Fibromyalgia affects roughly five million people in the United States.
That’s not an exact figure for several reasons. One reasons stems from misdiagnosis. Fibromyalgia mimics other diseases and injuries, which makes it hard to pinpoint. Another reason: The medical industry is not that well versed on Fibromyalgia, meaning that perhaps more doctors need to specialize in Fibromyalgia. There’s another diagnosis problem prevalent in the medical industry as well. Many in the medical field don’t believe Fibromyalgia exists.
Misdiagnosis and reluctance add to the pain of all Fibromyalgia patients. It makes calculating the occurrence of the disease difficult. These issues hinder the documentation of male Fibromyalgia patients as well, but male Fibromyalgia patients also face separate documentation issues. Only ten percent of men are estimated to have Fibromyalgia, though that number could be far higher.
Even when a doctor believes in Fibromyalgia, it’s often the last thing they think of as a reason for a man’s fatigue or pain. For example, more women report and complain about pain, and most Fibromyalgia patients are women. No one knows if that’s because of biology or society, or a little of both, but the fact remains that men with Fibromyalgia are under- reported and under-treated. Add in a common reluctance among men to seek out professional medical help, or to confide and show vulnerability, and you can see why the figures for Fibro men remain so low.
Despite efforts against stereotyping genders and efforts to help all people in need of emotional support, many men clam up when confronted about their feelings. Generally speaking, society tells men not to share feelings for fear of being seen as weak while at the same time telling them to share. Throw in physical pain that makes a guy seem less than manly, and many men become like statues when faced with all the mixed messages on top of the the suffering.
However, recent studies show that men endure most types of pain better than women do. Even when given cash incentives to endure a painful situation for a certain period of time, men outlasted women.
Men are usually less verbal than women as well.
These findings are leading medical researchers to research gender-specific pain treatments not only for episodic bouts of pain, but for chronic pain.
In spite of the gender difference in dealing with chronic pain, there are treatments that transpire gender and those include:
- stress reduction
- adequate sleep
- exercise and a healthy diet to help avoid weight gain that irritates pain
Yes, all well-known and oft-repeated, before, but it’s good to keep them in mind. Here’s another tip that science is backing-up: it may be fine not to talk, not to share, and now to dwell. (Cue heavy sigh of relief from the men!)
Chronic varies from person to person in terms of not only gender, but genetics, size, physical activity, mindset, and personal preferences. I see examples of this all the time on the FibroDaily Facebook page: I’ll post an article about pain or a pain treatment, and people will leave varying comments on the post, ranging from the evils of Big Pharma to the wonders of marijuana along with everything in-between. These results are usually based on personal experience.
More than likely, the treatment for all chronic pain needs to be individualized as well, at least to some degree. There will be standards in regards to drug interactions and the like, but not everyone responds well to the same treatments and one big determination in that is often gender.
If you’re a man who feels he needs more support in terms of Fibromyalgia resources and chronic pain coping mechanisms, take a big breath and talk to your doctor. Write out what you want to say by making a list of problems of the pain and fatigue issues you want to solve. Think of this list as an instruction booklet so the discussion doesn’t veer off-point, or delve into deep emotional issues you don’t feel are pertinent.
Another good resource is Fibromyalgia support for men.
Keep in mind that quiet endurance may not be a negative thing. In fact, it could a positive coping mechanism that allows men to prevail when it comes to dealing with all types of pain. Remember, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do…or, what a man feels like doing.
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