Contributed by: Rachana Arya
In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some basic myths surrounding Fibromyalgia, so if you missed that be sure to check it out. In continuation of our previous post, here we look at some more myths and misconceptions surrounding the condition.
Fibromyalgia is a hotly debated topic in the medical community with several myths and misunderstandings. This is mainly because everyone who has fibromyalgia experiences it differently. Furthermore, its diagnosis and treatment remain points of controversy, with some even questioning its existence. Many patients diagnosed with FM have to defend themselves from all of the misconceptions that they must encounter, plus face the challenges with receiving adequate treatment.
Knowing the facts — and being able to separate them from myths — is essential to someone living with the condition. Today’s part two of our series will look at a couple of additional common facts — and myths — about fibromyalgia.
Myth #1: A special fibromyalgia diet is needed
There is no special diet that can help you manage your fibromyalgia symptoms. Instead, sufferers should concentrate on eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in whole grains, lean protein sources, low-fat dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and lots of water. Foods with added sugar should be avoided as they may worsen some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. It’s also a good idea to limit your intake of caffeine, refined sugars, fried foods, red meat, processed foods, and alcohol.
Myth #2: Complementary and alternative treatments are pointless
Meditative movement therapies — such as tai chi, yoga, and reiki — appear to improve fibromyalgia symptoms such as sleep disruption, fatigue, and depression. Similarly, a deep tissue massage has been found to help with pain, fatigue, and sleep disruption in women with fibromyalgia.
Myth #3: You should avoid exercise
The most effective treatment for fibromyalgia is exercise. Walking, riding, and swimming are examples of such activities. Aerobic exercise, in particular, has been demonstrated to aid with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Many people benefit from stretching and strength training. If you have fibromyalgia, exercise may be uncomfortable or challenging at first, but regular physical activity might help you feel better.
Myth #4: Fibromyalgia and arthritis are similar conditions
Aside from pain and tiredness, fibromyalgia and arthritis are two different conditions and have very little in common. The pain from arthritis is concentrated in the joints of the hands, wrists, knees, and balls of the feet. On the other hand, pain from fibromyalgia is more widespread and muscles as well as connective tissues throughout the body are affected. In addition, unlike arthritis, fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory condition. The pain associated with fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and is caused by changes in the way the central nervous system works.
Myth #5: It’s a mental condition
Whether FM is a physical or mental condition remains contested. Debates continue to exist on whether fibromyalgia is a psychological or physical illness. This is mainly due to the fact that many persons who have it also suffer from depression and/or anxiety.
Myth #6: Fibromyalgia is a ‘Catchall’ diagnosis
Many people are under the impression that fibromyalgia is a “catchall” diagnosis – a catchphrase that is often slapped on FM patients to encompass all the aches and health complaints that plague them. However, just because there are and no diagnostic tests to definitively confirm the presence of fibromyalgia, doesn’t mean that there is no pain and sensitivity.
Myth #7: There’s nothing you can do to ease the condition
There is no cure for fibromyalgia and over-the-counter painkillers do not work for everyone, so treatment for fibromyalgia should be multifactorial and individualized. Based on specific issues and symptoms, there are a variety of interventions available including a few anti-seizure medications, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and sleep medicines. Many persons with fibromyalgia find that non-pharmacological techniques work just as well, if not better than medicines. If your current line of treatment isn’t providing you with the relief you require, work with your doctor to try something different, whether it’s a new medication or a new approach.
Myth #8: Fibromyalgia symptoms can be made to go away with a pill
For many patients with fibromyalgia, drug therapies alone are ineffective. They are more likely to help the symptoms lessen rather than eliminate. Experts suggest using a multimodal approach to best address fibro symptom management. Many treatment options are available to address fibromyalgia’s various symptoms such as exercise, yoga, acupuncture, stress reduction, massage therapy, and possibly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
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