Fibromyalgia in Children

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Fibromyalgia affects over 5 million Americans and it is recorded that one sufferer out of every six, is a child.

Fibromyalgia symptoms in children

In children with this condition the symptoms include:-

  • Long term widespread pain and increased pain sensitivity
  • Morning stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of restorative sleep
  • There are five tender points in children rather than the 18 as seen in adults. These tender points in a child are located at the neck, chest, hips, thighs, and buttocks.
  • Gastrointestinal or digestive problems similar to irritable bowel syndrome
  • Migraine headaches
  • Inability to concentrate on school or academic work or remember things
  • The symptoms generally start during adolescence between ages of 13 and 15 years. Girls are more likely to get fibromyalgia than boys.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia in children

Diagnosis at present cannot be made on the basis of any imaging study like X rays or CT scans. These scans and blood tests just help to rule out other conditions that may mimic fibromyalgia that include multiple sclerosis or lupus etc.

Who is more likely to get fibromyalgia?

Children who have a parent with the condition are more likely to develop fibromyalgia suggesting a genetic connection. Children with conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Premenstral Syndrome, or Sleep disorders are more likely to develop fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia treatment for children

In a child treatment involves:-

  • Physical therapy and exercise
  • Medications – pain relievers and drugs that help in sleep are rarely used in children unless absolutely necessary.
  • Treatment and diagnosis also aims to look for and treat depression that may commonly be found in persons with fibromyalgia. Antidepressants and counselling including cognitive behavior therapy can be useful in these patients.
  • The child requires adequate support from parents and family members. It should be emphasized to the caregivers and family members not to pass judgements about the child faking the condition or “just being lazy”. This would raise feelings of guilt or shame in a child and may lead to depression. Counselling should involve the whole family and caregivers. Parents are encouraged to educate their child’s teachers, friends and peers about their condition and limitations.
  • A healthy lifestyle with a healthy balanced diet, stress free environment and meditation also helps in maintaining a near normal life.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 31, 2013

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