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Ask Dr. Gott 5/2
Co-workers mock pain sufferer
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: Could you please explain to your readers what fibromyalgia is and how painful it can be?
    I am 44 years old and work as a nurse aide. There are days when my co-workers think I am just looking for ways out of doing my job. In reality, my feet, back, legs and arms hurt all over. Every joint, tendon and muscle aches. No matter how much medication I take, I hurt. During these times, even a simple hug hurts enough to bring me to tears. Yet, despite this pain and my co-workers' quips, I do my job to the best of my abilities. Then I have good days when there isn't much pain and I can function reasonably well. The cycle effect is exhausting. All I want is to feel better.
    DEAR READER: Fibromyalgia is a chronic, complex and poorly understood disorder that is often difficult to diagnose. It affects about 9 million people in the United States. Of those, nearly 80 percent are female. However, men and women of every ethnicity and age have been diagnosed with the condition. It typically presents with fatigue and widespread pain in muscles, ligaments and tendons. Fibromyalgia differs from arthritis in that it doesn't cause pain or inflammation in the joints. Rather, there's pain in the soft tissues around joints and in skin and organs throughout the body.
    The associated fatigue varies from person to person. While some people experience mild symptoms, others are completely exhausted, with debilitating flu-like symptoms. Stiffness can result upon awakening or after remaining in one position for a prolonged period. Damp, cold weather is particularly difficult because it can make symptoms worse. Lightheadedness, headache, memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, and numbness and tingling of the limbs may be present.
    There is no simple test available for diagnosis. Evaluation by a skilled medical professional, usually a rheumatologist, consists of ruling out other medical conditions with similar symptoms, such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, Lyme disease and lupus. The physician should take an extensive medical history followed by a physical examination that includes the application of pressure to specific anatomical points known to be particularly sensitive in sufferers.
    There is no known cure, but the symptoms can be treated. This generally includes medication (anti-inflammatory drugs, narcotics and steroids), physical and relaxation therapy (such as meditation, massage, walking and more) and nutritional counseling. Some people have had amazing success with acupuncture and acupressure.
    For further information, contact the National Fibromyalgia Partnership by mail at P.O. Box 160, Linden, VA 22642-0160 or the Fibromyalgia Resource Center at
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Managing Chronic Pain."
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