Archive for June 2014

Changing Attitudes toward Fibromyalgia

June 18, 2014

Fibromyalgia, which produces symptoms of chronic fatigue and aches and pains throughout the body, is an often-misdiagnosed condition. Yet, when identified and properly treated, it can be manageable and need not overly impact a person’s quality of life. One estimate by the American College of Rheumatology put the number of Americans with fibromyalgia at about one in 50.

In the 1800s, physicians first described fibromyalgia, which they called “muscular rheumatism,” listing it as a “mental” problem. At that time, the collection of symptoms indicative of the condition—aches, exhaustion, difficulty sleeping—had already been identified among its characteristics.

By the early 20th century, Ralph Stockman had conducted pathology studies that showed evidence of inflammation in the fibrous septa membranes dividing muscle tissue. At about the same time, Sir William Gowers coined the term “fibrositis” to describe the inflamed fibrous tissue that resulted in lower back pain for his patients. It was not until the mid-1970s that Gowers’ word was superseded by today’s “fibromyalgia.”

As contemporary medicine progressed and research better defined the parameters of the condition, fibromyalgia began to lose some of its unjustified reputation as a “mental” or “imaginary” disorder. In 1981, the reality of the tender points and other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia were validated through a controlled clinical research project. In addition, in 1990, the American College of Rheumatology published a set of diagnostic criteria intended to guide researchers. Physicians shortly adopted these standards in diagnosing and treating patients. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration approved one of the several fibromyalgia-targeted drugs currently on the market

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