The fibromyalgia epidemic

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder that is misunderstood, misdiagnosed and far less common than you might think. Eighty percent of those receiving a fibromyalgia diagnosis are women, and it’s no coincidence. Women with symptoms of extreme fatigue, muscle aches and pain/tender spots, weakness, depression, anxiety and other mood related issues, often go into a catchall "fibromyalgia" category by providers, or told symptoms are psychosomatic (all in the head) and handed a prescription for antidepressants.

As an internist specializing in hormonal health, I can tell you that most fibromyalgia diagnoses are wrong.

Nine out of 10 fibromyalgia patients are most likely experiencing symptoms of hormonal and vitamin deficiencies, hypothyroidism or a combination of any/all of these. The more deficiencies, the worse the person is going to feel, and women are the most likely to be deficient in key hormones due to oral contraceptive use. Antidepressants and other medications can make everything worse, so it’s important to identify and treat the underlying cause/s and not just symptoms.

Estrogen is needed to help blood flow efficiently into muscles, and testosterone is critical to muscle strength and energy, so deficiencies of one or both can cause muscular aches and pains.

Vitamin D is vital for muscles to remain strong and for muscles and nerves to function properly, and most people do not get nearly enough.

Vitamin B12 deficiencies are connected to nerves misfiring and neuropathy (pain).

Hypothyroid (commonly misdiagnosed) is also characterized by muscle and joint pain, extreme fatigue, mood disorders, etc.

All of these should be considered and ruled out before diagnosing fibromyalgia.

True fibromyalgia is chronic pain disorder researchers believe is caused by misfiring nerves in muscle beds. (See diagram of tender points associated with fibromyalgia.)

A promising new study published in Pain Medicine (Journal of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, June 2013) suggests another biological basis for the disorder, offering hope for more effective treatments in future.

Just know that when dealing with a potential fibromyalgia diagnosis, hormonal deficiencies and thyroid disorders are the most likely culprits, and get treated appropriately.

Share this information with your doctor, and good luck!

Dr. Angela DeRosa is a nationally recognized expert in the field of Internal Medicine and Women's Health. DeRosa Medical has locations in Scottsdale, Sedona and Chandler. For more information, call 480-619-4097 or visit