Organised by the Men’s Health Forum (MHF), Men’s Health Week promotes awareness of health issues for men, encouraging them to seek help if they have concerns about their own physical or mental well-being. Whilst men can make an enormous fuss about a case of “man flu”, they can often shy away from dealing with some of the bigger health issues.
According to University psychologist Ronald F. Levant: “Many boys learn from their parents and from other children that they are not supposed to express vulnerability or caring. They learn to suppress their emotional responses -like crying or even sad facial expressions- so much that, by the time they are adults, they are genuinely unaware of their emotions and how to describe them in words.”
This year Men’s Health Week focuses on health and work, including stress and unemployment. As well as promoting new services to enable men to access health advice, they will be making new publications available to health providers “to assist them in engaging with men and boys to raise the awareness of mental health issues.”
In a recent blog article relating to myths surrounding fibromyalgia, we drew attention to the fact that the condition is often perceived to only affect women. While statistically men are less likely to be affected by fibromyalgia than women, there are thousands of men out there that do suffer from the illness, and many more male cases that lie undiagnosed. As long as fibromyalgia is perceived as a “women’s disease”, men may feel a stigma in seeking medical advice about it.
In wanting to raise awareness that fibromyalgia can affect people of any age, sex and background, we felt that Men’s Health Week was a good chance to remind male sufferers that they are not alone.
Searching through a variety of websites and blogs relating to men with fibromyalgia, we explored some common concerns and how they may be overcome.
What are some of the issues relating to men seeking medical advice about fibromyalgia?
- Fibro can take an average of 3-5 years to diagnose, as men are less likely to suffer from the illness it may take longer to diagnose in males
- Because men are less likely to suffer from fibro, it follows that doctors are less likely to consider diagnosing symptoms as fibromyalgia
- Some research has suggested the symptoms of fibromyalgia are fewer, milder and less likely to flare in men. According to an article on health.com: ““because the average woman is more sensitive to pain than the average man, women score higher on this diagnostic test and, therefore, meet the criteria for fibromyalgia more frequently than men,” explains Daniel Clauw, MD, the director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.”
- Social expectations may discourage men to seek help about fibromyalgia. The pains associated with fibromyalgia may be viewed as a weakness by some men, and they can sometimes be reluctant to talk about issues relating to physical or mental pain
- As there are, unfortunately, still credibility issues relating to fibromyalgia, even if men are willing to discuss their symptoms, it doesn’t necessarily mean that doctors will find be sympathetic to the condition:
“When people can’t see what the trouble is, they have a tendency not to believe in the trouble,” says male fibromyalgia sufferer Mark Maginn. “Pain is invisible.”
Why is it important for men to seek medical advice about fibromyalgia?
- Physician and fibromyalgia expert, Mark Pelligrino, estimates that 20% of men with the disorder go undiagnosed, explaining: “Men tell themselves, ‘I’m not supposed to go to the doctor, I’m not supposed to complain.’ So a lot of the men I see, their wives make them come”.
Pelligrino warns that a delay in seeking medical attention can contribute to an increased risk of complications relating to the illness, and that this may have an adverse affect on both work and relationships.
The good news is that awareness is continuously improving with regard to men and fibromyalgia. Many supportive websites exist across the internet, offering plenty of helpful advice on coping with the illness, both mentally and physically. There are also chat forums with male patients especially in mind, such as MenWithFibro.com. By seeking professional help you can learn how to adopt important lifestyle changes, improve strength and embrace healthy living. Men’s Health Week is a great reminder to reach out in order to start moving forward in life, it’s all about putting a positive foot forward.
Are you promoting or involved in any events relating to Men’s Health Week? Are you a male sufferer of fibromyalgia and would like to share your story? Let’s us know by posting your comments below.
We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.