Do you suffer from chronic pain, fatigue and depression? If you do, you might have fibromyalgia, a complex and often misunderstood chronic pain condition that affects an estimated 10 million Americans. On the other hand, if you've never heard of this condition, you're not the only one. In fact, one in three Americans have never heard of fibromyalgia or don't consider it a disease. Jennifer N. Caudle, DO, an osteopathic family physician from Philadelphia, explains why the disease often goes untreated and how you can seek help if you think you might have fibromyalgia.
So, why hasn't this condition received much attention or proper diagnosis?
According to a recent survey conducted by the American Osteopathic Association, many patients delay diagnosis and treatment because they fear that they will be perceived as "faking" the disease or simply complaining. "As fibromyalgia gains more attention, now more than ever, patients can move beyond the stigma, relieve the symptoms of this condition with treatment, and lead full lives," says Dr. Caudle.
What are the symptoms?
"Fibromyalgia is a multifaceted condition that impacts each patient differently," says Dr. Caudle. "The disease affects patients physically, emotionally and socially, interfering with their basic daily activities, such as sleeping, exercising and working." Common symptoms include:
On average, Americans living with fibromyalgia endure three years of symptoms and visit at least three different physicians before receiving an accurate diagnosis. Although fibromyalgia usually appears in patients in their 20s or 30s, the disease is found in all age groups and is most common among women.
How can I ensure a proper diagnosis?
Before beginning a dialogue with your physician, Dr. Caudle recommends recording your symptoms:
She also recommends analyzing your lifestyle:
What treatments are available?
The most important step to living an active life with fibromyalgia is finding the right physician who can develop an individualized approach to managing your symptoms.
Using a whole-person approach to care, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond the symptoms of fibromyalgia to assess the impact of environmental and lifestyle factors on your health. They are trained to listen and partner with their patients, encouraging the body’s natural tendency toward self-healing.
"The condition can be effectively managed by exploring a range of different treatment options, such as medications, diet, lifestyle changes and other therapies such as osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), a hands-on treatment used by DOs to care for musculoskeletal pain," explains Dr. Caudle. "With the support of a physician, as well as friends and family, you can live an active life with fibromyalgia."
For more information on fibromyalgia, visit our "Live a Full Life with Fibro" resource center, which includes tips on how to communicate with your physician and a 60-day action plan to help you record in detail how your symptoms are affecting you.