If you have fibromyalgia, Dr. Ginevra Liptan feels your pain, literally.
Dr. Liptan started experiencing muscle pain and profound fatigue while she was in medical school. And she couldn’t get any answers from doctors who treated her.
That’s a big reason why she has devoted her career to studying and treating fibromyalgia. She founded the first private practice in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to fibromyalgia in Lake Oswego, Oregon—the Frida Center for Fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia affects between 6-to-8 million Americans every year, and most are believed to be women. Dr. Liptan believes that while diagnosis of fibromyalgia is better than it used to be, it is still widely under diagnosed in men and adolescents because doctors don’t think about it part of the evaluation for those populations
In a recent interview with the National Pain Report, the Oregon doctor stressed that there is not a “one size fits all” way to treat fibromyalgia.
“More than any illness, fibromyalgia treatment must be individualized,” she said.
There are certain areas that every fibromyalgia patient benefits from treating, especially improving sleep quality, but there are many different routes to achieve that.
So, a fibromyalgia patient will ask, what works?
“My treatment approach is to systematically address the negative efforts on the body of a chronic hyperactive stress response,” she said.
She looks to treat any sleep disorders interfering with sleep quality and will add medications to restore deep sleep.
“For muscle pain and tightness, I recommend myofascial release, a specialized manual therapy,” Dr. Liptan explained. “This is the most effective pain reducer in fibromyalgia that I have found and was one of the keys to my recovering enough to get back to medical school.”
Dr. Liptan said that improving sleep quality and addressing muscle pain help reduce fatigue and pain. After that she goes after the remaining symptoms of pain, fatigue or fibrofog with target medications and therapies.
There is much for the medical profession to learn about fibromyalgia, which is why it is one of the audiences Dr. Liptan hopes to reach in her new book which will be out in 2016.
Dr. Liptan said she had some advice for patients struggling to get a diagnosis when they meet with their physician.
“Be persistent and bring as much clear information about your symptoms to the doctor as you can,” she said. “If your primary care physicians can’t give you a diagnosis, request a referral to a specialist, usually a rheumatologist or a pain doctor.”
Even when a specialist makes the diagnosis, your primary care doctor will most likely perform the ongoing care. That’s when time becomes an issue.
“The average PCP sees 20 patients a day for 15 minutes each,” she said. “Ask if there are longer visits available.”
The patients play a big role in their own treatment, she says, which is why it is important to bring your doctor information about how you’ve been doing.
“Rate your daily pain, fatigue and fibrofog on a scale of 1-10 and record it on a calendar, journal or even on your phone,” she suggests. “Doctors love data.”
Also, let the doctor know which treatments are helping you, or not.
“Tracking your symptoms will help you, and your doctor, more quickly determine what works for you.”
What does she tell her fellow physicians about fibromyalgia?
It’s pretty straight forward:
- Fibromyalgia is real. More than 6000 studies say so!
- Fibromyalgia can happen to anyone (Yes, even doctors)
- There is no cure but it is definitely treatable, although you have to go further than 3 FDA approved meds to get maximum improvement.
Dr. Liptan’s new book, her second is entitled: The FibroManual: A Complete Treatment Guide to Fibromyalgia for You…and Your Doctor. It will be released by Random House in May 2016. It’s available for pre-order on Amazon.com now.
Her first book released in 2011, Figuring Out Fibromyalgia, is available here.
Dr. Liptan has agreed to occasionally answer National Pain Report reader questions about fibromyalgia. If you have any question, email them to us Editor@nationalpainreport.com
For a complete transcript of our interview with Dr. Liptan, click here.