The steps to receiving a fibromyalgia diagnosis can take weeks, months, or even years – as in my case, but following these tips will help get a quicker diagnosis (or eliminate fibromyalgia sooner). These are in no particular order.
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. 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 that it is in your head. I know how much that hurts to hear someone say that to you.Tips to receive (or eliminate) a #fibromyalgia diagnosis faster and on YOUR terms! #beingfibromom #Diagnosis Click To Tweet
Keep a pain log.
This is a very crucial part of helping your physician determine the severity of the pain you are experiencing. 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 of 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
Keep a journal to track your emotions.
This can also be called your 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.
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). This makes you aware of both your sleeping area and your routine in order to better identify problematic areas.
In your journal, include the following (give your best approximate guess for each):
- what time you went to bed each night
- how long it took before falling asleep
- how many times you were awoken during the night
- how long you stayed awake when you did wake up
- the quality of sleep (restful, restless) you felt you got
- any pains that may have woken you during the night
- what time you woke up each morning
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.
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 aches, pains, and other issues. 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 aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms. 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.
The Fibro Diet
According to research and other studies, there are foods that will relieve fibromyalgia symptoms and other foods that will worsen symptoms. It can be overwhelming to track which ones are to be avoided, which can be okay to consume in smaller amounts, and the foods that should be avoided altogether. To make it easier, I’ve broken the foods down into the good, the bad, and the ugly.
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. (Remember to track your questions in your medical notebook.) 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.
Read the article Transforming a PowerLESS Patient into a PowerFUL Patient.
It May Not Be Fibromyalgia
And that’s okay. But a quicker diagnosis is not the only purpose of these steps. It will also help the physician 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.
You Have Fibromyalgia. Now What?
Receiving a diagnosis can be overwhelming and frustrating. Not only are you learning about the illness, but you also have to learn to heal from it and adjust your life to your new limits. It’s hard.
Here are a few articles about managing fibromyalgia symptoms compiled into one place including:
What to Eat (and not eat)