By Dan Clauw, M.D.
Director, U-M’s Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center
Living with chronic pain can be overwhelming, but it’s important to understand your fibromyalgia as best you can. Researchers continue to study the condition, and staying up-to-date can help you become a more effective partner in managing your fibromyalgia.
Consider these five tips to take charge of your fibromyalgia treatment:
1. Don’t focus on what caused your fibromyalgia.
Scientists don’t always know what caused your illness or why certain events in your life may have led to the symptoms you feel every day. Work with your doctor to determine the best treatments for you and keep looking forward, not backward.
2. Look for treatments, not cures.
Very few chronic medical illnesses have known cures, including fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. Many websites purport to have identified a cure for fibromyalgia when in fact they are just trying to take your money. Until researchers find a cure, focus your energy on treating your symptoms.
3. Find the right health care provider for you.
There are many health care providers who have treated fibromyalgia and are willing to work with you to help manage your symptoms. You’ll want to remember to think ahead, maybe even write out your comments and questions before the visit, so you can explain, not complain. Also be mindful that it will be impossible to get all of your issues dealt with in a single visit or even a few visits so just focus on a few issues in each visit and schedule more frequent return visits to get all of your issues addressed.
4. Remember your overall well-being.
Get out and exercise more, or try cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Both are known to help manage pain, fatigue and mood changes, so try to get active when your symptoms are feeling under control. Increase your day-to-day function bit by bit, but don’t overdo it just because you finally feel pretty good.
5. Do your own clinical trial.
Pay attention to the treatment you’re using, so you can be an active partner in managing your fibromyalgia. When you start something new, talk to your health care provider about the safety of the treatment. Notice if you feel better or worse when starting or stopping treatments, and keep a log to help you notice patterns. This will enable you and your provider to determine whether this treatment should be continued. However, be sure to check with your physician before you make any changes.
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