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.
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.