I received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia recently. I saw a Rheumatologist because I was convinced the symptoms which I have been exhibiting the last 18 months were an autoimmune system issue, and pointed to rheumatoid arthritis, aka, RA :
nodes in my index finger joint; inflamed joint in my big toe; low grade fevers; debilitating fatigue; muscle aches; symmetrical joint paint; pressure points; and trouble sleeping.
I have been coping with osteoarthritis for most of my life. I was a long distance runner for over 20 years. Suffice it to say that my knees hurt. With age, the joint pain has become almost unbearable. With all of these other symptoms, however, I began to wonder if my all consuming physical pain was far more than just deteriorating joints.
After I spoke with the physician – who was very through by the way – she told me I didn’t have RA. The node on my index finger was a bone spur, and the inflammation in the joint at the base of my big toe was just a garden variety bunion.
“Instead,” she said, “What you are describing is fibromyalgia – a “common, chronic pain condition associated with several co-morbidities (combination of issues) of psychiatric and medical disorders.”
Excuse me? Did you say, “Psychiatric?”
On the one hand, I was certainly relieved that I did not have RA. I have known people with severe RA, who lived with debilitating pain. The thought of such a diagnosis did not sit well with me. But then, a diagnosis which has the word “psychiatric” attached to it isn’t exactly welcome news either.
I’m not sure what you know or think about fibromyalgia. Personally, I’ve always thought it was a catch-all phrase that doctors used when they couldn’t come up with a diagnosis to explain symptoms, much like the proverbial term “colicky” for babies who cry for no discernible reason. I mentioned this to my physician, and she did confirm that many physicians do not believe fibromyalgia exists. Many others, however, do.