Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is incredibly hard to detect and diagnose. Its primary symptoms of overall pain, fatigue, and “feeling off” apply to many conditions, which means that you may struggle with this issue for years before being diagnosed. There are also no tests or scans that can detect fibromyalgia, which means that doctors will rely heavily on your personal testimony and pain history.
If you suspect you may have fibromyalgia, be prepared for a long road ahead as the treatment, innumerable doctors visits, and countless tests can really try your patience. Researchers are still not aware of what causes fibromyalgia, even though it is one of the most common chronic pain conditions, affecting an estimated 10 million people (primarily women) in the United States alone. Thankfully, there are ways to handle this condition, which means that an accurate diagnosis is essential and worth all of the hassle. Though these symptoms apply to many conditions, here are a few ways to tell that you could have fibromyalgia and what steps to take next:
Fatigue is one of those frustrating symptoms that could simply be an indicator that you need more sleep or a clue that something more alarming is going on in your body. If you get an adequate amount of rest, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and stick to a regular sleep schedule yet still find yourself worn out and exhausted, you may have fibromyalgia. Small things like grocery shopping, or a moderate workout might drain you of all energy, and you find yourself losing interest in activities because you are so fatigued.
Your body will often feel overwhelmed by widespread pain, making it hard to get up and perform routine tasks due to increased sensitivity and constant aching. The pain can be deep, sharp, dull, throbbing, or aching. It may ebb and flow in waves or remain constant. One of the key factors of fibromyalgia is that the pain can affect your entire body, including your muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the joints. Pressure points around the joints may also be particularly painful when pressed. This is one of the most widespread and debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia, with 87% of participants in a National Health Interview Survey reporting that they experienced pain most or every day of their lives.
Everyone with fibromyalgia experiences widespread pain and fatigue, but the condition presents itself differently in each person, which means that you may or may not have the following symptoms as well.
- Depression and anxiety
- Swelling and tingling in hands and feet
- Morning stiffness
- Sleep issues
- Brain fog
- Irritable bowel syndrome
What to do
Step 1: Since there are no tests to check for fibromyalgia, your detailed notetaking will be critical in coming to a diagnosis. Keep a record of any aches and pains you have, their intensity on a scale of 1-10, how frequently they occur, and where they are on your body. It is also a good idea to list times when you are excessively tired or experiencing brain fog, and if any of your family members have fibromyalgia, since there is some genetic factor involved. Bring this notebook when you go in for your appointment.
Step 2: Most primary care doctors will not immediately jump to fibromyalgia unless they are familiar with the condition. To save time and hassle, make an appointment with a rheumatologist, a doctor who’s an expert in issues dealing with joints, muscles, and bones
Step 3: Using a series of detailed questions and potentially some tests to rule out other conditions, your doctor will determine if you have fibromyalgia and will put together a treatment plan to help manage your condition.
Though you may need prescription medication to help manage your pain, maintaining a consistent schedule of light aerobic exercise can be incredibly beneficial. Stick to things like swimming, walking, bike riding, yoga, and tai chi to keep your muscles strong and relaxed. It may also be a good idea to practice meditation, which can help you relax and take your mind off of the pain.
-The UpWellness Team