Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Preliminary Diagnosis: Fibromyalgia

I went to see my doctor yesterday, and finally made him listen, or perhaps I should say, I was finally open about how much pain I'm in, all the time, and everywhere. He poked some spots on my shoulders, back, hips, and OW. He says I have Fibromyalgia. He sounds very certain... I'm not as certian, but it would explain a lot.

What is Fibromyalgia, you ask?

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FM or FMS) is a common and disabling disorder affecting up to 15% of the population (according to a study at McMaster University), women more often than men. Despite the condition's frequency, the diagnosis is often missed - often due to the way it is diagnosed.

FMS patients experince widespread pain, disturbed sleep, and exhaustion from head to toe. Fibromyalgia literally means pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons—the soft fibrous tissues of the body. Although the muscles hurt everywhere, they are not the only cause of the pain. Instead, the diffuse, body-wide symptoms are greatly magnified by malfunctions in the way the nervous system processes pain.

FMS often comes with many other issues, it keeps bad company: migraines, tension headaches, irritiable bowl syndrome, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (jaw pain), and a whole host of others, these are just the ones I have.

Reading, about the symptoms, was like reading a page of my life, so to speak. I certainly present this way. I'm not sure I have enough tender 'trigger points', but I sure as heck have a lot of the other symptoms. Thankfully not all to the severity mentioned in some articles.

One thing that always kills me when reading about these things is the... level of docotor's surprise that depression goes along with chronic pain conditions. I mean, hello! if you lived with chronic pain for years on end, you'd be bleeding depressed too! Especially when you consider this gem of a quote from neuroscientist Linda Watkins, Ph.D., of the University of Colorado at Boulder:

"Because the current definition of a good drug for chronic pain is one that fails to provide adequate pain relief 60-80% of the time, more efficient pain control would be most welcomed."*

That indeed is a frightening thought. Still, it can't get any worse than living with this for, oh, I'm guessing ten years, undiagnosed. It just has to get better.

My doctor gave me a drug to try - for the pain. He finally understands just how sensitive I am to drugs, and has me on a low dose, and wants to monitor my condition. If this doesn't work, then it's off to a rheumatologist for me.

I have some hope. I know I'll never be 100%. I've come to accept that chronic pain is going to stay chronic for me, but what I want, what I'm really hoping for, is improvement - to get to a level of pain I can bear; to be able to manage my pain; to not just have to suffer through it day in and day out with no way whatsoever to make it better, ever. That's what I can't handle, the utter lack of hope, the lack of control of any kind. I want to be able to have some say in things, and right now I don't feel like I do.

So Fibromyalgia may not be good, but living with it for as long as believe I have, undiagnosed, is way worse. Knowing is better. Even if this isn't what I have - diagnosis is SO fuzzy for this condition - at least it's a step in the right direction. My doctor understands how much pain I'm in, he wants to help me, he's willing to send me to someone else if he can't. This is good. This I can live with. This makes it easier to bare - there is something to look forward to, something to hope for.

*Watkins LR, et al. TRENDS in Neurosciences 28(12):661-669, 2005.

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