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Dr. Explains Fibromyalgia and Offers 5 Tips to Fight Fibromyalgia

Tim Boyer's picture

Are you constantly feeling tired, exhausted and having difficulty in getting out of bed? Are your arms and legs sore all the time or do you suffer from a backache that won’t go away? Do you experience joint pain, a throbbing headache or brain fog? According to Dr. Oz, if any of these symptoms are your normal for you, then you may be suffering from undiagnosed fibromyalgia—one of the most commonly misdiagnosed disorders doctors make today.

“Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome. It can be very debilitating for patients. Patients often complain of a number of symptoms—the main one is widespread pain,” says Dr. Oz’s special guest Jennifer Caudle, DO and national spokesperson for The American Osteopathic Association.

Ms. Caudle explains that this pain affects the muscles and connective tissues and can last 3 at least months or longer for many people afflicted with fibromyalgia. Diagnosis is difficult because the disease is hidden behind a wide range of symptoms that could be attributed to other conditions.

“In addition to the widespread pain, patients have other symptoms such as headache, fatigue, insomnia, etc. So it’s really a combination of both the pain and these other symptoms that creates this condition. It’s sort of thought of as an ‘invisible condition’ because quite honestly, you can look at a patient and really not see it on them―but on the inside they are really struggling with it,” states Ms. Caudle.

According to Ms. Caudle, individuals who are especially at risk of developing fibromyalgia include:

• Women
• People with a family history of fibromyalgia
• People with Rheumatic arthritis or Lupus
• People experiencing any number of stressors or trauma

Because of the severity of the symptoms, fibromyalgia is considered to be a life-threatening disease due to its cumulative effect on quality of life issues that makes it debilitating with prolonged suffering for those afflicted.

Getting help for this disease is severely hampered by a number of factors. And according to Dr. Oz, it takes an average of 3 visits with a physician before the correct diagnosis can be made.

“Fibromyalgia is a condition for which there is no blood test or x-ray for,” says Ms. Caudle. “And this is one of the things that makes it so complex…every fibromyalgia patient [because of the wide range of symptoms] presents very differently.”

Due to a lack of understanding of fibromyalgia in the past, patients have often been dismissed by their physicians as being hypochondriacs.

This fact was pointed out by Dr. Oz as he introduced a guest who testified to having suffered with undiagnosed fibromyalgia for several years, meeting resistance from her doctors who did not believe in the existence of the condition and suggested that her illness was “all in her head.” It was not until she saw a rheumatologist who knew better and gave her a diagnosis of fibromyalgia within the first 15 minutes of the visit that she was finally able to put a name to her condition and seek the proper treatment.

The gradual realization that fibromyalgia is a true medical condition is at last being supported with newly created diagnostic criteria and treatment options that are now available to help doctors recognize the disease and tend to their patients properly.

Dr. Oz tells viewers that what the medical community believes is happening with fibromyalgia is that normally the brain has a type of “pain dial” that acts as an early warning system that tells your body when it is receiving painful stimuli such as when you do something like bump your elbow or touch a hot stove. The pain dial then alerts you to take action like removing yourself from the source of pain. However, in people with fibromyalgia, that pain dial is cranked up all the time causing a person to feel pain constantly throughout the body rather than just from one area of the body.

“The brain is overreacting. It’s an early warning system that has gone awry,” says Dr. Oz.

Special guest Sean Mackey, M.D., Ph.D. and Chief of Pain Management at Stanford School of Medicine concurs with Dr. Oz on the example of the brain having a pain dial that is turned up all the time in fibromyalgia patients.

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“For the first time we understand that fibromyalgia is probably not a disease of the muscle, the joints, the ligaments and the tendons; but instead, it’s fundamentally a condition or disease of the brain—specifically, the nerves and the neurons that are processing pain within the brain,” says Dr. Mackey as he explains that not only is it a failure of the brain to process pain correctly, but also a failure of the body to elicit a pain-relieving response the way it should after pain is detected. “It’s not all in your head,” says Dr. Mackey.

Dr. Oz points out that the primary categories of fibromyalgia symptoms used as diagnostic criteria by doctors today include:

• Pain
• Fatigue and Insomnia
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome
• Anxiety and Depression

So what causes some people to have fibromyalgia and some not? According to Dr. Mackey that is the million dollar question as a single cause of fibromyalgia has yet to be clearly identified. He tells viewers that what the medical community does know is that people who develop fibromyalgia usually have had a minor or significant trauma or injury, an infection or flu, or some post-traumatic stress that then causes a cascade of events in the brain that leads to fibromyalgia.

Dr. Mackey says that they suspect that inflammation with the nerves along the body is what is physically going on with people with fibromyalgia, and if true, that this may lead to therapies for treating this kind of inflammation in providing relief for people with fibromyalgia.

5 Tips If You Suspect You Have Fibromyalgia or Know That You Have It

Dr. Oz and guests offers these 5 tips on how to handle your fibromyalgia:

Fibromyalgia tip #1: Ms. Caudle tells viewers that for now what it takes to get a correct diagnosis for conditions like fibromyalgia is that the patient must become their own advocate and build a relationship with a primary care physician that they feel comfortable with to ensure that they are being actively listened to.

“If you are not comfortable with your doctor…find someone else. Find someone with whom you can have a productive collaboration because that’s especially what is needed with this condition in particular,” advises Ms. Caudle. After you are teamed up with a primary care physician who is open to the possibility that you may have fibromyalgia, then is the time to get a referral to see either a rheumatologist or neurologist, either of which will have more experience treating patients with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia tip #2: Dr. Mackey states that eating an anti-inflammatory type diet has been associated with some relief in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia tip #3: If you’ve noticed that your symptoms get worse after drinking coffee, you should try to cut back on your caffeine by filling your mug with half decaf and half regular.

Fibromyalgia tip #4: There’s no direct evidence that drinking chamomile tea works to help fibromyalgia, but it can help you relax and fall sleep.

Fibromyalgia tip #5: Try some osteopathic manipulative therapy (OMT) that uses different types of body manipulation involving massage with slow pressing or twisting as well as rapid movement or forceful pressure on the head, shoulders, back, or hips for relief from pain associated with fibromyalgia. Yoga is another recommendation by Ms. Caudle that she says may work for some patients too.

For more information about fibromyalgia, consider finding a copy of the book titled "The Woman's Fibromyalgia Toolkit: Manage Your Symptoms and Take Control of Your Life" recommended by Dr. Oz's Share Care sponsor.

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

Reference: The Dr. Oz Show― “The Disease Your Doctor May Miss: Fibromyalgia”