DEFINITION OF FIBROMYALGIA
(As defined by the National Fibromyalgia Association)
Fibromyalgia (pronounced fy-bro-my-AL-ja) is a complex chronic pain disorder that affects an estimated 10 million Americans. While it occurs most often in women, it can occur in men and children, and all ethnic backgrounds. For those with severe symptoms, fibromyalgia (FM) can be extremely debilitating and interfere with basic daily activities.
- The FM classification criteria, established by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in 1990, includes a history of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum duration of three months, and pain in at least 11 of the 18 designated tender points when a specified amount of pressure is applied.
- New diagnostic criteria were developed by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in 2010. These criteria do not use tender points but focus upon pain being widespread and accompanied by allied symptoms such as sleep problems, problems with thinking clearly, and fatigue.
- Since people with FM tend to look healthy and conventional tests are typically normal, a physician knowledgeable about the disorder is necessary to make a diagnosis.
- Physicians should rule out other causes of the symptoms before making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
- Although chronic, widespread body pain is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia, a variety of other symptoms are common in FM patients. Symptoms include: moderate to severe fatigue, sleep disorders, problems with cognitive functioning, IBS, headaches and migraines, anxiety and depression, and environmental sensitivities.
- Some people may have only 1-2 symptoms while others may have many. Symptoms will often come and go and many people with fibromyalgia report difficulties identifying a pattern to their symptoms
- Recent research has suggested a strong genetic basis for FM.. The disorder is often seen in families, among siblings or mothers and their children.
- Fibromyalgia can occur following a physical trauma, such as an acute illness or injury, which may act as a “trigger” in the development of the disorder. Other “triggers” can include both physical and psychological forms of stress. While the stress may help trigger FM, the stressor may not be involved in maintaining it once it starts
- Increasing attention is being devoted to the central nervous system as the underlying mechanism of FM. Recent studies have suggested that FM patients have generalized disturbance in pain processing and an amplified response to stimuli that would not ordinarily be painful in healthy individuals.