With Men, Diagnosis May Be Tougher

With Men, Diagnosis May Be Tougher

Through the Fog

Although 80 to 90 percent of fibromyalgia diagnoses are women, that still leaves about 1.5 million men in the United States who are affected. They are the forgotten minority, if you will. I’d like to take some time here to look at a few of the issues that affect men.

Just like women, men must experience pain for at least three months with no other known cause. Although men, for the most part, experience milder symptoms than their female counterparts, they can just as easily experience more debilitating pain and other symptoms.

I’m going out on a limb here and speculating that men are less likely to go to the doctor with their complaints. Societal pressure to just suck it up and keep going may result in taking longer to get a proper diagnosis. They also need to consider their jobs and what potential loss of income would do to them, as single individuals or as family men. Part of me wonders if the disparity between the number of women compared to the number of men diagnosed might have more to do with who goes to the doctor more frequently.

If men are generally expected to provide for their families, once they’ve been diagnosed with FM, they may have to go to part-time, or even lose their jobs. That can make them feel like failures. The stress could exacerbate their symptoms and potentially cause a downward spiral.

Some tips from the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association are:

1. Don’t push yourself beyond your current physical capabilities.
2. Set short-term goals that are realistic and can be done on a daily basis.
3. Be honest in expressing your pain as well as your fears.
4. Connect with others who share your same concerns, be it online or in a local support group.
5. Accept that change doesn’t need to be something seen as negative.
6. You always have control over how you see yourself, even if you can’t control your physical symptoms or how others perceive you.

Perhaps you have a job where you can work from home or you may want to consider changing careers to something less stressful and physically intensive. Lots of men have found new careers as freelance writers, network marketers, transcribers, graphic designers, or copywriters. A free service to check out, if you’re receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) but want to work, is Ticket to Work. It’s a federal program to help you become more financially independent.

For sure, there are many challenges for men with fibromyalgia, but there also are resources that will help you in your journey. If you’re on Facebook, check for groups that are just for men or that are coed. I’m sure you can find more resources by checking online.

Just know that although you may be in the minority, your story and experience are no less valid or important. You absolutely matter to us.

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

21 comments

  1. Zane Hagy says:

    Thank you for this article, seriously. I find it hard to locate many resources tied to males that have been diagnosed (or are willing to admit it). I am one of the lucky ones, I still maintain a pretty active lifestyle and try to remind myself that the pain is just part of the new lifestyle. Oddly, a simple article like this referencing the fact that men are impacted as well was very nice to see.

    • Ellen L says:

      My father had fibro, diagnosed in the 70’s at Mayo Clinic. He probably wouldn’t have gotten that diagnosis had he not gone there for spinal surgery due to an injury. He was a tough son of a bi***, an iron worker. He pushed through the pain until he couldn’t any longer. I don’t know how he did it. He cried when I told him I was diagnosed with it.

  2. John says:

    Thank you for posting this. Men do get it too which must be acknowledged or too many like myself bounce from internist to neurologist to rheumatologist only to be misdiagnosed and misunderstood along the way. Even though they can’t do much for us, having a proper diagnosis is critical.

  3. Christopher Haskins says:

    Thanks for spreading the news! I’ve had Fibro for 25+ years, and had to serve as my own advocate & supply information, research, create my own medication protocols for my doctors, since they hadn’t a clue what to do with a man with Fibro. One rheumatologist told me I couldn’t have Fibro, as it was a “Woman’s Illness”. Needless to say, I’ve fired a great many doctors thru the years… And yes, I basically sucked it up anyway, as I had a family to raise, chores to get done, and no one really cared how much ‘pain’ a man was in. The good news is that I’m married to a wonderful woman for 38 years who has stood by me and kept me anchored. Couldn’t have managed it without her support. Keep up the good work…

  4. Gavin says:

    I’ve been. Passed from rheumatologist to neurologist and back they still haven’t diagnosed me with anything just stuck me on Gabapentin and when that didn’t help, Pregabalin 🙁

  5. Don says:

    Thanks Robin! There are certainly many, many items that apply to us no matter what gender we are, but there are certainly some differences also. Like once I see articles on having fibromyalgia and being pregnant, or something else specific to females, I simple delete the article. But thinking about it now, I wonder if theremight be some tidbit in that articles that I can relate to. Anyway, thanks for writing about us men. We aren’t always as tough as we think we should be, or as smart either. We need all the help we can get when dealing with this monster.

    On a separate note, have you heard of the FM/a test to diagnose fibromyalgia? If so, what are your thoughts on it and what else have you heard about it?

    • Robin Dix says:

      Don, I recently came across info on the FM/a test and ran it by my doc. Her concern was that the end result was them giving a vaccine and that concerned her. What are your thoughts?

      • Don says:

        I wrote a big reply on my thoughts, not sure whether it had problems getting there or going through your review process. Anyway, I am for any and all research that leads towards a possible cure. A positive test result is necessary for inclusion to a study that does use a vaccine, the TB vaccine, which is no longer used in the US but still used in less developed nations around the world. I hope to be involved in the study. I will try anything to find a cure, if nothing else hope for some better relief. I do not like taking all these opiates just to barely get by some days.

  6. Shy says:

    Hey Robin: Jarred Younger and his staff (yay team!) at the University of Alabama recently did a research study on 8 mensturating women. They did daily hormone testing over a 25 day span and found that the fibro pain increased when testosterone dropped and cortisol (stress hormone) increased. Therefore, my query is whether men are less at risk for fibro because of higher testosterone levels than women. Clearly, we know that cortisol production increases with stress;therefore, increases pain in fibro patients. In light of Dr. Younger’s study I wonder if those women, like me, who have severe cramps and fibroids during menses (period) and menopausal women with hot flashes, irritability, etc. should not consider 1.) being evaluated by a physician trained in Bio-Identical hormones for irregular hormone production of progesterone and testosterone. Get prescription for bio-identical hormones and see if fibro improves. 2.) Do anything and everything to reduce stress. Yoga, meditation, spiritual activities, thankfulness, hourly positive affirmations etc. What we think on, we become. Reminded of a New Testament scripture: “Think on whatever is good, pure and lovely.” or something like that. I know from experience that can be tough when there are so many terrible things we have no control over in our lives, but we do have control over our thoughts. Thought for the day: Control your thoughts by focusing your thoughts on only positives and choose be happy in spite of your circumstances. It is your choice.

    • Don says:

      That “choice” isn’t always that simple. It could be a “choice” to think positive, yet between the pains and where your head is at it may not be one you are able to simply make.
      Trust me, I know from personal experience.

  7. Shy says:

    BTW men with fibro or suspected fibro might consider the same by seeing a trained physician in HRT or hormone replacement therapy. My brother, who also has fibro, went to HRT physician and found his testosterone was extremely low. He started taking weekly hormone shots and became a different person, energy increased, depression left and very happy.

    • Christopher Haskins says:

      You are absolutely correct about the low testosterone connection. Mine was pretty much non-existent. Now I take weekly shots of testosterone, and I’ve got much more energy, and my desire for sex has come back. Downside — spontaneous erections reminiscent of my teenage years… You also need to find the right doctor for testosterone treatments. One refused to give me any more than a “man of my age” was supposed to have. I ended up at a Fibro clinic, and they adjusted my hormones to what worked the best, not just reading reference numbers from a medical book…

  8. Shy says:

    Hey Robin: Found typo in my first comment. Half way down I wrote: “and menopausal women with hot flashes, irritability, etc. should not consider.” Change that to SHOULD consider, delete the word NOT. Thanks for your blog.

  9. Bob Raposa says:

    This is a very good article. I am a male who was diagnosed about 4 years ago and the above numbers are pretty dead on. I struggled for just about 3 years before I finally sought help. For me, it was 3 years of telling myself..”you’re out of shape,” “you’re overweight,” “you need to exercise”…and of course…”suck it up!” This is a stigma that men can hopefully one day overcome. Of course, it doesn’t help that most doctors don’t take the disease seriously. Took me awhile to find medical professional who didn’t call FMS a “garbage can” diagnosis. I will say that I’m very happy to see that strides have been made. Studies done by Stanford, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and many others have really opened a lot of eyes. The research is out there and it is getting easier and easier to find.

  10. Scott says:

    I have had Fibro for about 25 years. I knew I had it but did not get it diagnosed until 3 years ago. I too just dealt with the pain, until the pain got bad enough that I couldn’t anymore. Until recently I was working full time and taking care of the bills, being the one “bread winner” in the family. I was able to find out that mine was caused by my military service in The Persian Gulf. So the good news is that I am working on getting Compensation From the VA. I have been out on disability for 3 months do to a flare up. Thank you for mentioning that Males have the problem as well.

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