May 12 Is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

The National Fibromyalgia Association, sponsor of Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, is using its 2009 campaign to focus on the far-reaching effects of the chronic pain disorder, including the financial, social and emotional repercussions. For information about May 12 events, log on to

With so many chronic illnesses and so many organizations seeking to find cures and provide support for people suffering from them, it’s easy to lose a sense of urgency about why we draw attention to a particular syndrome. Fibromyalgia is one condition, however, that could benefit from increased awareness.

Many people, unless they have the illness or know someone who has it, have never even heard of fibromyalgia. If they have, it’s usually in the context of being labeled a “non-disease” or “all in your head.” This belief results from a number of factors.

First, fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose. NFA research shows that it takes from three to five years to diagnose the syndrome. This could mean that many doctors don’t take the illness seriously and are not pursuing options that could lead to a speedy diagnosis. Because no lab test definitely proves a patient suffers from fibromyalgia, the doctor must rely on the patient’s description of symptoms. Doctors then diagnose by elimination.

Second, fibromyalgia is controversial. Some physicians don’t acknowledge that it is a real illness because in most cases the cause of the symptoms is an enigma. Medical science is reluctant to accept conditions for which there is no apparent cause.,,20188874,00.html.

Third, fibromyalgia affects women more often than men, and no one knows why. Add that to the fact that women have not historically been primary wage earners. Conditions that keep women from paid employment often don’t get the same level of respect as those that affect both genders equally.

Finally, insurance companies put up a fight to pay disability benefits for people unable to work because of fibromyalgia. They embrace the theory that it is not an illness and welcome medical assessment to reinforce that concept. The American Pain Foundation, in an informal study, found numerous barriers to the effective treatment of fibromyalgia, most notably the fear of losing insurance coverage once the syndrome was documented.

We support the National Fibromyalgia Association and its efforts to raise awareness of such a misunderstood syndrome.

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