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My Chronic Pain… Could it be Fibromyalgia?

If you have been struggling with chronic pain for any period, you may at some point ask yourself – could this be Fibromyalgia?

My Chronic Pain

In the United States alone, more than five million people are currently suffering from symptoms of fibromyalgia, meaning that 3 to 6 percent of the population is battling the disease.

It’s a Hard Disease to Diagnose

Getting accurate numbers of people with Fibromyalgia is a challenge for healthcare professionals. The symptoms of this chronic disease are complicated and can often present differently from patient to patient.

From widespread pain to irritable bowel syndrome to ongoing sleep problems, the complex nature of Fibromyalgia oftentimes leaves health care providers scratching their heads.

Patients feel frustrated, saddened, and full of emotional stress as they try to navigate living a life with little to no treatment options or pain relief possibilities.

But Identifying the Signs and Symptoms Early Can Help

Luckily, now more than ever before studies are being conducted on the reasons behind fibromyalgia, what causes it, and how to best support patients who are living with its symptoms of it.

Because of the severity of the symptoms and the increasing number of people who are presenting with it, health care providers are taking the disease more seriously than ever before.

Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain
My Chronic Pain…Could it be Fibromyalgia?

In fact, there are now clinics dedicated to treating fibromyalgia symptoms and doctors and nurses that have spent time training exclusively in diagnosing fibromyalgia and understanding the best ways to support patients who are struggling with the severe pain of this highly debilitating disease.

But First, You Must Advocate for Yourself and Your Physical Health

The first line of defense in getting any medical diagnosis is to understand your symptoms and determine how they relate to each other.

Most of us know that when we start experiencing poor sleep, high pain levels somewhere in our body, or strange digestive problems, we know it’s time for a physical examination.

But – because of the complex nature of fibromyalgia, sometimes healthcare professionals will struggle to link a set of symptoms together and realize that a fibromyalgia diagnosis is necessary.

Again, this can be extremely difficult and frustrating for a suffering patient to deal with.

Arm Yourself with as Much Knowledge as Possible about Your Fibromyalgia Pain

You are going to have a better outcome in your physician’s office if you go in armed with some pertinent information and can explain the symptoms you are experiencing.

Advocating for yourself from the beginning will help your health care providers realize that what you are experiencing are fibromyalgia symptoms.

And that a diagnosis of the disease is necessary to begin to treat your condition effectively and give you back the quality of life you deserve.

So… let’s take a look at what are some of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia.

There Is No Cure for Fibromyalgia

One thing to remember – unfortunately for the millions of people who suffer from this oftentimes debilitating condition, there is not yet a known cure for fibromyalgia.

Many people with fibromyalgia will spend years battling the symptoms of fibromyalgia, dealing with the emotional stress, severe chronic pain, and a decreased quality of life.

Finding a cure for this unpleasant disease should be a higher priority. But again, many experts still struggle to recognize how all the symptoms people experience are linked to the disease.

And, even for the healthcare professionals who do recognize it, they still struggle to know how to appropriately provide pain management to their patients.

Fibromyalgia Pain Relief

There is No Cure, But There Is Potential Pain Relief – if You Can Get the Disease Diagnosed Correctly

Despite the fact there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there is some relief.

Knowing your symptoms and being able to communicate them effectively to your doctor or other health care provider will go a long way in determining what their course of action is going to be, and getting your fibromyalgia treated once and for all.

Let’s dive deeper into the different pain symptoms you may be experiencing and determine if they are all linked to a potential fibromyalgia diagnosis.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

There’s been many articles written and papers published on what exactly constitutes fibromyalgia symptoms and what doesn’t.

For our purposes here, let’s focus on certain symptoms that could be considered potential signs of the disease, and whether or not they are independent of each other, or signs that a fibromyalgia diagnosis may very well be in your future.

Are You Experiencing Chronic Fatigue?

For most people with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue is going to be one of the first signs that they may be battling this disease.

What’s the Difference Between Being Tired and Chronic Fatigue?

Unfortunately, many medical providers won’t link a person’s chronic fatigue to fibromyalgia.

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov), at least one out of every three Americans is dealing with sleep problems. For many of those people, their lack of enough sleep is causing countless other issues in their everyday lives.

It is suggested that adults try to achieve six to eight hours of quality sleep every night. This is an almost impossible feat for many of us, due to busy schedules, family obligations, and other stressors that cause us to have an ongoing sleep disturbance on a frequent basis.

But for a person with undiagnosed fibromyalgia, sleep problems are often so extreme that there is a bigger cause for concern than just suggesting they need to try to improve their poor sleep habits.

In fact, many people who are later diagnosed with fibromyalgia will say that the number of sleep hours they get each night has nothing to do with how fatigued they feel throughout their day.

Sleep disorders can be bothersome for anyone experiencing them. But for fibromyalgia patients, they can lead to significant other symptoms, like sleep apnea, constant brain fog throughout the day.

And the inability to practice good pain management skills and other healthy habits, since they constantly feel exhausted, no matter how much time they spend asleep.

So How Do I Know If My Poor Sleep is Due to Fibromyalgia?

Because sleep patterns can be different for everyone, it can be hard to determine if your poor sleep is due to fibromyalgia, or other environmental factors.

Many of us experience sleep disorders without also having fibromyalgia.

Making sleep a priority for most Americans is a challenge. But for the fibromyalgia patient, it may not even be a choice that they can choose.

A Sleep Log Can Help Improve Sleep Patterns and Determine What’s Causing Them

One of the best ways to determine what is causing you sleep disturbances is to keep a sleep log.

In order to really understand your sleep pattern, you will need to log your sleep hours for at least a month. At first, this may seem daunting, but once you start, it will hopefully become a part of your nightly routine.

Begin by writing down what time you go to bed each night and what time you get up. If at any point you wake up, jot that down as well.

Improve Sleep

In Order to Improve Sleep, You Need to Do Other Things as Well

Determining if your sleep disorders are a result of fibromyalgia, you will need to make some other adjustments to your life as well.

Along with recording your sleep times and hours, try to limit any caffeine after 2 p.m. See if you can get some light exercise in the afternoon but don’t overdo it, as too much of a rise in your heart rate close to bedtime can also affect your sleep cycles.

Food and Alcohol Can Affect Your Poor Sleep as Well

You’ll also want to refrain from eating or drinking alcohol within three hours of going to bed since these things can also mess with your sleep schedule.

Alcohol Can Affect Your Poor Sleep

If nothing seems to have changed, and you’re experiencing just as much body fatigue, brain fog, and overall exhaustion as you were before, there’s a good chance that your sleep disorders could very well be the result of fibromyalgia disease that has gone undiagnosed.

Share Your Findings with Your Health Care Providers

It will be important for you to share with your medical professional what you are experiencing and the steps you’ve already taken to identify if your sleep problems are just because of lifestyle choices or could very well be linked to something else.

At this point, your healthcare professional will hopefully recognize that your chronic sleep issues could very well be because of fibromyalgia and will want to dig further into what other symptoms of fibromyalgia you may be experiencing.

Are You Experiencing Widespread Body Pain?

Along with chronic fatigue, another very common sign of fibromyalgia is ongoing widespread body pain.

Almost every person who has been able to successfully receive a fibromyalgia diagnosis has presented to their physician or other health care providers with pain symptoms that are severe and frequent enough to require constant medical treatment.

In fact, by the time a person is diagnosed with fibromyalgia, they will usually have already seen their doctor or nurse multiple times for pain relief medicines or for further testing because their pain is so severe.

One of the popular theories surrounding fibromyalgia symptoms is that they are similar to other autoimmune diseases where the body’s immune system begins to attack itself and affect a person’s overall physical health.

Body Pain in Fibromyalgia

Not only can fibromyalgia be as painful for people as other musculoskeletal and skin diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, but it can also present similarly as well.

This is yet another reason why it’s hard to treat fibromyalgia…the symptoms can be challenging to understand. It is common for a person with fibromyalgia to be diagnosed with a variety of other diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, certain skin diseases, and even restless legs syndrome.

How Do I Know that My Chronic Pain is From Fibromyalgia?

Though all of the above physical conditions can present like fibromyalgia and cause significant and severe pain, there is one main symptom that separates fibromyalgia from these other conditions.

Fibromyalgia patients will experience a type of widespread pain throughout their body that is not seen in other medical conditions.

For example, someone who is experiencing digestive problems associated with irritable bowel syndrome will have plenty of discomfort and pain, but it will be a pain that is concentrated in their abdomen region, rather than being widespread pain.

For a fibromyalgia sufferer, pain levels can be so high that even with appropriate pain management it will often be a challenge to get their pain levels under control.

And – just like with poor sleep problems, many health care providers will be hesitant to diagnose fibromyalgia as the chief cause of a patient’s pain signals being so extreme.

In fact, they will usually try to rule out everything else before resorting to a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

Why Are Health Care Providers Hesitant to Diagnose Fibromyalgia?

One question that often is asked by a patient who is suffering from fibromyalgia symptoms is this: why is my doctor or other health care provider so hesitant to diagnose my symptoms as being related to fibromyalgia?

The answer to this question is simple, but also complex.

Fibromyalgia Has a Long History of Not Being Taken Seriously

For many years, fibromyalgia has been thought to be a condition that is more related to a person’s lifestyle choices, emotional stress, and overall mental health.

As there aren’t any conclusive links to fibromyalgia linked to family history or specific environmental factors, many physicians, researchers, and scientists have come to believe that fibromyalgia is more “in a person’s head” than anything else.

They don’t deny that the patient is suffering and in pain – they just that it may be more of a mental than a physical pain they are experiencing.

Health Care Providers Also Feel that Fibromyalgia is More of a Mental, Not Physical Problem

There are also some strong theories that fibromyalgia affects women in their middle age more because their quality of life has decreased with age, and they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Or they have allowed their physical health to deteriorate, leading to pain signals that they are hoping are being caused by something outside of their control.

To treat fibromyalgia effectively, there needs to be more medical education available for physicians and other health care providers who are unaware of how to care for these patients.

Fibromyalgia is More of a Mental

Knowing all this, it is imperative that if you are suffering from ongoing, widespread pain, you make it clear to your healthcare professionals that you feel pain throughout your body, and not just in specific areas or only at specific times.

Though there are a variety of musculoskeletal and skin diseases that one can acquire, living with fibromyalgia will take a toll on your entire body physically, and the pain will not be manageable until your health care providers take it seriously, and see it as a legitimate medical condition.

Are You Experiencing Depression?

As with the other symptoms described above, another clear indicator of a possible fibromyalgia diagnosis can be when a person is experiencing extreme signs of depression.

Again, depression can come in many forms, and because of many reasons. Some people will have a family history of depression, or it can be sparked by stressful or traumatic events, alcohol, and drug use, or can be hereditary as well.

Depression is Hard to Connect to Fibromyalgia

People with fibromyalgia will often find themselves in a vicious cycle when it comes to depression. It is hard to determine whether or not a person’s depression is being caused by symptoms of the disease – such as poor physical health, poor sleep, emotional stress, or the muscle pain they are constantly experiencing.

One of the biggest challenges for people with fibromyalgia is finding healthcare providers that will take their depression seriously, and recognize that it’s a symptom of the disease and not that the depression is being caused by outside factors.

As with the Other Signs of Fibromyalgia, You Must be Your Own Advocate

Struggling with depression can be hard for anyone and is only more complicated when the root cause can’t be found. Having healthcare professionals tell you that your depression is something you can manage with.

Mental health drug treatments, increased exercise, or changing your diet is going to be frustrating for the person who knows all this, yet also knows that their depression is also being caused by fibromyalgia symptoms.

What Can I Do to Convince My Healthcare Provider that My Depression is Fibromyalgia-Related?

As I said earlier, depression is a complicated mental health problem and can be even more problematic for the person who is suffering from musculoskeletal and skin diseases like fibromyalgia. But you will need to show that your depression is related to your disease in order to get your fibromyalgia diagnosed properly.

Before you talk to your doctor about your depression, there are a few things you may want to try.

Keep a Mental Health Journal

Just like the sleep log mentioned earlier, a mental health journal can help you determine what is triggering your depressive episodes and help your health care provider decide if your depression is one of the risk factors associated with fibromyalgia or if it is a problem independent of that.

 Mental-Health-Journal
Mental Health Journal

Anyone who is experiencing fibromyalgia pain is going to feel depressed, and rightly so. The constant body aches, body fatigue, brain fog, and nervous system complications will make anyone feel depressed, regardless of their current physical condition.

Identifying the Most Common Signs of Fibromyalgia Can Help You Find a Solution

Learning about some of the main symptoms of fibromyalgia is going to go far in helping you help your physician and other health care providers determine the root of your issue and finally find a course of action and possible drug treatment plan that will alleviate some of your discomforts as you learn to live with fibromyalgia.

Remember, There is No Cure for Fibromyalgia…But There is Relief

In order to treat pain effectively in any patient, a proper diagnosis needs to be made. Knowing these common symptoms will hopefully get your fibromyalgia diagnosed once and for all.