Several weeks ago, I was chatting with a fellow Fibro Warrior of mine and somehow we got onto the topic of whether fibromyalgia was progressive. My thoughts, from some research and my own experience with the disorder, was that NO; it was not a progressive disorder. My friend, who has lived with the disorder over 20 years against my almost five years, politely disagreed stating that she felt her observations led her to believe that YES, fibromyalgia IS a progressive disorder.
In this article, http://fedupwithfatigue.com/is-fibromyalgia-progressive, many doctors weigh in and share their opinions on observations and research. I will explain after I summarize the article why I believe fibromyalgia is not a progressive disorder. First, it’s important to address the definition of progression. According to Dr. Ginevra Liptan of the Frieda Center in Portland, Oregon: “what physicians mean by ‘progressive’ illness is one which function is lost over time...multiple sclerosis, an illness characterized by progressive nerve damage and loss of muscle function.”
According to most doctors interviewed in the article, the disorder of fibromyalgia itself is not progressive. However, there are symptoms that if are not treated correctly (i.e. under a doctor’s care is one example), can become progressive because they aren’t being addressed. Many compare the situation to exercise. If a doctor recommends exercise or physical therapy for a broken leg, physical therapy helps the muscles that had not been used for weeks or months to keep from atrophying. An example connected to fibromyalgia is the struggle to have restorative sleep. If you cannot address and find a way to address this issue, your pain and fatigue is likely to increase. Doctors Randall Gates and Martin Rutherford, who run the Power Health Rehab and Wellness Center in Reno, Nevada state that “...the graduate decline seen with fibromyalgia is due to the chronic, autoimmune and or degenerative nature of the underlying causes associated with the condition.”
Two of the doctors disagree with the majority consensus stating that there IS progressive degeneration from Fibromyalgia. Dr. Neil Nathan from the Redwood Valley Clinic in Redwood Valley, California, and Dr. Richard Podell of the Podell Medical Practice in Somerset, New Jersey both agree for some people, fibromyalgia can be degenerative. While they are in the minority, they backup their comments. However, in a similar fashion to the doctors who don’t believe it is progressive, these doctors state it is likely the co-existing conditions that often come along with fibromyalgia that make it appear progressive. The example they both use is Chronic Lyme disease which CAN do irreversible damage to your body.
The interesting thing is those that are stating that fibromyalgia is progressive are still stating it’s due to their co-morbid diagnoses and therefore, in my opinion, make their argument weak. In going back to the discussion with my friend, she does have many coexisting diagnoses and agreed they could be making her fibromyalgia worse, however, she still believes her fibromyalgia has gotten worse over time. I guess I’ve been lucky and have found the combinations of medications, therapies, and supplements that make me think fibromyalgia itself is not a progressive disorder. However, since my diagnosis, I have received a couple of co morbid (common) diagnoses that do often make it feel as though maybe my fibromyalgia has gotten worse; yet, I need to remember and remind myself that my coexisting diagnoses, while having overlapping symptoms with fibromyalgia, are an entity of their own and it is possible that the symptoms of THOSE disorders and diseases are worsening, and it is separate from the fibromyalgia.
How do I justify this? When I started to get new symptoms after my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I just attributed it to the fibromyalgia. However, after connecting to an incredible naturopath and primary care doctor (who also has fibromyalgia), as well as taking the coaching course, I have learned a new symptom need not mean fibromyalgia. I’ve learned to talk to my medical support team and that’s been helpful.
So, after reading my not so short synopsis, you can see why I’ve come to my conclusions. However, I am sure there are other patients and doctors who think otherwise. I’d love your input, your thoughts and feelings about the issue. Do you think fibromyalgia is progressive? Why or why not? If you do, how do you rationalize your decision?
I’m Kate Straus and I’m a Certified Fibromyalgia Advisor. I help Jewish women feel confident in their ability to practice their faith while navigating the ups and downs of fibromyalgia. I’m using the disease that at one time knocked me down, to help support others live life to their fullest.