I chose to elaborate on fibromyalgia because I feel that it is widely misunderstood.  I had heard of fibromyalgia, but after reading the blog post I realized that I really didn’t know that much about the condition.  Personally, I thought fibromyalgia was “widespread pain that doesn’t go away”, but like she said, that is an oversimplification. The symptoms and severity of fibromyalgia vary from person to person, so the illness experience must as well.

Culture and medicine both influence the way a person experiences illness. In western society, biomedicine is the preferred way to diagnose and treat illness.  Fibromyalgia is considered a syndrome because it’s causes are not understood or known.  There may be many possible causes such as, trauma, abnormal pain response or infection, but it has not been proved that any of these actually cause the condition.  I think the main reason the fibromyalgia is so misunderstood in American culture is because there is no clear diagnosis. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you have to have three months of ongoing pain with one or more additional symptoms – like sleep problems or memory problems.  There is no test that comes up positive.  This makes it difficult for the person living with fibromyalgia because they can’t prove that they have an illness.  In our western culture, we trust and rely on biomedicine so much for a diagnosis that when there is no way to prove an illness, we all become a little bit skeptical. Society is just expected to believe them and take their word, but often society will underestimate the severity of fibromyalgia.  With ever changing pain, no cure, and an unknown future, living with fibromyalgia is probably frustrating enough, but on top of that, people are often insensitive towards the condition. Because of our culture and our trust in biomedicine, those living with fibromyalgia are constantly trying to defend themselves and validate their illness. I think this would make it much harder to effectively manage and treat their symptoms. Instead of just finding the care and treatment that they need, they would constantly have to explain their situation and illness.

I think there is a huge connection between belief and healing, as the video about the placebo effect showed. It has been shown that believing in healing and actually healing are closely connected. Personally, I think that when I have a positive outlook during an illness, I recover and feel better faster than when I have a negative outlook. In the video “Placebo: Cracking the Code”, I thought it was really interesting that they could perform surgeries based on the placebo effect. Usually, when I think about the placebo effect, I think mostly about pills and injections, so it was interesting to see that they could perform a surgery without actually doing anything. All three groups improved and showed the same result, but didn’t improve any more than the placebo group.  This shows that it is the ritual surrounding the surgery that relieves pain, so it is the belief in healing that results in the healing itself.

Placebo: Cracking the Code. Directed by Jemima Harrison. : 2002.
PubMed Health. “Fibromyalgia.”. (accessed July 23, 2014).



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