Fibromyalgia is a debilitating condition that affects about four million people in the United States. It is a term used to describe widespread pain and stiffness throughout the body and is often accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, sleep, problems, and brain fog. It is a rheumatic condition that causes pain to the soft tissues and is different than conditions like arthritis, which involves joint pain and inflammation.
If you’ve been dealing with symptoms of fibromyalgia for a long time, you may be wondering if you’ll ever find relief. While this condition is considered chronic, treatment should reduce symptoms and make them more manageable. However, for some people, this widespread pain may be a symptom of Lyme disease. If not addressed, patients may continue feeling uncomfortable despite taking medications or trying other treatments often suggested for fibromyalgia.
It is important to seek care from an experienced specialist who can find the root cause of your discomfort and help you find relief. Here is what you should know about how fibromyalgia may be connected to Lyme disease and what an appropriate treatment plan may look like.
Tired of dealing with chronic pain and fatigue? Get your symptoms checked at our Lyme treatment center in Virginia today.
How Are Lyme Disease and Fibromyalgia Connected?
Many people assume getting a diagnosis for fibromyalgia and being put on a treatment plan is the beginning of the end to their painful symptoms, so it can be frustrating when traditional medications, such as Cymbalta, Savella, or Lyrica don’t provide relief. However, the symptoms of Lyme disease and fibromyalgia are very similar. It is also possible for people to be diagnosed with both Lyme disease and fibromyalgia at the same time.
Lyme disease is currently the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. While it was previously estimated by the CDC that less than 300,000 people get Lyme disease each year, this number has more recently risen to 476,000 people being diagnosed and treated for the condition.
A doctor who understands both Lyme disease and fibromyalgia can make a more accurate diagnosis and identify which factors are likely contributing to your symptoms. Even if you have seen other medical professionals in the past, making an appointment with someone who specializes in Lyme disease allows you to backtrack and see if any more obvious signs have been overlooked.
While both conditions can be chronic, a customized, comprehensive treatment plan can help address symptoms of both Lyme disease and fibromyalgia. An integrative approach is often the best for patients with chronic conditions as it considers all aspects of one’s health and uses various evidence-based treatments to achieve better overall wellness.
Difficulties Diagnosing Lyme Disease Can Lead to a Misdiagnosis
Since there isn’t a single way to test for and confirm fibromyalgia, this diagnosis is normally given out when all other factors have been ruled out. Many doctors will test patients for Lyme disease during this period, but this condition can be very hard to diagnose. If a negative test is received, even months after a tick bite has occurred, doctors might wrongly assume Lyme disease isn’t to blame for symptoms like pain, stiffness, fatigue, brain fog.
The most common lab tests, called ELISA and Western Blot, are used to detect any antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria transmitted by ticks that cause Lyme disease. However, these tests are only effective a couple of weeks after being bitten and may come back negative after this period even if the person is still infected. Additionally, not everyone develops the bull’s-eye rash that often serves as a telltale sign that a person has been bitten by a black-legged tick.
Since Lyme disease can be so difficult to correctly diagnose, it is possible for a doctor to receive a negative test for Lyme and assume fibromyalgia is to blame for the symptoms. Without addressing the root cause of the issue, patients are unlikely to experience any relief from common treatments used for fibromyalgia until a proper diagnosis and treatment are given.
How Can You Find Out If You Have Lyme Disease?
If you suspect you have Lyme disease, the best way to get a more accurate diagnosis is to see a Lyme Disease specialist. Dr. Robin Ridinger is a board-certified family physician and integrative holistic medicine provider in Virginia. She has more than 25 years of experience as a family medicine doctor, and she is associated with the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society.
She specializes in treating Lyme disease and other common co-infections, including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid issues, hormonal imbalances, autoimmune diseases, adrenal fatigue, and more. She uses a holistic approach in addressing these conditions and creates customized, evidence-based plans for her patients which aim to attack the root cause of their symptoms, rather than just eliminating the symptoms themselves.
She can help figure out if Lyme disease is contributing to your fibromyalgia by conducting a thorough evaluation. This likely starts with, but does not end with, the typical lab tests used to diagnose early Lyme disease. A spinal tap or MRI can also help detect signs of Borrelia burgdorferi.
Dr. Ridinger will also deep dive into your symptoms and medical history. Some common symptoms of the infection include:
- Fever or chills
- Muscle aches
- Joint aches
- Nerve pain
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Brain fog
- Bulls’-eye rash
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Heart palpitations
Patients should also consider if and when they may have been exposed to a black-legged tick. In Virginia, ticks are very common and can be encountered at any time of the year, but they are more active in the spring and summer. The northern portion of the state has the biggest influx of ticks, and they are most often encountered outdoors in wooded or grassy areas. If you remember seeing or being bit by a tick, it is important to let your holistic doctor know when the event took place. However, tick bites are generally painless and may go unnoticed.
How Is Lyme Disease Treated?
Lyme disease can sometimes be treated in the early stages with antibiotics. Under the ILADS guidelines, treatment against a tick bite includes a 20-day course of doxycycline. However, treatment plans should be customized for each person depending on the specific symptoms the patient is experiencing and how far the condition has progressed. Overuse or unnecessary extended use of antibiotics can actually weaken a patient’s immune system, making the infection more difficult to attack.
With a holistic approach, patients aren’t simply given medicine as a means to mask symptoms of a disease. Rather, Dr. Ridinger will examine your lifestyle as a whole and analyze how it may further contribute to your Lyme disease or co-infections, like fibromyalgia.
In addition to treatments like vitamin and mineral therapies, antioxidant therapies, and other suggested supplements or hormones, she will also look at your sleep patterns, neurotoxins, nutrition, and activity level. A comprehensive treatment plan will help you achieve overall wellness and balance, allowing you to achieve better physical and mental health. With a long-term treatment geared to help you regain your health and heal your body, you can find relief from your Lyme disease and fibromyalgia symptoms.
Ready to speak with an experienced holistic medicine provider who specializes in Lyme disease? Make an appointment with Dr. Ridinger today.