You think you have fibromyalgia – what should you do? The steps to receiving a fibromyalgia diagnosis can take weeks, months, or years, but following these tips will help you get a quicker diagnosis (or eliminate fibromyalgia sooner).
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Is fibromyalgia real?
First and foremost, make sure your physician acknowledges fibromyalgia. If he/she does not, receiving a fibromyalgia diagnosis will take longer, if ever, to obtain. Many physicians recognize fibromyalgia as being real, but there are still many that do not believe it is real.
Bottom line: Fibromyalgia IS real with real symptoms. It is up to you to voice what you are experiencing and help your body to heal. Don’t let anyone say that what you are experiencing isn’t real or in your head. I know how much that hurts to hear someone say that to you.
You Think You Have Fibromyalgia; What Should You do?
Here are some steps to take if you think you are living with fibromyalgia. This does not guarantee a diagnosis (or exclusion of it), but rather move the process along a bit quicker. These are in no particular order.
Keep a pain log.
This is a very crucial part in helping your physician determine the severity of the pain you are experiencing. Read more about how to describe your pain. In your journal, include the following (be specific for each item):
- the type of pain it is – stabbing, throbbing, dull
- where the pain is – right thigh, upper left shoulder, stomach, chest
- how long the pain lasts – fifteen minutes, one hour
- the severity of the pain – rate it a number based on a scale one to ten with one being no pain and ten being severe pain
- what time you experienced the pain – morning, one hour after waking up, fifteen minutes after dinner
- what you were doing when the pain started – sitting, washing dishes, walking
- weather for the day – sunny, raining, cold (yes, weather affects your pain levels)
- record any sensitivities to light, noise, taste, smell, temperature or touch
Track your sleeping habits.
Before tracking your nightly sleeping patterns, describe your sleeping area (i.e. bed, tv in room, cool air, light shining in the window) as well as your nightly routine (i.e. brush teeth, read in bed for thirty minutes, watch tv in bed for one hour, turn off light, go to sleep). Read more about how to improve your sleep. In your journal, include the following:
- what time you went to bed each night
- how long you remember staying awake before falling asleep
- what times you woke up during the night
- how long you stayed awake
- the quality of sleep (restful, restless)
- any pains that may have woken you
- what time you woke up each morning
Keep a journal to track your emotions.
This can also be called your pain journal. Read more about the details of a pain journal. Write down any anxieties, mood swings, or other emotions as they come on. Not only will this keep track of your emotions throughout the days, but it will also help you release any negativity or stress you may be experiencing.
Keep a medical notebook.
This is a big one. It’s easy to forget any worries or questions you may have for your physician. Write down any questions or thoughts you want to discuss with your physician in your notebook. Keep it in your purse to help you remember those topics during your next appointment. Read more about how to do it.
Request labs before your next appointment.
Tell your physician you suspect fibromyalgia and request any labs that can be conducted prior to your next visit. This will cut out one to four weeks of waiting.
Keep a food journal.
Many foods affect pains in the body and can cause fibro flares. For example, dairy negatively affects irritable bowel syndrome and inflames symptoms. Keeping a food diary will help your doctor link the pains you are experiencing to any foods you are eating – if there is a link. This step will go along with the next tip of restricting your diet.
There are many foods that affect fibromyalgia. These foods include dairy, gluten, sugar, nightshade vegetables (eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes), simple carbs, and caffeine. Cut these foods out of your diet for one week and note any changes. Reintroduce one type of food back into your diet one week at a time. Track any changes. Noting these changes will reaffirm which foods affect your pain levels and will help you during the healing process. Find more foods that affect fibromyalgia.
Keeping track of your supplements such as vitamins and minerals will help your physician determine if you are lacking or getting too much of a vitamin or mineral. Please make sure your supplements are safe.
How to Approach Your Physician
When you ask your physician about fibromyalgia, do not be afraid to ask questions. I’m sure you have lots of questions that led you to believe you have fibromyalgia, so ask your physician and tell him/her your concerns. He/she may also review the fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria with you. If you feel as though your physician is minimizing, dismissing, or mocking your pain, find a new physician.
When my mom was diagnosed with fibromyalgia many years ago, it came years after living with the symptoms. Even after her physician suspected fibromyalgia, she had to go through an even longer process of elimination to confirm the diagnosis.
After living in pain for years because a physician told me that my pains were typical of being a mom and to “suck it up”, I finally voiced my concerns to my mom. She advised me of the above steps and this aided me in the quicker diagnosis of fibromyalgia with a new physician though reaching a diagnosis was still quite painful.
It May Not Be Fibromyalgia
But a quicker diagnosis is not the only purpose of these steps. It will also help the physician to quickly eliminate fibromyalgia if enough evidence is presented. Often times fibromyalgia masks other chronic illnesses which are crucial in the healing process.
Once a diagnosis has been received, you can choose how to approach your healing journey. There are various ways to treat fibromyalgia such as medicine (over-the-counter and prescription), physical therapy, acupuncture, natural or a combination of several.
The choice of healing is yours to make along with the guidance of your physician. Do not choose anything you are not comfortable with or have not researched.
After receiving a fibromyalgia diagnosis, what should you do? Read my series about the next steps after a diagnosis.