Conventional Treatments

Problems with Conventional Fibromyalgia Treatment

When it comes to experiencing a tremendous amount of pain, those fighting fibromyalgia ought to win a trophy for their relentless contention with pain.  After all, they feel it and fight it just about every day.

Fibromyalgia is one of the over 100 autoimmune diseases wreaking havoc in society today. In essence, an autoimmune disease is when the immune system attacks itself because it thinks that it is a foreign body like a virus or nasty bacteria. In other words, it is confused.  It is doing its job- which is to defend the body- but it thinks that various parts of the body are the enemies.Conventional Treatments

Fibromyalgia is an intriguing disease that is characterized by musculoskeletal pain throughout the body. Fatigue, sleep difficulties, and memory issues accompany the pain as well.  Although research on the disease is limited, it is believed that the brain of someone with fibromyalgia processes pain signals differently than someone who doesn’t, as pain sensations are amplified greatly.

Research shows that about 5 million people suffer from this disease. It is not know why, but more women suffer from fibromyalgia than men. Along with the previous symptoms mentioned,  sufferers also tend to struggle with additional symptoms, such as:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Endometriosis
  • Interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome)
  • Vulvodynia (chronic vulvar pain)

Diagnosing fibromyalgia

If you talk to those who have fibromyalgia, many will tell you their frustrating stories of how long it took to get an accurate diagnosis.  In fact, the average time to get an accurate diagnosis of many of the autoimmune disorders is between two to four years.  This oftentimes includes seeing up to a dozen different doctors chasing such a diagnosis.

For example, let’s say Jill is suffering from intense pain in her lower back. She goes to her primary physician who ends up referring her to a chiropractor.  The next month Jill is suffering from pain in her right hip and groin area.  She is in a lot of pain. She ends up going to Urgent Care and they treat her for a urinary tract infection and give her antibiotics.  A week later she finished the medication, yet the pain remains.

Jill goes to her primary doctor eight times within one year with various pain points in her body. She is completely frustrated with herself for having to go to the doctor so often and feels ashamed because at one point her doctor insinuated that her pain was all in her head.  She’s tired of feeling tired and hurting. She’s tired of not knowing what disease she is fighting. She’s missed work, cried herself to sleep many nights, and her family thinks she is just suffering from major depression.

The reality of fibromyalgia

This is the reality of many who suffer from fibromyalgia and though the medical field is getting faster at recognizing and diagnosing this disease, still many physicians do not recognize the symptoms quickly and make the appropriate referrals or try unsuccessfully to treat the disease themselves.

The best type of doctor to see for fibromyalgia is a rheumatologist, who can usually make an accurate diagnosis. Then you are left with possible options for conventional treatment, which is considered problematic for many fibromyalgia sufferers due to the number of side effects caused by the medications.

Common conventional treatments

Medication. The treatment of fibromyalgia ought to be a team approach with various specialists involved. Several medication are typical treatments of fibromyalgia, with research currently being done for newer and more effective treatments.

Lyrica is one of the favored medications used, as it is the only prescription drug that’s been FDA approved. Other medications used are Cymbalta and Savella.  All of these drugs alter the chemistry of the brain in how it perceives pain, providing some relief in many, but also producing hefty side effects like:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Bone thinning

Other medications. Painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed frequently, as fibromyalgia sufferers contend with a great deal of pain.  On the mild side, over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol and Motrin are prescribed. On the severe pain side, opiates are prescribed to help with pain.  It is also common for benzodiazepines and antidepressants to be prescribed, as anxiety and depression are commonly experienced by those with fibromyalgia.

The problems with conventional treatment

Many men and women that have fibromyalgia will tell you that they’ve had a tough fight not only against the disease, but the medical field as well.  When it takes a year or more to find an accurate diagnosis, the stress and frustration that comes along with the disease can become a great burden to bear.  It’s safe to say that the medical field has good intentions; they want people to get well, but somehow those that tend to have idiopathic diseases have to do cartwheels and jump through circus hoops until they can find the right doctor that will be able to diagnose and treat them effectively- not to mention have some genuine compassion.

Take note that currently there is no medical cure for fibromyalgia, so the medicines available simply treat some of the symptoms. Now the problem with this is that those medications produce many side effects, which sometimes need more medication to counter effect those.   So not only do you get prescribed medication for your immune system attacking itself, you get prescribed medication for the pain that accompanies that, the anxiety that accompanies rampant pain running through your body, then you need more medication to contend with the nausea the first medicine causes and then you need to take more medicine to combat the constipation that comes from the second medication, and on and on.

When asking those who suffer from fibromyalgia what their chief complaints are against conventional medicine and doctors, the following are typical responses:

“Doctors misunderstand how debilitating and life changing chronic pain is.”

“If they don't have an answer, that's where they stop, literally. Most don't try to figure out the source of the problem. They have an assembly line mentality.”

“They lack empathy and an understanding that a patient is a person not a file to be filled out. We want a diagnosis for understanding.”

May the medical system accelerate in growth when it comes to diagnosing, treating, and showing compassion and empathy for fibromyalgia sufferers.