Fibromyalgia affects about 4 million American adults, yet despite its prevalence, some physicians still have trouble diagnosing the disease and helping patients manage it. In fact, fibromyalgia is a widely misunderstood chronic pain disorder, and that lack of understanding and awareness has fueled a lot of myths and misconceptions.
At Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation in Pembroke Pines, Florida, David Berkower, DO, and his team help patients find lasting relief for fibromyalgia symptoms. In this blog, Dr. Berkower dispels some of the misunderstandings surrounding this disorder.
Myth 1: It just affects women
Fact: It’s true that fibromyalgia affects mostly women, as about 80% of those with the disorder are women. However, the remaining 20% are men, which means this disorder affects both genders. Typically, symptoms begin during middle age and become more common with age. However, fibromyalgia can affect younger people, too — even children.
Myth 2: It’s all in your head
Fact: The symptoms of fibromyalgia are very real, and so is the disorder that causes them. Researchers know that fibromyalgia is a processing disorder that involves the central nervous system. What they don’t understand is the underlying cause of the disorder. Fibromyalgia achieved official recognition by the World Health Organization almost 30 years ago, and it’s also part of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).
Myth 3: Fibromyalgia is the same as arthritis
Fact: Both arthritis and fibromyalgia can cause considerable pain and stiffness. However, arthritis is caused by wear and tear on the joints, or, in some cases, by an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints. Fibromyalgia, on the other hand, is a disorder that affects the nerves and muscles of the body. These very different conditions require very different treatments.
Myth 4: There’s no treatment for fibromyalgia symptoms
Fact: While there’s no cure for fibromyalgia and no way to prevent it, there are plenty of treatments that can help reduce fibromyalgia symptoms, including the most common symptoms of pain and fatigue. Because each person experiences the disorder differently, Dr. Berkower tailors each treatment to the needs, symptoms, health, and lifestyle of the individual patient to get the best results.
Myth 5: Exercise should be avoided
Fact: The American College of Rheumatology says regular and frequent exercise can actually be beneficial for reducing the symptoms of fibromyalgia, and regular exercise should be part of your treatment plan. You should start slowly and don’t overdo it, which is good advice for any exercise regimen.
Myth 6: Medication is the only way to reduce symptoms
Fact: Medication can play an important role in helping many patients feel better. But that’s just one part of a comprehensive treatment plan. Self-care is also important. This would include eating healthy foods, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising regularly. Many patients also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help them deal with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and isolation. Your treatment may include one or multiple modalities, based on your unique needs.
Find relief for fibromyalgia symptoms
Fibromyalgia can cause a broad array of symptoms, such as stiffness, fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, anxiety, jaw pain, depression, gastrointestinal issues, and problems focusing. Not everyone will have all of these symptoms, and symptoms can vary in severity.
Understanding the facts behind fibromyalgia is an important step toward finding relief from its symptoms. If you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia or you’re experiencing its symptoms, book an appointment online or over the phone with Berkower Pain & Spine Rehabilitation to learn how we can help you feel better.