Five ways to get involved in your fibromyalgia treatment

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:

Dr. Dan Clauw headshot1. 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.

 

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When breast cancer treatment leads to breast cancer pain

breast cancer painmCancerPartner sat down recently with Norah Lynn Henry, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of internal medicine and a breast cancer specialist, to discuss breast cancer pain from treatment and how researchers are working on this pervasive problem.

mCancerPartner: Many breast cancer survivors are relieved to have moved past their surgery, chemotherapy and hormone treatments but now have the burden of pain from the treatment. What causes this pain?

Dr. Henry: Truthfully, as doctors and researchers we are not yet entirely certain, but we’re trying to find out. We know that peripheral nerve damage is common with chemotherapy and can cause numbness, tingling and pain. Chemotherapy may also affect the nerves in the brain and spinal column as well. Then there is the pain related to aromatase inhibitors (AIs), an anti-hormone treatment given to postmenopausal women.

mCancerPartner: What advice would you give to breast cancer survivors who are having pain as the result of their breast cancer treatments? Continue reading

When to ask for help: Talking about symptoms is first step in treating them

Larry Stone asked for help with symptoms related to his cancer treatment.

Larry Stone asked for help with symptoms related to his cancer treatment.

Larry Stone joined a clinical trial in fall 2009 to test a medication that offered the possibility of prolonging the effectiveness of the hormone therapy he was taking to stave off prostate cancer. When he started to experience mild numbness in his hands and feet later that spring, he didn’t think too much about it. But by June, pain and swelling sent him to the hospital overnight.

His hospital stay relieved his pain somewhat, but it prompted him to ask his oncology team a question: “Is there a specialist I can see?”

That simple question triggered a referral to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Symptom Management and Supportive Care Clinic. Stone met with Susan Urba, M.D. — the clinic’s leader — as well as pharmacist Emily Mackler, Pharm.D. Together, the team mapped out a program to reduce Stone’s discomfort.

“That was the start of a great relationship,” Stone said.

Read more about symptom management in the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s patient publication, Thrive. Or, if you are a U-M patient, call 1-877-907-0859 to make an appointment with the U-M Symptom Management and Supportive Care Clinic.

 

Traditional healing

Taxol had left Judith Stingo’s toes and thumbs feeling numb. I’s a common side effect of the drug, and it was discouraging to Stingo — particularly after doctors told her it could take as long as a year to regain full feeling.
When Stingo learned the University of Michigan Health System offers acupuncture, she decided to give it a try. After two treatments, she noticed marked improvement. After her third acupuncture appointment, the numbness was gone altogether.

“It was my thumbs that bothered me most. I was constantly touching them with my other fingers. I had to have my husband open jars for me and cut things up. That was very distressing to have to ask other people to do things for you,” said Stingo, a Dexter resident who was treated for breast cancer. “But after that second appointment, it pleased me to no end to feel my thumbs again. It was like a miracle for me.”

Acupuncture may be beneficial in treating a number of cancer-related symptoms and side effects, including fatigue, nausea, pain and nerve problems that cause tingling and numbness, said Andrew Heyman, M.D., a former adjunct assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. Acupuncture may also be beneficial to patients who have mild to moderate anxiety or depression. Continue reading