Fibromyalgia is quite commonly characterized by presence/symptoms of muscle pain, painful/tender areas of the body, as well as fatigue.
The symptoms and severity changes from person to person, and it may "come and go" in some, or be a permanent experience for another. These cause it to be difficult to be accurately diagnosed, because of so much fluctuations and differences from patients to patients.
The term fibromyalgia comes from the Latin “fibra,” for fibrous tissue, the Greek words “mys” for muscle, and “algia” for pain. Before the 1980s, fibromyalgia was called fibrositis.
Thankfully, this condition doesn't harm our organs and is almost never life threatening, but it can significantly impact your quality of life, and you can experience a lot of frustration, pain, sadness and dysfunction.
Most of the time, the focus of treatment tends to be more of pain and symptoms management.
Fibromyalgia has similar traits with arthritis, including the experience of chronic/long term pain as well as fatigue. Also, like arthritis, fibromyalgia is also considered a rheumatic condition because it impacts our muscles, bones and joints.
However, how it is different from chronic pain and arthritis in a very important and distinctive ways is that:
Often, it's rheumatologist who usually treats fibromyalgia, but many patients also see internal medicine doctors, family physicians and chronic pain physiotherapists to manage their conditions.
Because of the wide range of symptoms that tend to be related to fibromyalgia, we recommend a multi-disciplinary health care team usually comprising of a rheumatologist, physiotherapist, neurologist, pain specialist, and psychologist/psychiatrist.
Many patients with fibromyalgia may also have at least one if not more other medical conditions.
Generally, patients who have fibromyalgia also tends to have other forms of rheumatic conditions too; an estimated 25 - 60% also have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), ankylosing spondylitis or rheumatoid arthritis.
What makes it a little more challenging is that symptoms of these co-existing conditions may overlap with those of fibromyalgia, and cause a delay to accurately diagnose the problem...and this is further complicated by a lack of a globally recognized diagnostic test.
Usually, diagnosis is generally based on patient's symptoms and using medical/lab tests to rule out other conditions.
What happens when a patient has fibromyalgia is that their brains over-reacts to pain signals, intensifying the feelings and experience of pain in different parts of their body.
Unfortunately, it is still unknown what causes this reaction, though in some conditions, it seems to be linked to stress/traumatic events, illnesses, injuries or other diseases.
It seems to run in families but a specific gene/genome for fibromyalgia has not been identified or found.
An estimated 2-4% of adults have fibromyalgia, and of this, close to 90% are women between age 40-75 years old, and the symptoms tends to be more severe in women too.
Over the years, more men have been diagnosed than when compared to the past (possibly because of increased health reporting in men and in medical advances, the shift of diagnostic criteria). In children, fibromyalgia is more often diagnosed during their adolescent years and is medically known as juvenile-onset fibromyalgia.
Physiotherapy for fibromyalgia includes the use of ultrasound for accelerated soft tissue healing; joint mobilizations to ensure joint movement is complete, strength training to ensure daily movement is complete; clinical pilates to strengthen core; chronic pain management.