A Short Guide to Fibromyalgia

By Daniel J. Wallace; Janice Brock Wallace | Go to book overview

1
What Is Fibromyalgia?

If you have the chronic pain of fibromyalgia, you may be frustrated by the lack of understanding shown by people around you. This is par⁃ ticularly true of the people you live and work with. If only they could feel for one day how you feel all year! Pain has no memory and no mercy. Is it like a bad flu or a severe headache? How can you find the words to describe it?

When the Arthritis Foundation tried to categorize the 150 different forms of musculoskeletal conditions in 1963, it created a classification known as soft tissue rheumatism. Included in this listing are condi⁃ tions in which joints are not involved. Soft tissue rheumatism encom⁃ passes the supporting structures of joints (e.g., ligaments, bursae, and tendons), muscles, and other soft tissues. Fibromyalgia is a form of soft tissue rheumatism. A combination of three terms—fibro- (from the Latin fibra, or fibrous tissue), myo⁃ (the Greek prefix myos, for muscles), and algia (from the Greek algos, which denotes pain)— fibromyalgia replaces earlier names for the syndrome that are still used by doctors and other health professionals such as myofibrositis, myo⁃ fascitis, muscular rheumatism, fibrositis, and generalized musculo⁃ ligamenous strain. Fibromyalgia is not a form of arthritis, since it is not associated with joint inflammation.


HOW OUR UNDERSTANDING OF
FIBROMYALGIA EVOLVED

Evidence for the syndrome can be found as far back in history as the book of Job, where he complained of [sinews [that] take no rest.] Seem⁃ ingly exaggerated tenderness of the muscles and soft tissues to touch was documented in the nineteenth-century medical literature by French, German, and British scientists, who called it spinal irritation, Charcot's hysteria, or a morbid affection. The English physician Sir William Gowers (1845–1915) coined the term fibrositis in 1904 in a paper on

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