Today’s post is written by Dr. Edgar Ross, Director of the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). The post was adapted from an article that appeared in the September issue of the newsletter published by the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at BWH.
Fibromyalgia is a poorly understood syndrome that is quite common but can be difficult to diagnose and treat. The symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread soft tissue pain, disturbed sleep, fatigue, and characteristic tender points that are multiple and diffuse. Conditions such as migraine headaches, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, restless legs syndrome, and temporal mandibular joint dysfunction are often associated with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia patients usually experience widespread pain and discomfort.
The processes within our bodies that can produce symptoms of fibromyalgia are not well understood. The leading theory suggests that the origins of fibromyalgia may relate to an over-reaction of the central nervous system to all types of sensation. These disturbances can have an impact on sleep. Sleep studies of patients with fibromyalgia frequently identify a lack of restful sleep.
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose because the signs and symptoms in patients can vary from visit to visit. In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology published a list of tender points that can be used to establish the diagnosis. Though laboratory testing is not useful for making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, it can help rule out other conditions that mimic this condition.