Updated: Jul 2, 2019
Fibromyalgia's defining characteristic is widespread pain that can be in any part of the body and can move around. Researchers have come to believe that fibromyalgia is largely neurologically based, and that much of the pain is the result of the brain amplifying signals from the nerves. So far, no lab test can accurately diagnose fibromyalgia. Doctors do need to rule out numerous conditions with similar symptoms before making a diagnosis, making this a diagnosis of exclusion. So, it's not surprising to see that most people have to go through numerous tests over a painfully long time period before they get diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
For most people it's hard enough to go through a battery of tests before being formally diagnosed with fibromyalgia, but for every single person living with it, life is difficult. Having helped quite a few clients navigate their way through the diagnosis process and enabling them to adapt to many lifestyle changes, I thought it was time for me to blog about living with fibromyalgia.
Since there is no definitive treatment for fibromyalgia, the only thing we can do is try to control and alleviate the symptoms. In my opinion, a few lifestyle changes can substantially improve the quality of life for those with fibromyalgia. Here are some things that I would suggest.
Research suggests that this chronic pain disorder may be connected to digestive health. Certain dietary changes might help alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms. Some studies suggest a ketogenic or low-carbohydrate diet can reduce pain and fatigue, but it doesn't work for everyone. If you have fibromyalgia and also have gut symptoms, bring this to your doctor's attention and request a consultation with a gastroenterologist, particularly one with some expertise in IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth).
If you suffer from pain, stress, or insomnia resulting from fibromyalgia, you may get relief by exploring a water-centred approach: at a hot spring, therapy centre, or even in your own home. It might be as simple as tossing epsom salts in your tub and having a relaxing soak, doing gentle exercises after a warm bath or shower, or engaging in something more structured — sessions with a specially trained therapist.
Try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT is a goal-oriented, problem-solving therapeutic approach that’s been shown to be useful for people whose quality of life suffers because they have a chronic illness, and it specifically has been found to be helpful for people with fibromyalgia.
Many people diagnosed with fibromyalgia also experience problems thinking or remembering, a symptom that is known as "fibro fog". In a recent study researchers found that a staggering 45% of people with fibromyalgia screened positive for adult ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The researchers recommend that if you have fibromyalgia, you should be screened for adult ADHD. Your Family Physician can administer the WHO screening questionnaire for ADHD. If you test positive, you would then be assessed by a neurologist or psychiatrist before receiving a formal diagnosis.
In my experience, most people with fibromyalgia find that acupuncture helps ease fibromyalgia related pain. In general, alternative therapy like acupuncture combined with medication appears safe and effective as long as it is performed/prescribed by a licensed healthcare practitioner.
Finally, I strongly believe that an interdisciplinary approach is critical for management of fibromyalgia because the disease affects all aspects of people’s lives: emotional, physical, and lifestyle. See if you can find "interdisciplinary" (or "multidisciplinary") "functional restoration pain programs".
As always, feel free to connect with me, ask questions and post comments.
Healthcare Consultant, in4MED
The author of this blog post is a Physician with over 10 years of experience working in the healthcare system as a clinician, researcher and educator. She is passionate about healthcare for older adults and strives to be a resourceful inspiration to caregivers.
*No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.