Fibromyalgia [fahy-broh-mahy-al-juh] (latin for muscle and connective tissue pain) is a medical disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain and allodynia (pain in response to something that should not cause pain, like a light touch). It is estimated to affect 2–4% of the population, with a female to male incidence ratio of approximately 9:1, but is considered a controversial diagnosis, due to lacking scientific consensus to its cause. Not all members of the medical community consider it a disease because of a lack of abnormalities on physical examination and the absence of objective diagnostic tests.

Other symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness. Some patients may also report difficulty with swallowing, bowel and bladder abnormalities, numbness and tingling. Fibromyalgia is frequently comorbid with psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety and stress-related disorders such as post traumatic stress disorder.

According to Frederick Wolfe, lead author of the 1990 paper that first defined fibromyalgia, ‘Some call fibromyalgia a non-disease and an over-inclusive and ultimately meaningless label.’ Wolfe now questions the validity of fibromyalgia as a disease. He considers it a physical response to stress, depression, and economic and social anxiety, and believes the associated symptoms are a normal part of everyday life.

The validity of fibromyalgia as a unique clinical entity is also a matter of contention because no discrete boundary separates syndromes such as FMS, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, or chronic muscular headaches. Because of this considerable symptomatic overlap, some researchers have proposed that fibromyalgia and other medically unexplained syndromes be referred to collectively as functional somatic syndromes.

2 Comments to “Fibromyalgia”

  1. Well now, who is Frederick Wolfe, aside from being an author? What are this man’s credentials to be able to publicize his opinion so early on in the ongoing research of fibromyalgia? If this man had any clue of the daily sufferings of FMS and the kinds of people who suffer from it, or experienced it for himself, he would definitely know then, how ridiculous, unprofessional, and inconsiderate his consideration is. Mr. Wolfe, as a professional, ought to know that making such a statement as this could render him eating his words at a later date. Let us not omit the blatant disregard for the psychological well being of the sufferers of FMS in his public display of “professional” opinion. There are reasons for depression, stress, and economic and social anxiety but it is not the cause of FMS, it is in fact the opposite. It is the opinions of those such as Frederick Wolfe, that contribute largely to the depression, stress, and anxiety of those who have had the misfortune of falling victim to this insidious illness.

    Sandra Bates, Truro N.S.

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