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People with Fibromyalgia are generally very frustrated. These are people with a variety of different symptoms, travel from doctor to doctor, get opinion after opinion and still do not know what is going on in their bodies. Perhaps the most frustrating thing of all is that when these ill people begin to do their own research and discover the existence of Fibromyalgia, many times their doctors will say that fibro does not exist, or worse, they don’t believe in Fibromyalgia.
I find the last statement incredibly disrespectful. How in the world can any professional say that they don’t believe in Fibromyalgia? This is the equivalent of saying that “I don’t believe in refrigerators”, or “I don’t believe in automobiles.” The fact is that Fibromyalgia exists, this is not open to debate, and the many research studies are out there, the evidence is clear. Apparently, any professional who claims that Fibromyalgia doesn’t exist is not doing their homework.
We need to be clear on a few points. Firstly, over the past 40 or 50 years a certain change in the field of healthcare has slowly occurred. Doctors, at least here in the United States, developed a character trait called “Cultural Authority”. One definition is: Cultural authority is the collective programming of a given society in regards to their norms and expectations.
In plain English, this means that we’ve been led to assign certain ideas and expectations towards someone or something. The most obvious example is that, though this is slowly changing, we look at Doctors as the all knowing, larger than life expert, knowing everything about our health and how to keep us healthy. How many times have a I seen a person taking a totally incorrect medication or doing something detrimental to their health and when I question them about it, the answer is generally:” My doctor told me to do this” or “I have to do what my doctor says”.
I generally joke that if a doctor told my mother to put her head in the toilet and flush, she would do it, without question. If I asked why, her response would invariably be: “I have to do what my doctor says”.
Therefore, we’ve developed a situation where we accept everything told to us by a doctor. However this can be very dangerous as doctors are just people and like other people, some are good at what they do while others are not. This is also true for all professions. In fact, there was a time when Attorney’s in the U.S. were looked upon with that same Cultural Authority. Just the names: John Marshall (chief justice, 1801-1835), Oliver Wendell Holmes (associate justice, 1902-1932), Earl Warren (chief justice, 1953-1969), signify great knowledge and respect. You can even include Abraham Lincoln in this category. They had cultural authority, yet in the year 2011, this has changed. Sadly attorneys have lost their standing in our eyes; in fact, the Legal profession is looked upon with the same degree of distrust as Used Car salesmen.
Back to Fibromyalgia. Since we know that Fibromyalgia does exist and that statistics show that 3 to 6 percent of the population suffers with this illness, why in the world would a doctor say that he or she does not believe in it?
First, with the cultural authority with which we’ve given them, they are allowed to make statements, though based on their own beliefs, which have no basis in reality. Second, it is possible that these doctors had never seen a case of Fibromyalgia and are totally ignorant to the symptoms. Third, Fibromyalgia patients can be difficult as they are suffering to such a great disease that Doctors do not want to deal with them, they take a lot of time to treat, a thorough history can take an hour or more and they never seem to get better. Fourth, a doctor might have been told by a mentor that Fibromyalgia does not exist, thus they don’t question this. (Same as how often we never question our doctors). Last, as Fibromyalgia, does not show up on blood tests, urine tests or imaging studies, they believe that it cannot exist. This is faulty reasoning because there was a time when doctors did not know what caused Malaria or Cholera. Does this mean that these illnesses did not exist, until the causes were discovered? Of course not.
The difference now, is that with Cultural Authority, doctors are allowed to make these statements, and some even get angry if we question them. The sad part is having the patient with all the classic fibro symptoms running from one doctor to another looking for answers while watching their health decline. Fibromyalgia is difficult to live with in any situation, but to be told that it doesn’t exist or that the person is crazy or needs a Psychiatrist is the ultimate slap in the face. The stress from not knowing, the stress from being told that there is no such thing as fibro, just adds more stress to a stressful condition, and we know that stress makes Fibromyalgia worse.
Therefore, if you have Pain, Insomnia, Fatigue, G.I Problems (Reflux, IBS etc), Depression and Difficulty Thinking and Concentrating, it is a very good bet that you have Fibromyalgia. By the way, there are at least 60 other symptoms, but these are the ones that almost everybody with Fibromyalgia experiences.
Dr. Gene Martin