I am neither for nor against Dr. Oz as a celebrity physician. I appreciate that he includes natural therapies in his shows but dislike the heavy focus on supplements.
So what happened with the fibromyalgia episode? The key messages I heard were:
- fibromyalgia is "real";
- it's hard to diagnose;
- it's difficult to treat.
All of which are true, but I think most people who have at least heard of fibromyalgia would be aware of these points too. He emphasized that the experience of FMS varies a great deal from person to person. He was empathetic towards the audience members who have the condition, saying
"We're not respectful of the issues that you're dealing with because we don't understand them."
in noting how the perspective of the medical community towards fibromyalgia has evolved from "it's psychosomatic" to "it's real".
He and his guests explained that the pain of fibromyalgia is the result of problems in how the brain processes pain signals and engages its own pain relief system. They discussed the difficulty in diagnosing FMS and referred to the tender point assessments that are often used. Rheumatologists and neurologists were the specialists most recommended for getting a diagnosis. The main treatments discussed where pain relievers, anti-depressants, D-Ribose, melatonin, dietary changes and stress reduction.
Sue Ingebretson was one of the many giving Dr. Oz a "thumbs down" on this episode. She has some good points:
- the emphasis on how "real" FMS is, and that it's not hysteria or psychosomatic;
- calling FMS a disease rather than a condition or a syndrome;
- describing fibromyalgia as a "controversial" diagnosis and life-threatening.
I disagree with the "thumbs down" judgment though. When the breakthrough research on pain signalling showed a detectable measurable variable in FMS sufferers, the diagnosis should have lost its controversial nature. The problem is that a lot of family doctors don't keep up with research - there's simply too much of it - so they are not aware of the fact that the neurological basis for the condition has been confirmed.
With a condition as complicated as fibromyalgia, there's no way Dr. Oz could have covered the topic in depth in one show. I think the fact he addressed it all is fantastic because, now, millions of people know a little bit about something they knew nothing about before. Building awareness is a worthy outcome.
If you'd like to know more, I've written a description of the condition and listed some resources on fibromyalgia here.