Dear Barb – Helping a friend with fibromyalgia

Dear Barb;

My friend has just been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Until this year she has been a very active person. Now she seems totally incapacitated with this diagnosis. Is there anything I can do to help her accept and learn to live with this condition?

Margaret in Mississauga

Hi Margaret. I’ll try to give you a brief description of Fibromyalgia that should be of assistance in your situation with your friend.

Fibromyalgia is becoming a fairly common condition, affecting two to four percent of us and occurring more often in women than men. Many experts say Fibromyalgia has been a part of our society for a long time, but only recently recognized as a genuine illness. The symptoms vary greatly from person to person and may include widespread or localized pain, sleep disturbances, headaches, fluid retention, and chronic fatigue. For some individuals their lives may be spent in a wheelchair after a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, whereas others function almost normally. Most patients fall somewhere between these two extremes.

The causes of Fibromyalgia are largely unknown. In many cases it seems to occur following a trauma, such as a car accident. At one point it was thought to be a psychiatric disorder, as there was no definitive test to diagnose this condition. However today there are tests a doctor can perform that provide a fairly good indication a person may be suffering from Fibromyalgia. I’m sure your friend has undergone these tests in the process of being diagnosed.

In my research I have discovered there are a variety of treatments for Fibromyalgia, which include medication, as well as mild aerobic exercise and daily stretching. If your friend has just been diagnosed she may have not yet discovered what will work best to manage her symptoms.

I believe the best way you can help your friend is to read up on Fibromyalgia, so that you will be more understanding of the way she is feeling. You said she was a very active person; therefore it may be difficult for her to deal with the limitations her condition imposes on her. Perhaps if she sees that you are willing to accept a less energetic friend, she may also learn to be more accepting of herself. Also, if she needs to discuss how she is feeling, be patient and listen. Sometimes all that is required to be a true friend is simply to allow a person to vent their feelings.

In summary Margaret, I would suggest you begin your research on the Internet and at your local library. There is an abundance of information available on this topic. Even better, perhaps you and your friend can do some research together.

Good luck Margaret, you sound like a very caring friend.

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