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November 28, 2006 > Do You Suffer From Chronic Pain?

Do You Suffer From Chronic Pain?

Washington Hospital Seminar Focuses on Fibromyalgia

Do you suffer from chronic pain? Are you tired all the time? Fibromyalgia is a complex illness characterized by widespread aches, pains, stiffness, joint tenderness, general fatigue and sleep disturbances.

While fibromyalgia affects as many as six million people in the United States, it is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. The National Fibromyalgia Association estimates that it takes an average of five years for a fibromyalgia patient to get an accurate diagnosis.

You can learn the facts about this chronic disease at a fibromyalgia seminar on Tuesday, December 5, in the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont. The seminar is scheduled to take place from 1 to 2 p.m. and will be presented by Dr. Barry Shibuya, a rheumatologist at Washington Hospital. To register, call (800) 963-7070.

Fibromyalgia can be a very debilitating illness due to the pain and fatigue associated with it. Chronic pain and fatigue take a heavy toll on everyday life.

While the most common pain sites include the neck, back, shoulders, pelvis, and hands, the pain knows no boundaries. It has been described as deep muscular aching, throbbing, twitching, stabbing and shooting pain. The severity of pain and stiffness is often worse in the morning and aggravating factors include cold and humid weather, non-restorative sleep, physical and mental fatigue, excessive physical activity, physical inactivity, anxiety and stress.

It is also associated with chronic fatigue and sleep problems. More than just being tired, chronic fatigue is an all-encompassing exhaustion that interferes with even the simplest daily activities. Many fibromyalgia patients have a sleep disorder that prevents them from getting deep restful sleep.

Because there is no cure for fibromyalgia, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and improving function. A variety of medications are available to reduce pain and improve sleep.

One of the most important factors in successfully managing the disease is lifestyle changes. Increasing rest, pacing activities, reducing stress, practicing relaxation, and improving nutrition can help minimize symptoms and improve quality of life.

Accurate Diagnosis is Key

“I will help the audience recognize the signs and symptoms of clinical diseases that are similar to those of fibromyalgia,” says Shibuya. “It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis to make sure you are using the right therapies to treat the right disease.”

For example, aches felt in the joint areas associated with arthritis are similar to the aches caused by fibromyalgia. However, fibromyalgia is not a form of arthritis and is not treated with anti-inflammatory medications, an effective therapy for arthritis.

The seminar will define fibromyalgia and compare it to other functional somatic syndromes that are often associated with it, including irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome. This term applies to diseases that are largely characterized by symptoms rather than by tissue abnormality.

“There is no test you can take that shows you have fibromyalgia,” Shibuya explains. “It is a chronic, widespread muscular pain syndrome of unknown origin. We don’t really understand it, but we think it has something to do with the brain’s ability to process pain normally.”

While the underlying cause remains a mystery, new research shows fibromyalgia to be a disorder of the body’s central nervous system, causing the patient to experience pain amplification due to abnormal sensory processing.

To diagnose the disease, doctors must rely on patient histories, self-reported symptoms, and a physical exam. A proper exam determines the presence of multiple tender points that characterize fibromyalgia.

“It’s important to have doctor you can trust so that you feel comfortable discussing different aspects of your health. You need a doctor who will work with you to develop an effective disease management plan,” Shibuya says. “I work with my patients to help them prioritize their symptoms and set realistic pain management goals.”

To learn more about fibromyalgia, including available medications and alternative therapies, attend the seminar on Tuesday, December 5. To register, call (800) 963-7070.

For more information about Washington Hospital and its programs and services, visit

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