What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a state of chronic widespread pain and tenderness in the absence of tissue damage [1,10]. The word fibromyalgia literally means pain in the fibrous connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) and muscles .
Current evidence suggests that fibromyalgia develops due to inability to cope with psychological or physical stress [4,5,6].
Perfectionists who have unrealistic ideas have a problem with reaching their goals, so they can develop strong emotions of sadness, anger, fear and helplessness . These emotions, when sustained, can trigger chemical changes in the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that lead to increased sensitivity to pain [8,9].
Similarly, unsuccessful coping with physical stress, trauma or infection may trigger the onset of fibromyalgia [4,7].
Fibromyalgia is also called fibromyalgia syndrome . A syndrome means a cluster of symptoms, so fibromyalgia should be viewed as such and not as a disease .
Fibromyalgia most commonly occurs in young and middle-aged women, but also in men and children, especially adolescents [3,9].
Fibromyalgia is NOT :
- Dangerous or fatal
- “All in your head”
The old and technically incorrect names for fibromyalgia are fibrositis, fibromyositis and muscular rheumatism .
Typical symptoms of fibromyalgia include [12,13]:
- Widespread pain and tenderness
- Tingling and numbness
- Depression and anxiety
- “Fibro fog” (poor memory and concentration)
- Disturbed sleep and morning stiffness
A typical sign of fibromyalgia are symmetrical tender points in most body regions .
Fibromyalgia can be triggered by unsuccessful coping with [4,10,13]:
- Emotional trauma, sexual abuse, neglect or alcoholism in the family
- Excessive physical work
- Physical trauma, such as whiplash injury or surgery
A doctor can make a diagnosis of fibromyalgia from:
- The history of widespread pain and fatigue
- Presence of tender points
- Exclusion of other conditions
Investigations, such as laboratory tests and imaging (X-ray, CT, MRI), are not useful in diagnosing fibromyalgia but can help to detect other health disorders [9,15].
The approach to the treatment of fibromyalgia should be holistic, that is involving the whole person [2,5]:
- Become aware of the emotions of peace and joy and adjust work and relationships accordingly.
- Set clear goals and stick with them.
- Stay physically active (walking, cycling).
- Share your problems with a person you trust.
- Meeus M et al, 2007, Central sensitization: a biopsychosocial explanation for chronic widespread pain in patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome PubMed Central
- Busch AJ et al, 2007, Aerobic exercise for fibromyalgia Cochrane
- Questions and answers about fibromyalgia National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
- Bradley LA, 2009, Pathophysiology of fibromyalgia PubMed Central
- Martinez-Lavin M et al, 20017, Biology and therapy of fibromyalgia. Stress, the stress response system, and fibromyalgia PubMed Central
- Fibromyalgia Cleveland Clinic
- Martinez-Lavin M, 2012, Fibromyalgia: When Distress Becomes (Un)sympathetic Pain PubMed Central
- Bellato E et al, 2012, Fibromyalgia Syndrome: Etiology, Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment PubMed Central
- Boomershine CS, Fibromyalgia Emedicine
- Fibromyalgia American College of Rheumatology
- Fibromyalgia WebMD
- What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia? Arthritis Research UK
- Bennet RM et al 2007, An internet survey of 2,596 people with fibromyalgia PubMed Central
- Levine TD et al, Routine use of punch biopsy to diagnose small fiber neuropathy in fibromyalgia patients PubMed Central
- Clauw DJ, 2014, Fibromyalgia clinical review CiteSeerX
- Sammaritano LR, An In-Depth Overview of Fibromyalgia Hospital for Special Surgery