Fibromyalgia: How Your Rheumatologist Can Make a Difference

Fibromyalgia: How Your Rheumatologist Can Make a Difference

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a persistent health problem that results in widespread pain throughout the body with tenderness in the muscles, joints, tendons, and other areas. Patients with fibromyalgia are often fatigued and have difficulty sleeping. This condition is hard to diagnosis and treat. Your primary care physician may refer you to a rheumatologist to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia

If you are concerned that you have fibromyalgia, or if you have recently been diagnosed with the disease, you will have many questions. Following are some important facts about fibromyalgia:

  • Women are predominately affected by fibromyalgia. Statistics show that women are seven times more likely to have to have the disease than men.[1]
  • Rheumatologists diagnosis fibromyalgia based on a patient’s tender points and relevant symptoms
  • There is no specific test to diagnosis fibromyalgia, however, a rheumatologist may request lab work and other tests to exclude other diseases and conditions
  • There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but a rheumatologist can help you deal with your symptoms and find relief

In addition to widespread pain and tenderness in the muscles, joints, and tendons, fibromyalgia patients can suffer many other symptoms. You may experience:

  • Memory problems
  • Mood disorders, depression, or anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Problems with the digestive system such as irritable bowel syndrome or gastro esophageal reflux
  • Problems with the bladder
  • Pain in the pelvic area
  • Temporo-mandibular disorder, also known as TMJ

The symptoms of this disease are not constant. They can come and go at any time. Symptoms often vary in intensity. Patients report that they experience more intensity in their symptoms when they are resting, rather than when they are active. Plus, stress can play a huge part in the onset of certain fibromyalgia symptoms.

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

In the past, rheumatologists diagnosed fibromyalgia solely based on the existence of tender points. There are eighteen tender points located along the body. A positive diagnosis of fibromyalgia required that eleven of these tender points respond negatively to pressure.

Recently, new measures have been added to the tender points test. Rheumatologists now include physical exams, diagnostic testing, and other testing when making a diagnosis. Here is what your rheumatologist will consider when making a diagnosis:[2]

  • Tender points
  • Severity of fatigue, disrupted sleep, and cognitive problems over the last week
  • General physical health
  • Symptoms of pain and other identifying symptoms lasting longer than three months
  • Lab tests and diagnostic tests to rule out any other medical conditions that could be causing comparable symptoms

Treatment of Fibromyalgia

Your rheumatologist will treat your fibromyalgia with a combination of medicine and non-medication therapies. The U.S Food and Drug Administration has approved more than a few drugs for use in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Serotonin and norepinephrine aid in controlling pain by altering chemicals in the brain. Other medications like duxoxetine, (Cymbalta), and Lyrica are also being used by rheumatologists with great success to treat fibromyalgia.

Rheumatologists will suggest lifestyle changes that can aid in relieving your pain and managing your symptoms. Along with medication, simple lifestyle changes will enable you to greatly reduce your pain, increase your energy level, and cope with your symptoms.

Let’s look at several lifestyle suggestions your rheumatologist might offer:

  • Relaxation: Taking the time to relax can help reduce stress and relieve chronic pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia. Your rheumatologist can recommend meditation or yoga as a way to introduce relaxation into your lifestyle.
  • Make Sleep a Priority: Disrupted sleep patterns contribute to fibromyalgia symptoms. You possibly will be advised to get in the habit of going to bed and rising at the same time every day. During sleep, your body will self-repair, both physically and mentally. Cutting down on caffeine and naps can aid in nighttime sleeping. Also, if you smoke, stop. Nicotine is a stimulant and can inhibit good sleep.
  • Get Active: When you exercise you will reduce your pain level and fatigue. It may be hard at first, especially mentally, to get into an exercise routine. But, when you begin to see results you will be a believer!

You and your rheumatologist will work together to manage your fibromyalgia. It is important for you to educate yourself and be an active participant in your treatment.

References

[1] Fibromyalgia. (n.d.). Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/fibromyalgia.htm

[2]  Revising Fibromyalgia: One Year Later. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Rheumatologist: www.the-rheumatologist.org/details/article/1246893/Revising_Fibromyalgia_One_Year_Later.html

This article was originally published on July 11, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/7/2015