Today, there can still be many misconceptions about fibromyalgia. I often feel these misconceptions are formed because there is such a negative stigma in regard to fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is being acknowledged more as time passes, but it can still be misunderstood by many. More people are getting diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome and at present it is considered a disability (at least in some areas in the world). I personally think it should be considered a disability world-wide – being that it is such a debilitating condition.
1. Fibromyalgia is all in your head and not real. Fibromyalgia is NOT a mental illness. Fibromyalgia pain and symptoms are not just being imagined and made up by the person experiencing it. The pain is real, or so many people wouldn’t have the same experiences. Technically it is in our heads, but not in the way people are referring to.
2. Fibromyalgia only affects women. Fibromyalgia is more prevalent in women, but men can also be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It does not just affect women.
3. There are medications or prescriptions that can make fibromyalgia heal and you will be cured. Currently there is no cure for fibromyalgia. Medications are used to help relief pain and symptoms but does not cure fibromyalgia. One must adjust and learn to manage their fibromyalgia.
4. Fibromyalgia is caused by arthritis or is an autoimmune disease. Fibromyalgia is actually considered a neurological condition (at this point). In fibromyalgia the brain reads signals incorrectly, resulting in the body misfiring pain signals. A person with fibromyalgia may receive a hug, but the brain perceives this sensation as pain. I have read articles as of recent stating it may be an auto immune disorder. If it is eventually considered an autoimmune disorder, maybe rheumatologists will begin to treat fibromyalgia directly. The rheumatologist I saw stated they don’t treat fibromyalgia and it is best overlooked by a family physician. A rheumatologist is often involved to rule out any rheumatoid conditions that may mimic fibromyalgia. There may be the odd situation where a rheumatologist stay involved depending on circumstances.
5. People diagnosed with fibromyalgia should eat a special diet. There is actually no specific diet. Eating certain foods can create inflammation to arise in one’s body. Doctors or dieticians may direct you to try eliminating certain foods. However, there are a few diets out there believed to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms, but as far as I know these are just trials to see if they help. Some people might find going gluten free lowers their fibromyalgia symptoms, while someone else may not see a change.
6. Pain felt in fibromyalgia is minimal. Pain felt is actually very painful. I often compare it to pain that people with bone cancer may feel as my bones in my body actually ache. On the McGill pain index, fibromyalgia pain is just below unprepared childbirth and almost on the same pain level as prepared childbirth. I’m not sure if this pain index is still used today, but it gives one an understanding on how painful fibromyalgia can be. In a 2020 research study, it revealed that the intramuscular pressure found in muscles of people with fibromyalgia is found to be three times higher than people without fibromyalgia. That is a-lot of pressure on our muscles! No wonder our muscles hurt and ache the way they do!
7. Avoid exercise. While exercise may increase the pain levels, it is still important to move and incorporate some exercise into your day. Obviously, I don’t mean run a marathon, but some movement would benefit. If one doesn’t move the more it hurts when you do need to move. Cleaning, cooking, laundry and walking around the house are all considered exercise in my eyes. You are still using your muscles. If you do not move around your pain threshold may become even lower causing you more issues down the road.
8. One must have 11/18 tender points to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Maybe years ago, this was the case. Today, doctors may not even ask about tender points. They look at other aspects too such as history and symptoms. Tender points can give a good indication if fibromyalgia is present. Often patients are still asked to fill out the tender point form. A study revealed that 20% of those included in the study reported not having any tender points.
9. Fibromyalgia only affects older people. Fibromyalgia can form at any age. I know some get diagnosed early during childhood or in their teenage years.
10. Having fibromyalgia makes you a hypochondriac. Did you know fibromyalgia can have over 150 symptoms? Most likely all the symptoms one speaks about they truly do experience them – proving it doesn’t make a person a hypochondriac. I know my symptom list grows by the day! Each symptom needs to be treated.
11. Fibromyalgia is a “catchall” diagnosis. There are specific criterias that must be met to get a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. People don’t get diagnosed because doctors can’t figure out what is wrong with them. If one does not meet enough of these criterias, one is not diagnosed with fibromyalgia.