History of Fibromyalgia

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Fibromyalgia syndrome is a widespread chronic pain condition. There are specific points of tenderness along with sleep disturbances, headaches, cognitive problems, fatigue etc.

The condition has been known to mankind since the 1800’s when physicians wrote about a condition that leads to pain, fatigue and disturbed sleep. They called it muscular rheumatism and found no joint involvement.

Fibromyalgia timeline

  • It was in 1824, a physician in Edinburgh described tender points.

  • In 1880 a psychiatrist in the United States wrote about a group of symptoms including widespread pain, fatigue and psychological problems. He called it neurasthenia and believed it to be the result of stress.

  • Next in 1904, Sir William Gowers introduced the term fibrositis. It meant inflammation of the fibre. He described the tender or sore points among patients with muscular rheumatism of earlier times. It has also been called chronic rheumatism and myalgia since then.

  • In 1913 in the British Medical Journal, a physician by the name of Luff wrote about the symptoms of fibrositis. He found that the symptoms worsened as air pressure fell and as rains came on. This is a common phenomenon even today. Luff spoke about temperature variations, fevers and motor accidents as well.

  • In 1987 fibromyalgia was first recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) as a defined disease entity and cause of illness and disability. As there was no evidence of inflammation, the term fibrositis fell off and in 1976 the term fibromyalgia that meant pain in the fibres and muscles replaced fibrositis.

  • The disease was described clearly by Smythe in 1972 with the descriptions of the widespread pain and tender points.

  • In 1975 the first sleep electroencephalogram study was performed.

  • An article on fibromyalgia appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1987, written by a physician named Goldenberg.

  • The connection between fibromyalgia and other similar conditions was proposed in 1984.

  • In 1990 the first American College of Rheumatology criteria were published.

  • In 1986 the antidepressants that raised brain levels of serotonin and/or nor-epinephrine were found to be effective in treatment of fibromyalgia.

  • The diagnosis of this condition is still taken sceptically and many physicians believe fibromyalgia to be a fad disease due to lack of X ray or imaging as well as blood test evidence regarding the disease.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 31, 2013

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