Fibromyalgia (pronounced fy-bro-my-AL-ja) is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that affects people physically, mentally and socially. Approximately 10 million Americans have fibromyalgia (FM) with a ratio of about 8 to 2, women over men, and it occurs in people of all ages, even children. The literal translation of the word fibromyalgia is pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. But FM is much more than pain and presents with many other symptoms that vary from person to person.
HISTORY: FM has existed for centuries, and our great grandmothers who experienced FM symptoms were probably diagnosed with rheumatism. In 1904 Sir William Gowers gave a Lecture on Lumbago: Its Lessons and Analogues, to physicians at the National Hospital for the Paralyzed and Epileptic in London, England. It was during this lecture that Dr. Gowers described “fibrositis” for the first time and the term began to be used as a descriptive word for the symptoms of soft tissue rheumatism. The word fibrositis indicated that inflammation was present which contributed to the patient’s pain experience.
As science advanced and more was learned about the disorder, it became evident that the kind of inflammation found in arthritic diseases is not present in FM. It took until the mid 1980s for “itis” to be dropped and fibromyalgia syndrome adopted as the new title for this age old malady. Syndrome was added to fibromyalgia because the term offers a way to compile the different symptoms of fibromyalgia into one disorder, discernible by medical professionals. In the late 1990’s fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) transitioned into just fibromyalgia (FM) because research began to uncover more scientific evidence of FM being a distinct entity. Although FM has become a familiar medical term, it continues to baffle the professional community as well as the people it affects.
PATIENT PERSPECTIVE: If you ask any person with fibromyalgia what fibromyalgia is, their response would be pain; from the top of their head to the end of their toes. Pain that “waxes and wanes” from day to day and persists even with the use of scientifically accepted medical treatments. The pain experience is described as deep muscular aching, shooting, throbbing, stabbing, pounding, along with many other acronyms, and at times it is unbearable. People with FM do not sleep well, waking up feeling like they have been hit by a “Mack truck,” with morning stiffness or spasticity that makes it difficult to move. Repetitive movement seems to accentuate the pain and forces many people with FM to severely limit their activities, including exercise routines. This lack of exercise results in people becoming physically unfit, causing their FM symptoms to become more severe. The other major complaint is fatigue so severe that people have a difficult time performing everyday tasks, enjoying hobbies, staying employed or taking part in their children’s activities. People may feel as though their arms and legs are weighed down by cement and their bodies may feel so drained of energy that every task is a major effort.
- Science of FM
- Newly Diagnosed Patients
- FM Fact Sheet
- Economic Burden