Dr. Liptan, you recently shared some insights in an appearance in an online support group. What were you hearing from them?
They asked great questions, as always! Some themes included challenges with access to medications that were helpful for symptom management, for example lack of access to pain medications due to health care providers being unwilling to prescribe opiate based pain medications, which is an issue nationwide that many chronic pain patients are facing as political and medical opinion pendulum has now swung away from using that type of medications. I turned the tables and asked them some questions as well, as I was curious what type of health care provider was primarily helping them with fibromyalgia, and as I suspected, for the most part it was their primary care providers, not pain management or rheumatologists.
You are an expert on fibromyalgia–your practice is devoted to it. For patients who don’t have access to you or other physicians who really understand fibromyalgia–what counsel do you have for them in dealing with their fibro?
My first advice is always to become as educated as possible on understanding their own illness, as the saying goes “ Knowledge is Power”. Next, using a resource like my book The FibroManual, learn and implement effective self-care strategies such as self-myofascial release, dietary changes to lower inflammation, and activating their own relaxation response. Finally, continue to seek out doctors that are, if not knowledgeable about fibromyalgia, at least willing to partner with them on figuring things out together.
Do you feel diagnosis of fibromyalgia is getting better?
Yes, health care providers are definitely getting better at diagnosing fibromyalgia, and thankfully this means it takes less time for patients to get the correct diagnosis. Now the big challenge is that while doctors are more familiar with the symptoms of fibromyalgia and how to diagnose it, they still don’t know how to treat it, beyond prescribing the 3 FDA-approved medications. And those medications, while helpful for treating pain, don’t address the often more debilitating symptoms of fatigue and fibro fog. That is why I included a health care provider guide in The FibroManual: A Complete Fibromyalgia Treatment Guide for You and Your Doctor.
Are their research studies either going on or recently completed that have caught your attention?
The online support group participants asked me the same question! Yes, in particular there was a recent study from Spain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28139112/ that found that a regular program of self-myofascial release (gentle, sustained stretching that breaks up adhesions and tension in the fascia that surrounds the muscles) significantly reduced fibromyalgia pain and stiffness. I was really excited to see this study because myofascial release massage therapy has helped me the most with my own fibromyalgia pain and several studies have shown its benefit, including one I led at Oregon Health and Science University. But not everyone has access to a myofascial release therapist or can afford to get this treatment, as it is not often covered by insurance. So for a study to show that patients can get the same benefits by doing it on their own is really exciting! To learn more about how to give yourself myofascial release go to http://www.fridacenter.com/tools/
You’ve written two very successful books on fibro. Any plans for a next effort?
My focus these days is on developing courses and training programs to help educate other doctors and health care providers on treating fibromyalgia more knowledgeably and effectively. There is a whole world of more effective treatments out there that doctors don’t know about. As a doctor with fibromyalgia myself, I am passionate about sharing everything I know with other health care providers, so that more patients can benefit from effective treatments. I am also working on online courses directed towards patients so stay tuned at www.drliptan.com or on Facebook to be notified when classes are available. j
(If you have questions for Dr. Liptan about fibromyalgia—and remember she is not only a physician but someone who has fibromyalgia–, send us an email (email@example.com) and we will ask her to answer some in the future.