Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Myths making the rounds
- “Oh, fibromyalgia? Isn’t that the disease where people are just too sensitive and touchy?”
- “I’ve heard of fibromyalgia. That disease where everyone’s a complainer!”
- “Fibromyalgia syndrome? Seriously? Well, you look fine. You’re just too lazy, aren’t you?”
- “Really? Doesn’t everyone feel tired and run down?”
Understanding fibromyalgia can be difficult, especially with so much contradictory information available. If you’re one of the millions of fibro patients, you’re definitely aware of some of the “harmless” statements directed at individuals who are suffering. These invalidated comments from family and friends depict a lack of knowledge about the condition and how it affects you. Knowing the facts — and being able to separate them from myths — is essential to someone living with a disabling condition.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder of the central nervous system that is characterized by deep tissue pain all over the body. This pain is accompanied by fatigue and other symptoms. The name is from the Latin word “fibro” (fibrosis tissue)+ the Greek terms “myo” (muscle) and “algia” (pain).
What causes fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia’s actual cause is uncertain. Certain factors, according to researchers, may play a role in the disease’s development:
- Traumatic or stressful occurrences, such as car accidents
- Viral infections
- Genetic predisposition
Who is at risk for fibromyalgia?
Anyone can get fibromyalgia, but it is more common among:
Four common fibromyalgia myths
In the first part of this review, we deconstruct four extremely common (but totally false) health myths you’ve heard about fibromyalgia:
Myth #1: It’s all in your head
Fibromyalgia is not imaginary at all! Who would intentionally want to create a life of excruciating pain and exhaustion? Because the pain is invisible, a person may appear healthy on the outside – which makes it difficult for some to understand and fibro symptoms are waived off as being psychosomatic (“in the head”). But for the millions of people who experience the pain and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, the disorder is all too real. The condition causes is severely debilitating muscle pain. Calling it “in the head” – meaning you just make it up – is demeaning and very demoralizing to these patients.
Myth #2: You’re just tired
While fatigue and exhaustion is a common symptom of fibromyalgia, fatigue in fibromyalgia goes far beyond just being tired. Instead, it is closely interwoven with other symptoms — including pain, sleep disruption, and mood disturbances — and all of these symptoms can influence one another.
Myth #3: Fibromyalgia only affects women
It is a myth that fibromyalgia is a disorder that almost exclusively affects women. This myth that it is purely a ‘woman’s problem is far from the truth. Fibromyalgia affects both men and women, but women are significantly more prone to acquire it. However, both genders experience symptoms differently with fibromyalgia symptoms being less intense in men. While women typically experience tenderness or pain in only 6 of 18 tender points, as compared to women who may have 11 places in the body that are tender.
Myth #4: The pain is minimal and does not affect daily life
Chronic, severe, intractable pain all over the body rules the life of those who get fibro. For some people with fibromyalgia, the pain may be so severe and disabling that they are unable to get off the bed, put on clothes, cook meals, drive and get groceries. Other common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Problems with thinking and memory
- Depression and anxiety
- Frequent headaches, including migraines
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Numbness or tingling sensation in the hands and feet
- Pain in the face or jaw
- Sleep problems
If you have the above symptoms that last longer than three months, see a doctor. You can cope with the disease, relieve symptoms, and enhance your quality of life with the right therapy and lifestyle adjustments.
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