One day you begin to feel aches and pains in different areas of your body. You assume you have a flu. You take the extra time to care for yourself to ease the body aches you feel – applying heat, ice, soak in a warm bath, take some cold/flu pills to help…Whatever you personally find helps you ease aches and pains from a flu. Nothing eases the dull pain and aches you feel. You make the trip to the doctor’s office in hopes of a professional’s opinion and relief. Your doctor does a physical exam and finds nothing physically wrong and orders bloodwork to investigate further. You return home and continue to try to ease the symptoms of this horrible flu bug you think you have caught. Results come back from your bloodwork and reveals nothing is wrong. No abnormalities detected to indicate your body is malfunctioning in any way. Your doctor decides to run blood work a second time. In the meantime, your body is so tired and fatigued from the consistent aching and pain that you begin to become mentally and physically exhausted. As the days go by the pain continues to become more intense and you notice more areas of your body begin to ache and different intensities of pain levels begin to form. The fatigue and pain become unbearable. You go back to the doctor to get the results. NORMAL? ‘How can everything be coming back normal when I hurt so bad? “Why do I hurt the way I do?” “What is causing my pain? ” Your doctor responds with, “I suspect you have fibromyalgia.” You take a moment for this to sink in and absorb the presented information. Does this story sound familiar? I often hear the same story from many other fibromyalgia sufferers. Some of us have heard of fibromyalgia while some of us have never heard of this diagnosis. Whether you have heard of fibromyalgia or not, most likely you went home to begin your own personal research on fibromyalgia. This is where my journey began. What about you? There is much more to fibromyalgia then just the aches and pains.
The diagnosis process can be very long and a drawn-out process and become frustrating. Doctors often diagnose fibromyalgia from symptoms (which I won’t list here as there are a lot) and possibly will conduct a physical exam as in fibromyalgia, there are 18 trigger point/tender point areas on a person’s body. Some or all of these areas will be tender to the touch. Scroll to the end of this article to see a picture of these tender point areas. For myself I have all 18 areas that are tender to the touch – however my upper back, legs and arms are the most sensitive areas, but the areas can change daily. As most of us know there is not a specific test that can detect fibromyalgia (at least in Canada). I have read articles posted in other areas of the world stating there is now a test that can be conducted to determine if you have Fibromyalgia. I am not sure if this is accurate information, but in a perfect world, wouldn’t it be wonderful to just get a test done to confirm the assumption?!?! I found not having a solid yes on diagnosis hard to accept. I was in denial for the longest time and second guessing my health. Fibromyalgia is diagnosed by eliminating possibilities of other illnesses and conditions prior, which can take time. My doctor diagnosed me fairly quickly – almost so quickly that I wondered if I was really fibromyalgia or misdiagnosed. However, over the years I have seen specialists such as a rheumatologist and neurologist who firmly have agreed with my primary doctor’s diagnosis of fibromyalgia. There are many other conditions that have some overlapping symptoms of fibromyalgia and can be mimic fibromyalgia such as rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis (MS) lupus and polymyalgia rheumatica. I’m sure there are other conditions that could possibly mimic fibromyalgia. The above listed are conditions that I read about in my own research. All my blood work kept coming back with no detected abnormalities – no indication of autoimmune disorders. I even requested an MRI be completed to check for brain lesions that may detect MS. To my surprise, a lesion was detected on my brainstem, which is usually an indication of MS. My neurologist quickly ordered a second MRI, to rescan and also had my cervical neck scanned for further lesions. In the end my results never revealed any further lesions and my neurologist stuck with the fibromyalgia diagnosis but never full ruled out MS. My primary doctor was very through in his tests prior to me seeing specialist. My neurologist was impressed at how through he was and ran all necessary tests needed and reran those tests more than once to make sure the results were conclusive.
My advice to you, if you are still in the diagnosis stage and suspect you may have fibromyalgia and want your doctor to investigate further……
- Be sure to see doctors, specialists, and any other health care providers that believe in fibromyalgia. There are many health care providers out there that still think fibromyalgia is in one’s head or are not up to current information on fibromyalgia. Never let anyone convince you that fibromyalgia is just a mental state, and you are imagining it. The pain we feel is real and so are the symptoms experienced. I questioned this myself early on and wondered if I was mentally ill – thinking I was in pain, and it was not really there. The best thing my doctor did was tell me the pain I feel is real and that I was not just going crazy!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask as many as need!
- Do your own research. Arm yourself with knowledge. Doctors often discourage you from researching on your own. My doctor encouraged it. It helped me understand fibromyalgia on a different level. Doctors often explain in medical terms which can be confusing and face it “over our heads”. Reaching it yourself and reading it in simpler terms is easier to understand and comprehend without a medical background.
- Try to connect with other people diagnosed with fibromyalgia. There are so many wonderful groups on Facebook these days help us stay connected. Connecting with others who are experiencing the exact same as you or similar, even if they are at a distance makes one feel not so alone during this journey.