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Most Common Fibromyalgia Myths

Since seemingly the beginning of time, myths have circulated around patients reporting “abnormal”physical pain. The complexity of fibromyalgia has created confusion throughout the medical world, with misleading products obfuscating the line between fact and fiction. Angles are being pitched, most often to generate sales for “the product that can cure” fibromyalgia. It’s important to distinguish between fact and fiction, so that we can narrowly define the condition down to the root of its cause.

Here is an examination of the top fibromyalgia myths and the answers to debunk them:

1. Fibromyalgia is a fake condition that doesn’t really exist….

This is a misunderstanding that usually stems from the historical roots of fibromyalgia. Many individuals were originally told that their pain was “in their head.” It wasn’t until the late 1980’s that the term fibromyalgia was coined. In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology developed a research model for Fibromyalgia that used the term to describe pain in the soft muscle tissue.

The condition is included in the World Health Organization Tenth Revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems published in 1992.

According to Dr. Groshell, “people have had fibromyalgia ever since man has been walking upright. As long as there are faulty foot bio-mechanics, resulting from people’s genetics or lifestyle, there will be a susceptibility to fibromyalgia.”

2. Fibromyalgia patients can’t have a normal relationship.

Many times, it is difficult to maintain a healthy relationship when you are in severe pain. You lose interest in your surroundings, including the people who are closest to you. Part of our treatment in the Groshell office is to involve “significant others” in the protocol. We welcome partners and family members of fibromyalgia patients into the office. Once a partner or family member begins to understand what is happening to his/her loved one, he/she is better able to enter into the treatment plan. As in any illness, family support is very important. This is equally true for fibromyalgia patients. Oftentimes, it can actually bring people closer together as they face this phenomenon together and the patient starts to feel better. It is a commitment but the outcome can be very rewarding.

3. Fibromyalgia patients should not have sex.

As with relationships, fibromyalgia patients may not be “in the mood” when their pain is so severe. If you have a loving, understanding partner who is willing to listen to you and treat you respectfully and gently, there is no reason why you cannot engage in a sexual relationship. Once you start feeling better, you may notice your interest in sex increases, as well. Partners who participate in the treatment of this disease together do very well in the sex department. And that is all I am saying on that subject!

4. Fibromyalgia patients need to be very careful about their diet.

This is true. We discuss food and its effect on your body’s energy flow in our book. Simple carbohydrates and additives are especially toxic to people who suffer from fibromyalgia. There are wonderful sugar substitutes, including stevia, xylitol and, even better, whey low. Read labels on all foods. It has been said that we should all avoid the middle aisles in the grocery store. This is especially true for fibromyalgia sufferers. Processed foods, including foods with MSG, can throw you into a relapse just as quickly as simple sugar and refined wheat. In our office, we always knew when the day after Halloween came. Patients who were doing fine would come into the office looking like the “walking wounded.” They would splurge and get into the kids’ candy bags and, whoaaaaaa……

5. Fibromyalgia patients fake their pain.

The resultant blockage of energy fields that causes fibromyalgia makes it virtually impossible to see the disability in the individual. The patient will have pain that would usually entail a physical impairment; ie, soreness, aches, or shooting pain, but doctors do not find physical abnormalities in the painful area.

“Doctors get so confused because the patient has so many symptoms. They don’t know where to turn so they just start targeting the symptoms, trying to get those to go away,” said Dr. Groshell.

The focus on correcting a wide range of symptoms has led many to believe that the symptoms may be real and that fibromyalgia as an overall condition doesn’t exist.

Fibromyalgia patients go through a trigger point test examining 18 locations on the body. Eleven of these points must be painful upon the simple touch of a finger. If a patient reports chronic pain for longer than three months in conjunction with symptoms of sleep disorder, fatigue, and/or irritable bowel syndrome, this trigger point test is administered in order to rule out fibromyalgia.

6. Fibromyalgia can cause Lupus.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease with symptoms similar to fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia and Lupus are often confused with one another because of their similar symptoms, but they are separate conditions. Lupus is much more rare, and can be verified using a blood test. Lupus is often a precursor to fibromyalgia–it’s estimated that 30 percent of lupus patients develop fibromyalgia.

It is extremely rare for fibromyalgia to lead to Lupus. Fibromyalgia has a complex set of symptoms that range from immune dysfunction to depression–due to the complexities of the symptoms, it becomes very easy to assume that fibromyalgia leads to another condition with a similar group of symptoms. Much is still unknown about the connection between the conditions, but it is almost certain that fibro is not a direct cause of lupus.

7. Don’t exercise if you have fibromyalgia.

With fibromyalgia pain, it might be difficult to get out of bed some days, let alone exercise. Still, one of the best medicines for fibromyalgia is a daily exercise routine. No, you don’t have to go to the gym and do squats for 5 hours or run on the treadmill backwards, but something as simple as walking 20 to 30 minutes a day can be extremely beneficial. If that’s too much, start slowly at five minutes and work your way up. Swimming, jogging, and low resistance weight training are other options to keep your body active.

“The pain might get so bad that the individual doesn’t want to get out of bed. In this case, I try to recommend anything active, even if it’s as simple as walking to the end of the driveway and getting the mail,” Dr. Groshell says.

Staying active will keep your blood pressure low and will increase cardiovascular health. Do not feel the need to over-do it, especially on days when the pain is less severe. Try and build towards a consistent routine and use the self help treatment several times throughout the day. Once you begin your treatment, your pain should go away and you will actually feel like exercising.

8. Fibromyalgia can be fatal.

While fibromyalgia doesn’t cause direct physical harm, it can cause insurmountable damage to a patient’s lifestyle. The symptoms can flare up sporadically or can cause constant, severe discomfort. Much of the damage brought on by fibromyalgia is due to depression and chronic fatigue. Fibromyalgia can make your life very difficult, but there isn’t a direct link to fibromyalgia being fatal.

Opinions will continue to be thrown about as fact, until a new treatment comes to the forefront and solves fibromyalgia. Our objective is to provide that treatment, which is outlined in Dr. Groshell’s book on fibromyalgia, East Meets West From The Bottom Up.

We are seeing are support groups coming together across the world to debunk the myths; telling their stories of fact and denying the fiction being spewed out by people needing to see “scientific evidence.” To them, fibromyalgia may be a myth. But, ask the millions of individuals in the fibromyalgia community about what they think, and they’ll provide for you a much different answer…

Dr. Groshell
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