoga, or tai chi are the sorts of activities you might want to try.

4. Take your medicine. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but you would be amazed at how many people don’t follow their doctor’s instructions on this.

As it stands there is no cure for the condition. That will have to wait until we have a better understanding of its cause.

Be safe. Be healthy. Be good to yourself.
The Good Doctor

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