Home » Fibromyalgia tricky to diagnose, but it can be treated

Fibromyalgia tricky to diagnose, but it can be treated

Grace endures pain throughout her arms and torso. Despite numerous doctor visits, tests could not pinpoint the source of her discomfort. It wasn’t until she met a physician who specializes in disorders of the central nervous system that she discovered her symptoms showed fibromyalgia.

Despite the growing interest, little is known about the cause and probable cure of fibromyalgia. Yet, symptoms of widespread pain, headaches, sleep disorders, digestive problems, dizziness and chronic fatigue are shared among 5 million Americans, and 80 percent to 90 percent of people diagnosed are women.

Traditionally, mainstream medicine has difficulty diagnosing this disorder. Since it affects the brain and central nervous system, fibromyalgia doesn’t have outward signs indicating a problem, nor does it show in ultrasound or MRI screenings.

“Doctors sometimes struggle with treating a condition that doesn’t present itself in tangible, measurable forms,” said Dr. Candice Hall, a chiropractic doctor with Next Integrative Health. “But, many people experience common symptoms that enable a physician to track and consider fibromyalgia as the cause of their discomfort.”


If the patient has experienced a series of symptoms for up to six months, doctors will rule out other sources, such as lupus, and fibromyalgia may be the cause. It is most commonly treated with medications, with varying degrees of success.

The standard treatment plan for fibromyalgia patients includes exercise, sleep and medication. But the treatments prescribed can be difficult for sufferers to carry out. The biggest indicator of fibromyalgia is the constant widespread pain that occurs throughout the body, particularly at specific pressure points located in the neck, torso, arms, knees and hips. This prolonged pain morphs into headaches, extreme fatigue, poor sleeping habits and depression.


Working toward a daily exercise routine should be the goal of sufferers, but diet can also improve symptoms. Prevention magazine reported, “Forty-two percent of fibro patients said their symptoms worsened after eating certain foods, and though much of the research is in its preliminary phases, there’s some evidence that simple diet tweaks may ease fibro pain.”

With current medications showing mediocre results in treating the symptoms, sufferers seek a natural way to cope with the discomfort. Hall suggested reducing stress by practicing yoga, meditation or massage therapy to ease the pain.

“The key to improving quality of life is to improve sleep patterns, reduce stress, increase physical activity that emphasizes on stretching muscles, and improve diet,” Hall said.

She added that the important thing is to find a doctor who is familiar with this disorder and recognizes its debilitating effect on patients.

Fibromyalgia is real. Until there’s a cure, these are reliable methods for treating the symptoms.

Amy Osmond Cook is the Executive Director of the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public about best practices in senior care. Contact her at amy@skillednursingproviders.org.

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