Fibromyalgia is a disease that has mystified its sufferers ever since it was discovered. The condition encompasses several chronic and persistent physical symptoms that manifest throughout the individual’s daily life. Furthermore, the particularity behind the disease is that, for the longest time, its symptoms seemingly had no underlying physical cause. Due to this fact, it was considered purely a product of somatization. In other words, clinicians frequently believed that fibromyalgia was a byproduct of a psychological disorder present within the affected individual.
Nowadays, researchers found that fibromyalgia is not of psychological nature; the disease is believed to be caused by a chemical imbalance in the person’s central and peripheral nervous systems through which the physical symptoms manifest. Said symptoms revolve mainly around persistent and chronic physical pain in certain points of the body. For this reason, said points are frequently referred to as trigger points and, though their location can vary from person to person, pain is the common trait shared by all who suffer from fibromyalgia.
The other characteristic of this condition, which individuals that suffer from it also share, is the constant and persistent fatigue. No matter how much rest they get at night, some patients can manifest perennial fatigue during the day, which can severely limit their performance and potential during their waking hours. Though this symptom can usually be improved by having several naps throughout the day, the more active patients will frequently struggle with these feelings of tiredness as they could hardly spare the time needed to unwind and rest their body.
Fortunately, fibromyalgia today is more researched than ever, and it no longer mystifies professionals in the subject as much as it did years ago. However, despite the knowledge there is about the disease today, there are still some myths on the matter which only help to perpetuate misconceptions about fibromyalgia.
The Myths & Truths
Throughout the years, fibromyalgia has constantly baffled both specialists that study it, as well as patients, due to its seemingly untreatable nature which promotes symptomatic approaches and the difficulty in establishing a causal relation between said symptoms and their cause. However, now that there is more about the disease, here are the most common myths and misconceptions, as well as some truths, about fibromyalgia:
Myth: Fibromyalgia Sufferers are Very Fragile Individuals
Many people believe that those who suffer from fibromyalgia are these fragile individuals that must be treated with the utmost care, lest we risk breaking their bodies. In reality, those who suffer from this disease are no worse or less than the average person; the only difference is that they could be, at times, in pain due to their condition. Furthermore, most of those who suffer from fibromyalgia have sensitive trigger points, which, when touched directly, could cause pain and discomfort to the user. For this reason, a good assistant to anyone that is constantly suffering from a fibromyalgia episode will know to lend support for moving around and performing basic household tasks with the person in a way that won’t disturb said sensitive areas.
Myth: Sleeping it Off is Always the Best Solution
Another misconception is that those who are not familiar with fibromyalgia often regard the condition as a transitory virus or flu and recommend for them to remain in bed for as long as possible. While the extra rest can work wonders to reduce their constant fatigue and feelings of exhaustion, the problem with sleeping lies not in the act itself, but in the muscle pains complicating the act of finding a comfortable position in which to do so. For this reason, most who suffer from fibromyalgia opt to stay active, as moving around could somewhat dull the pain, as opposed to rolling around in bed, struggling in vain to find a good position in which to get some rest. This doesn’t mean, however, that some might have an easier time napping and sleeping at night; in which cases the person should make the best of it and get as much rest as possible.
Myth: Fibromyalgia is Not an Actual Disease
One of the most important myths which about fibromyalgia revolves around the clinician’s judgment about the disease. Despite having lots of recent evidence to suggest that the disease has a neurological origin to all its symptoms, there are still specialists who don’t regard fibromyalgia as a proper disease, and instead, opt to treat them as a set of individual symptoms which must be addressed through medication. Worse yet, some clinicians outright approach the disease as purely due to somatization and refer patients that could use their aid to other specialists which may have nothing to do with their condition. In reality, while psychological duress can definitely exacerbate the person’s symptoms, it has been already discovered that fibromyalgia incidence is rooted in a neurological imbalance. For this reason, the disease must be approached by an experienced team of neurologists, endocrinologists, and other related specialists in order to provide the very best treatment to the patient.
Myth: Fibromyalgia is a Middle-Aged Woman’s Disease
This one is not 100% false, nor is it completely true. Yes, fibromyalgia is a disease which affects women 10 times more often than it does men. However, it is not exclusive to the gender as there are also men who have been diagnosed with it, and the struggle with its symptoms on a daily basis. Moreover, the condition is not exclusive either to middle-aged women & men, as it frequently affects both genders in the 20-50 age range, which includes middle-aged individuals, young adults and, in some cases, people in their late teens.
Myth: People with fibromyalgia refuse to get help for their condition
One of the most frequently asked questions regarding people with fibromyalgia often revolves around why said individuals take so long to seek help if they constantly feel under the weather and in constant pain. After all, it makes sense to look for professional help if someone is experiencing fibromyalgia symptoms, and weariness to the point of not being able to get around by themselves, right?
Well, as it turns out, fibromyalgia rarely manifests on “healthy” individuals who lead a positive lifestyle. Yes, it is a neurological disorder which is caused by a chemical imbalance in the person’s hormones and neurotransmitters, but it is a condition which is mostly accompanied by other debilitating diseases. As a matter of fact, individuals that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or any type of psychological disorder are much more likely to develop fibromyalgia. It is suspected that the reason behind this is that, while the person might already be predisposed to develop fibromyalgia somewhere down the line, the stress and psychological trauma caused by other diseases might trigger the disease’s incidence in said person.
The truth about fibromyalgia is that, more often than not, it is a disease which requires a multidimensional approach in order to guarantee the best results. While the symptoms are similar across all the persons that suffer from it, they all manifest the condition in their unique way. This statement isn’t helped by the fact that, even today, there are still individuals that feel mystified by the disease to the point of not recognizing it as such.