TITLE: Diagnosing fibromyalgia by physical exam and the power of the guaifenesin protocol - Dr. Congdon and Eva of Wellacopia
Diagnosing fibromyalgia by physical exam - Dr. Congdon and Eva of Wellacopia
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To contact or learn more from Dr. Melissa Congdon, please visit MelissaCongdonMD.com
What is your profession?
I am a physician who treats children and adults with fibromyalgia. I am a board-certified pediatrician who was in private practice for 18 years until severe fibromyalgia symptoms forced me to retire from medicine. After going on the guaifenesin protocol and getting acupuncture my symptoms dramatically declined, enabling me to return to practice medicine 20 months after I “retired.” My fibromyalgia doctor, Dr. Paul St. Amand at Harbor UCLA medical center suggested that I not go back to practicing general pediatrics but become a fibromyalgia consultant instead. I trained with him and have been doing fibromyalgia consulting for children and adults since 2010.
What is your illness(es)?
Where do you work?
The San Francisco Bay Area
Who do you work with?
I am in solo practice, but I communicate with my mentor Dr. St. Amand frequently. I also keep in touch with many integrative medicine providers and other health care practitioners to share insights about treatments and ways to help patients feel better
How did your illness shape your career?
I was sick for a long time before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I have severe fatigue, dizziness, 15 migraines a month, chronic neck and shoulder pain, and irritable bowel symptoms. I thought surely I must be dying because I felt so sick and doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me. My children were young at this time, and I hoped that I would not pass away until my youngest was at least 7 years old, because I thought by that age she would remember her mother’s love. So I have been to that dark hopeless place that chronic illness can lead a person to, and I went from mostly housebound to feeling well again. My illness motivated me to help others do the same. It feels so good to feel good again!
What do you do when you don't know what to do about a patient?
First I like to think and meditate about it, then if I can’t come up with a treatment plan I will reach out to my network of healthcare providers to get insight.
Are you/were you open about your illness with patients?
YES. My patients tell me it is a great help to them that I truly understand what it feels like to have fibromyalgia (physically and emotionally), and that that is one of the reasons they have chosen me to help them feel better.
What are you most passionate about in regards to your work?
Two things. First of all, how to make an accurate diagnosis by physical exam, and no, I am not talking about the inaccurate tender point exam. My mentor, Dr. Paul St. Amand, taught me how to diagnose fibromyalgia using a physical exam technique called “mapping.” He has found that everyone with fibromyalgia has a pattern of very small swollen and contracted muscles along their left anterior thigh. He taught me how to detect them, and if a patient has these swellings, then they have fibromyalgia! It is not complicated! These swellings are so small and are not tender, so most people with fibromyalgia don't realize they are there -- but they are super easy to feel once you have been trained in this technique.
Secondly, I love helping people with fibromyalgia decrease their pain, improve their mood, and increase their energy. There are a lot of helpful tips I can give them to achieve this, but one of the most life changing treatments I have found for fibromyalgia is the guaifenesin protocol. Guaifenesin is an expectorant (it is the active ingredient in Mucinex) and used in the right form (long acting dye free guaifenesin) and avoiding products that can block its action, guaifenesin can decrease our muscle spasm and pain over time (as well as increase energy, improve mood, intestinal function, etc). After I dramatically improved using the guaifenesin protocol, my mentor taught me how to administer the protocol to others. It has been so successful patients thank me every month for giving them their lives back! I feel so thankful to have found the guaifenesin protocol and thankful for the opportunity to help others with fibromyalgia feel better.
How do you/did you handle flares while at work?
I am able to set my own schedule, so if I need more down time I insert a break in my schedule.
How do you did you handle being a patient and a professional in your personal life?
When I am at work I am focusing on my patient, and I only bring up my personal experiences if my patient asks.
Do you tell your patients what you tell yourself / do you practice what you preach? For the most part! I am committed to helping my patients feel better, and sometimes I spend more than the allotted time for the appointment answering patient’s questions. This can cause me to miss lunch!
Has your condition made you more or less empathetic to those like you?
MORE empathetic! I have come to understand that some healthcare professionals do not believe fibromyalgia is a real medical condition. They think that we are depressed, or stressed, or just lazy. I even heard one rheumatologist refer to Fibromyalgia as “The F word!” I KNOW fibromyalgia is real because I feel the symptoms (plus there are hundreds of studies indicating that those of us with fibromyalgia have unique physical and biochemical findings). I am passionate about helping validate my patients symptoms and help empower them to get the care they deserve.
How do you research conditions? on your own? drug companies? medical journals? Colleagues? how do you convey this knowledge to patients?
Every morning I go on a physician's site called Doximity to check what new research has been done on fibromyalgia, I also Google fibromyalgia and get a compendium of articles from various sources about what is happening the field of fibromyalgia and chronic pain. I talk to colleague regularly, I post every Tuesday on my professional FB page (usually sharing new research results or an article about fibromyalgia) and I send out newsletters on a regular basis to my patients updating them on the latest developments in the field.
How do you feel about holistic medicine? what does it mean to you?
The definition of holistic medicine I like best is that Holistic medicine is a form of healing that considers the whole person -- body, mind, spirit, and emotions -- in the quest for optimal health and wellness. ... In this way, if people have imbalances (physical, emotional, or spiritual) in their lives, it can negatively affect their overall health. This is from WebMD. I use the most natural methods and techniques with the fewest side effects when I treat my patients.
Tell us about a special experience with a patient (uplifting)
Ahh, Stefanie comes to mind. She is a wildlife biologist who developed pain as a child. Her doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with her. She was having so many migraines and so much pain in her body her doctors told her “well, you are just one of those people with pain.” After 9 months on the guaifenesin protocol she felt a “dramatic decrease” in the pain she was in an increase in energy, so much so that she was able to do more and have the confidence to have a baby, and she did! To see her in the office holding her baby in her arms was so amazing. She said her improvement on guaifenesin “feels like a miracle, it just transformed my life.” There are so many stories like Stefanie’s of symptom improvement on the guaifenesin protocol! I produced a documentary called Fibromyalgia: Getting Our Lives Back--Success Stories on the Guaifenesin Protocol: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtPPoOBeXTM for people who want to learn more.
If you had one message to send out to every chronic illness patient out there what would it be?
Don’t give up! You are not alone! Keep searching to find your tribe-- supportive healthcare practitioners that are experts in your condition and who are committed to working hard to help you feel better.
The documentary Fibromyalgia: Getting Our Lives Back—Success Stories on the Guaifenesin Protocol: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtPPoOBeXTM
Dr. St. Amand’s website: http://www.fibromyalgiatreatment.com/
Dr. St. Amand’s book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Fibromyalgia: http://www.fibromyalgiatreatment.com/books-and-dvds.html and https://www.amazon.com/What-Your-Doctor-About-Fibromyalgia/dp/1455502715/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=0PKW88RSY6AXQDFFF0C1 This is the link to the latest edition
Online Guaifenesin Support Group: http://www.fibromyalgiatreatment.com/online-support-group.html
Fibromyalgia Facebook Support Group for those on the Guaifenesin Protocol: https://www.facebook.com/groups/fibrofightersonguaifenesin/?epa=SEARCH_BOX
Where to purchase guaifenesin and personal care products that do not block guaifenesin’s action: http://www.fibropharmacy.com/
Websites devoted to selling salicylate free products: https://www.andrearose.com/sensitive-skin-care-basics-s/100.htm and https://www.cleure.com/Default.asp
Note: It is common to feel intermittently worse during the first 4 months on the protocol. We are here with tips to help you feel better during this time.