National Health Study Encourages Medical Treatment

by Jonathan Weaver

A national health study is hoping to positively impact many local pain victims.

In a national study conducted by The American Pain Foundation and the National Fibromyalgia Association of 3,018 patients suffering with chronic pain, 93 percent said the pain has had a significant impact on daily life decisions.

The survey was part of an educational initiative that aims to encourage people living with undiagnosed chronic pain to work with their healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis and find the best management plan for them. 

There were 175 respondents from Pennsylvania -87 percent diagnosed with fibromyalgia, characterized as chronic widespread pain with tenderness in the joints and muscles that lasts more than three months   – including Kittanning resident Ruth Ann McKelvey.

McKelvey of Kittanning has suffered from fibromyalgia for many years and has visited at least seven doctors until meeting Dr. Angela Stupi.

“I’ve had the fibromyalgia for at least 20 years,” McKelvey said. “Even sometimes when I think back to when I was a teenager, sometimes I would get these pains – doctors always told me they were growing pains, and I wonder know if it was really the fibromyalgia.”

McKelvey said she felt the pain early-on in her life while playing with her two daughters. She now regrets that she cannot have the same amount of fun with her five grandchildren.

“I had fun with my kids – I played ball with them or we’d get the slip-n-slide out and I’d go down it with them, or me and the neighbor would race their big wheels down the hill while the kids cheer us on, but I can’t do that anymore with my grandkids,” McKelvey said. “Sometimes it was hard to just go outside and toss a ball.”

Once McKelvey was diagnosed, she helped lead support classes at ACMH for the chronic pain and encouraged fibromyalgia victims to seek medical help.

Even though it took awhile to diagnose, McKelvey said she was glad she waited to be treated by Dr. Stupi.

“I’m glad I waited, and she is the best doctor in the world as far as I’m concerned,” McKelvey said.

Dr. Angela Stupi, a rheumatologist within the West Penn Allegheny Health System, has been McKelvey‘s physician for 18 years and pointed out what pain victims should do about it.

“The most important thing is for them to be diagnosed to be educated about their condition and into a treatment plan,” Stupi said. “Once they understand what they have, then they learn what factors precipitate their condition and make it worse.”

Stupi described what some pain sufferers go through before they are rightfully diagnosed.  

“Many of these patients have been doctor-shopping for years trying to find out what is wrong with them – these patients experience chronic pain that is out of proportion with a normal individual,” Stupi said.

Stupi said family physicians often diagnose or think about diagnosing patients with another similar disease found within the hyper-sensitivity disorder by touching 18 trigger points around the body, with fibromyalgia patients having to feel pain after doctors touch at least 11 areas.

“When we talk to these patients, we are doing a very detailed history and physical exam because we want to make certain that they do not have an underlying tissue disorder, such as lupas, rheumatoid arthritis or even thyroid disorders.”

Stupi said the lesson learned from the study.

“I think the main thing the survey has taught us is that once a patient is diagnosed with fibromyalgia, it has a significant impact on their life and they have to modify activities – things that other people take for granted, such as household chores or caring for family members or even daily living,” Stupi said.

Persons with fibromyalgia – who can be of any age, but are most commonly women aged 20-50 – have been known to suffer from sleep problems, anxiety or depression.

People can visit www.FibroCenter.com for additional information about the study and resources.