The Magic Pill

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 The concept of the “Magic Pill” along with an almost absolute faith in medical doctors has come to define most Americans understanding of how medical treatment should be expected to function. If you are suffering pain, you go to the doctor who will rapidly determine what is wrong with you and then provide you with a prescription for a pill that will make everything better.  Quick, simple and effective – this is what most people expect from their medical professional. It is a cultural phenomenon with little basis in reality.

When it comes to Fibromyalgia, those seeking the magic pill are quickly disillusioned. Their doctor may have no more than a cursory understanding of Fibromyalgia, there is no simple or definitive diagnostic process, there are no effective medical tests and there is no single proven effective treatment approach. The magic pill simply does not exist. The faster a Fibromyalgia patient comes to realize and accept this, the sooner they can move forward with developing a treatment approach that is effective.

Fibromyalgia Treatment Approaches

There is no single Fibromyalgia treatment approach that is effective for all patients. Treatment recommendations differ from one person to another, primarily because different individuals experience different symptoms, which may have been triggered by a combination of different causal factors (or which may have no apparent causal factors at all). The most effective Fibromyalgia treatment in one person could possibly worsen the symptoms in another patient. As doctors and researchers cannot pinpoint definitive causes, they typically focus on treating the symptoms. Often, because the doctor may be prescribing medication targeted at Fibromyalgia the patient will believe that their desired “Magic Pill” is being delivered.  When the medication fails to completely alleviate their symptoms,  anxiety and often depression may worsen feeding an ongoing negative feedback loop that is common in Fibromyalgia.  A doctor familiar with Fibromyalgia will strive to inform the patient that while a prescribed medication may prove worthwhile it is very unlikely to completely eliminate symptoms and typically at best will form just one part of an ongoing treatment regimen.

Fibromyalgia Medications

There are a several Fibromyalgia medications out in the market today that are commonly prescribed by doctors. One of these is ‘Pregabalin’ or Lyrica- the first drug FDA-approved specifically for use in treating Fibromyalgia. Originally used as an anti-seizure medication, Lyrica helps promote sleep and alleviate pain in individuals suffering from Fibromyalgia.

Gabapentin’ or Neurontin is another anti-seizure medication that is often prescribed by Fibromyalgia doctors but this drug has not been approved by the FDA specifically for the treatment of Fibromyalgia.

In addition to the above two, other Fibromyalgia medications that are often prescribed include specific analgesics, fatigue medications, muscle relaxants, antidepressants and a wide variety of pain medications. Recent studies have also shown a significant decrease in pain with the use of the drug ‘milnacipran’, more commonly known as Savella.

What is important to understand about taking any type of Fibromyalgia medication is that none of these are proven to be definitive cures. At best, most of these medications help to alleviate some symptoms rather than provide a comprehensive cure. One of the reasons behind the prevalence of prescribing medication for Fibromyalgia is that an overwhelming majority of patients trust in the concept of a magic pill and a quick cure for their ailment – a belief constantly fed through advertising by the pharmaceutical industry. They expect their doctor to be able to quickly diagnose what is ailing them and to prescribe them a pill that will make it go away as soon as possible. Sadly, it does not work this way. 

A Systemic Problem

The medical industry,  from pharmaceutical companies to family doctors, is geared toward delivering solutions through an established pattern. An individual feels bad so they go to the doctor. The doctor follows a process of diagnosis that may involve various medical tests and determines what ails the patient. The doctor then prescribes medication to correct the problem.  This process is fundamental to how the medical system works, largely driven by the medical insurance and pharmaceutical industries. This established process feeds the innate belief in the “Magic Pill” concept.

The amount of time a doctor can focus toward an individual patient is limited by cost constraints and for the system to function as designed the process of rapid inspection, diagnosis and treatment must be followed. But in the case of a syndrome such as Fibromyalgia, the systemic approach is almost guaranteed to fail. The simple reality is that Fibromyalgia is the perfect fly in the ointment for the medical system. It is extremely difficult to diagnose, offers no one set of causes or symptoms and treatment effectiveness varies wildly from patient to patient. The typical medical approach cannot deal with Fibromyalgia and the result is easy to predict:  failure to develop an effective treatment approach leading too deep frustration and hopelessness for the patient.

Personalizing Your Fibromyalgia Treatment

Effectively managing symptoms is often a trial and error process but it can be done by monitoring your symptoms so you can document over time which treatment efforts work best for you. While no “Magic Pill” exists for Fibromyalgia, the syndrome can be effectively managed enabling the patient to live a full life. Individual treatment programs may include prescription medications, dietary supplements, exercise, changes in diet and various therapy programs. Rather than the dispenser of the proverbial Magic Pills, doctors should be viewed as partners in developing an individual treatment approach.

One of the most effective ways to keep track of your progress is by keeping a pain diary wherein you record the type of symptoms you experienced, the date when your symptoms started and what treatment initiatives you used at that time. Over time, you can use these records to compare which treatment techniques appear to be working best for you and which techniques seem to be completely ineffective, thus helping you re-evaluate your treatment plans and focus on things that are proven effective – for you.

 

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