Book Review: “Figuring out Fibromyalgia: Current Science and the Most Effective Treatments,” by Ginevra Liptan, MD

May 12, 2011

Figuring Out Fibromyalgia, by Ginevra Liptan, MD

As a Certified Health Coach who specializes in helping women with fibromyalgia, I obviously read a lot of information on the subject. Figuring Out Fibromyalgia: Current science and the most effective treatments, by Dr. Ginevra Liptan is definitely one of the best books I’ve read. In fact, I liked it so much, I gave away a signed copy!

One of the things that impressed me most about Dr. Liptan’s book is that she includes both traditional western and CAM (complimentary and alternative medicine) approaches. Most books I read really lean one way or the other. As someone who has suffered from fibromyalgia myself — and come through the other side, like Dr. Liptan — I know first hand the value in both sides of that debate! Fibromyalgia is best treated with a mixture of therapies, not with one magic bullet.

I love the personal touch that Dr. Liptan provides by sharing her own journey of sickness and healing. It lent an authenticity to the book that would not have been there otherwise. It is much easier to believe someone who has “been there, done that” than it is to believe someone who has never walked in your shoes. Dr. Liptan is one of those people you can believe.

I was also fascinated by Dr. Liptan’s theory that the pain we feel in fibromyalgia is caused by the fascia: the connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding them together. This really rings true to me. One of the most effective treatments I’ve received for some of my deeper leg pains has been with a massage therapist using a cupping technique, working on the deeper layers of fascia.

The only area that was a little less than clear is where Dr. Liptan discusses some of the treatments that, in her opinion, aren’t very effective. Though she didn’t state it, I came to the conclusion that she meant that these treatments are ineffective for everyone with fibromyalgia. For example, looking at studies for thyroid or magnesium treatments in fibromyalgia, I definitely agree that not everyone who has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia would improve by being treated with magnesium or thyroid — because not everyone would necessarily be low in either. However, low thyroid can cause lower body pain and fatigue, while magnesium deficiency can cause tight muscles. If a person is hypothyroid or deficient in magnesium, then treating these will absolutely improve their symptoms.

In my case, I had an undiagnosed autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. My regular TSH levels looked normal, but my immune system was attacking my thyroid, essentially trying to kill it. When I found a doctor who knew what to look and test for, we discovered the disorder and I was treated. My energy level improved greatly, along with my pain level. I suppose you could argue that the fatigue and pain that improved was not fibro pain or  fatigue, but I’m not going to complain about how I got to feeling better! Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough In Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism, by Datis Kharrazian is a great place to start learning more about undiagnosed thyroid disorders.

All in all, Figuring Out Fibromyalgia is a fantastic book. It contains great information for the newly diagnosed and for those of us who are more educated on the subject. I highly recommend it as a must-read for anyone interested in keeping up-to-date on fibromyalgia.

I encourage you to visit her website at www.fridacenter.com. If you’re lucky enough to live in the Portland, Oregon, area like I do, she is accepting patients!

Have you read Dr. Liptan’s book? I’d love to hear what you thought about it!

KP May 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I have bought my own copy of Dr Liptan’s book and loved it so much that I want to give a copy to my doctor. My doctor is a smart woman who loves to stay well informed about the latest breakthroughs in medicine. She also encourages her patients to become better informed about their conditions and to read books like “Thyroid Power” which she sells at a discounted rate from her office. Unfortunately, my doctor has a limited knowledge of fibromylagia. I would love her to read Dr Liptan’s book so she can be better equipped to help fibromyalgia sufferers. I would also encourage her to sell this book to patients from her office like the thyroid book.

Liz May 17, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue have taken over my life. Ive tried everything I can think of to combat this, but nothing has worked and none of the doctors Ive gone to have helped. Why is so little known about this, and why do people still tell me, Its all in your head? Id love to read this book, but the money for it is not in my minuscule budget. Please God, let me win a copy of the book!

JK May 19, 2011 at 3:38 pm

There are 5 women in my family that all have fibromyalgia and now I have started up with it. It’s so difficult to explain how it feels…and for the last year have had so many tell me it’s all in my head and to “stop being a baby”. But it hurts :( I even had doctors just tell me it was nothing a little ibuprofen couldn’t solve. I so need to read this, but if I win it, I want to read it and then pass it on to my very close friend who has fibromyalgia as well as lupus. She’s a reader, especially when she’s completely laid up, and I know it will be so beneficial for her.

Tami May 19, 2011 at 4:38 pm

KP – My doctor is like yours. She even gives “assigned reading” when she diagnoses someone with something. That’s how I found out about the thyroid book I mentioned in this post. I can see why you’d want her to read Dr. Liptan’s book!

Liz – I’m so sorry you’ve had the experiences you’ve had! Dr. Liptan has some really great things in this book that really do help. If you ever want to chat with someone who understands, over the phone or in person (not sure where you are), let me know. {hugs}

JK – When I read “stop being a baby,” I literally got a little sick to my stomach. =( Ugh. I get so mad when I hear that there are people out there who are still saying things like that to gals like you and Liz. {hugs} to you, and your friend too.

Gabbrialle Tragnig May 20, 2011 at 3:24 am

Fibromyalgia has changed my life dramatically. Currently I am trapped in a personal prison of pain. I am trying my best to get a hold of it. Unfortunately it is winning currently. I have not stopped the fight. I am doing my best to keep the fight going until I prevail.
Thank you
Gabbrialle

Lizz May 20, 2011 at 9:11 am

I was recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, after spending some miserable months in bed. At first, I tried to educate myself, but quickly found that nobody knew anything more about it than I did already. I can hardly wait to read this new book!

Tami May 20, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Gabbrialle – We’ll keep fighting it together. =) It’s a bummer you’ve hit those last few bumps when you were doing so well! {hugs}

Lizz – This is a great book with new info. I’m like you, I tend to know more than some of the books I read. This one has some new theories. It’s great to see!

Kathy May 20, 2011 at 9:10 pm

I just “found” Dr. Liptan recently. Her blog post on the difference between fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue really made it clear for me. She writes in a way that I can really understand and that’s awesome!

My physical therapist has been talking about fascia and I’m kind of at a loss as to what she is talking about. I’m looking forward to reading Dr. Liptan’s book and finding out more.

I wish I could see Dr. Liptan…but it’s about a five hour drive from here :-(

Gwen May 20, 2011 at 11:13 pm

I just heard of this book tonite. I’m disabled from fibro, cfs, (epstein barr); can barely walk from stiffness & inflammation; inflammation levels & virus shows in my blood. Rest of tests are fine. Had cortisone shots a maonth ago and got so sick from them. The meds. are ruining me physically. Antibiotics rip up my stomach (for Lymes disease, bronchitis attack, shingles attack;) it never ends. I am depressed all the time. My family doesn’t have a clue; they don’t ask and don’t understand b/c I look so healthy physically. Maybe a copy of the book will help me out of this funk. I’m sad & feel lazy and unproductive after a lengthy successful career. I’d rather sleep than anything; I use a Tens Unit Machine. Trying homeopathic drugs; I’ve had accupuncture; I’m fed up with all I’ve been through. Bye for now.

Rebecca May 23, 2011 at 4:03 pm

I have several autoimmune conditions including fibromyalgia, and have found a blended approach definitely works best for me. A recent extended thyroid screening showed no Hashimoto’s, as we discussed, which surprised me. For awhile I had a rheumy who wouldn’t even treat me for fibro and said not to mention it during visits. Unbelievable! Now my biggest issue is that my doctors are complaining that they can’t distinguish what pain is from bursitis and what is from fibromyalgia, so until I get the fibro “under control,” they really won’t treat me for either except with steroid injections into the joint when it gets to the point I can’t walk or drive. And I’m there — injection is scheduled for the morning. If I win I will definitely be sharing this with my rheumy — and with the chronic pain “specialist” who says he won’t treat me. I wonder if this issue would continue to be so easily discounted if it affected as many men as women?!?!?!

Tami May 24, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Kathy – Thanks for posting! I checked out your website this weekend. Lots of good info. Great job! =)

Gwen – Sounds like you’re ready for some new news on the subject! That’s what Dr. Liptan has in her book – new research. Thank goodness, right? ‘Cause the usual stuff, it just hasn’t been working for you, has it? {gentle hugs}

Rebecca – I can’t believe you had a doctor tell you not to mention your fibro during your visits! And a chronic pain “specialist” who won’t treat someone with chronic pain? Um… wow! I hate to say that you might be right about the men/women thing but…. It is about 1 man for every 10 women, last I heard.

Tami May 24, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Alright gals… I’ve emailed our winner and I’m waiting to hear back. If I don’t hear back by Thursday, I’ll pick a new winner. So… if you’re my lucky girl, be sure and email me back ASAP! =)

Sherri Hinkle May 25, 2011 at 5:49 am

I am trying to read everything I can on Fibromyalgia, being newly diagnosed about a year ago. Certainly I have suffered with this disease much longer than that, without knowing what was wrong. Knowing what I am fighting helps. But fight is what you have to do if you have this disease. Information from a doctor who suffers along with the rest of us would be very helpful.
Sherri

Anna May 25, 2011 at 4:24 pm

I too live in Portland and am happy to see one of our local doctors get national recognition. OHSU is a leader in Fibromyalgia research and support. I participated in one of Kim Dupree Jones research projects years ago, regarding FM and Exercise. It was inspiring to be able to join other FM patients in learning how to exercise with a knowledgeable health coach.
Anna recently posted..Healthy Meal PlannersMy Profile

Mich May 25, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I have FM, I have arthritis, I am only 36 and a single mum of an active 8 year old boy. I have not worked since January 2011, I have not been out with my friends since July 2010, I don’t have bbq’s, social gatherings anymore & I hurt when I try to excersize, I would rather just curl up and sleep. Even loud noises irritate me and the headaches and pain of feeling bruised all over are just too much to bare now. I have had enough and I can’t see any light at the end of this trecherously long tunnel, I need a glimmer of light because it just keeps getting darker and that scares me :(……….

Tami May 30, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Sherri – You’re doing exactly the right thing! Read all you can. You have to be your own best advocate! The best advice I ever received was to never take advice from someone you wouldn’t trade places with. Dr. Liptan is one of those. =)

Anna – I checked out your blog, you’re doing great things over there! It is nice to see the local gals get some recognition isn’t it! =)

Mich – First of all, {gentle hugs} for you. I totally understand how you feel! Every now and then I have a day like that. In fact, I just had one a week or so on my anniversary, of all days. =( It can get better. We should talk. There are so many things that can be done to get you moving towards the end of that tunnel. Even if it’s just one little step at a time.

Tami May 30, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Liz with one z ;) – You’re my winner! I’ll need your mailing address to send you the book, of course. You can email it to me or give me a call. See the Contact Me page for how to get in touch or reply to the email I sent you. Congrats! =)

Karen McKenzie November 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm

This book changed my life! It helped me to better understand what was happening to cause the pain and fatigue and ways to deal with it. It changed the condition from some ambiguous plight to something that I can deal with practically and proactively. I still have some good days and some not so good ones, but at least I have a plan and I know I’m not alone. I take ownership and have power in my own life. This is definitely a must-read for any fibromyalgia sufferer and loved ones.

Tami November 10, 2011 at 6:26 pm

@Karen, thanks so much for sharing your experience with Dr. Liptan’s book! Knowing you’re not alone – and having a plan for how to handle things – makes such a big difference, doesn’t it? Thanks for coming by!

Malinda Morris June 25, 2012 at 9:07 am

I’m so excited to get this book and find out more about fibromialgia I live in sacramento and I can’t seem to find it at barnes and nobles or borders could you please let me know where I can find a copy. My physical therapist has highly recommended this book and I would love to deep dig into it to find out what I can do differently

Tami June 25, 2012 at 7:35 pm

Malinda – I can’t speak for what might be at your local stores, since I’m in Portland, Oregon, but I can tell you that Amazon.com has both the paperback and Kindle versions that you can find here.

It’s an excellent book and will definitely help you!

Linda September 8, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Hi, is there anything in this book that helps one learn more about better eating for fibromyalgia?

Tami September 9, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Hi Linda! Dr. Liptan discusses the importance of diet, but doesn’t give specific recommendations. She talks about her personal story, finding out what foods she’s allergic to, and how eliminating those foods from her diet contributed to her feeling better.

Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of From Fatigued to Fantastic, says that a high-protein, low-carb diet will help you feel your best. I’ve found that to be true for me and my clients as well.

I’d love to chat with you about changes you can make in your diet. I don’t charge for consultations. You can even schedule online. =)

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