Fibromyalgia, a chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues accompanied by fatigue, is a fairly common condition that does not manifest any structural damage in an organ.
Twenty-five years ago, Muhammad B. Yunus, MD, and colleagues published the first controlled study of the clinical characteristics of fibromyalgia syndrome. That seminal article, published in Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, led directly to formal recognition of this disease by the medical community. In the June 2007 issue of Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, Dr. Yunus once again makes an enormous contribution to the field of chronic pain and fatigue by meticulously synthesizing and interpreting the extensive body of scientific literature on fibromyalgia and his own insights into the concept of central sensitivity syndromes (CSS).
Fibromyalgia, affecting approximately 2% of the US population, is an example of a class of maladies called CSS. These diseases are based on neurochemical abnormalities and include irritable bowel syndrome, migraine and restless legs syndrome.
Incorporating a critical review of over 225 publications and the author's broad experience in fibromyalgia and related diseases, Dr. Yunus describes 13 separate conditions that are related to central sensitization (CS), where the central nervous system (spinal cord and brain) becomes extremely sensitized on certain parts of the body, so that even mild pressure or touch would cause much pain. Such hypersensitivity may also be associated with other symptoms such as poor sleep and fatigue.
According to Dr. Yunus, CSS are the most common diseases that are based on real neurochemical pathology and cause real pain and suffering. In some patients stress and depression may contribute to the symptoms but they are all based on objective changes in the central nervous system.
Dr. Norman L. Gottlieb, Editor of Seminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism, believes that this article "advances our understanding of fibromyalgia, unifies and advances concepts, and suggests that this and several other common disorders have much in common in terms of their biopsychosocial development. This, hopefully, will expand both clinical and research interest in this group of diseases and lead to advances in therapy for many of them."
In an accompanying editorial John B. Winfield, MD, comments, Without question, Muhammad Yunus is the father of our modern view of fibromyalgia. Yunus, who took a rather more biological approach to fibromyalgia in the past, now emphasizes a biopsychosocial perspective. In my view, this is tremendously important because it is the only way to synthesize the disparate contributions of such variables as genes and adverse childhood experiences, life stress and distress, posttraumatic stress disorder, mood disorders, self-efficacy for pain control, catastrophizing, coping style, and social support into the evolving picture of central nervous system dysfunction vis-a-vis chronic pain and fatigue .Science and medicine now have a rational scaffolding for understanding and treating chronic pain syndromes previously considered to be functional or unexplained. Neuroscience research will continue to reveal the mechanisms of CS, but only if informed through a biopsychosocial perspective and with the interdisciplinary collaboration of basic scientists, psychologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, and clinicians.
Dr. Yunus concludes that CSS is an important new concept that embraces the biopsychosocial model of disease. He advocates further critical studies to fully test this concept which seems to have important significance for new directions for research and patient care involving physician and patient education. Each patient, irrespective of diagnosis, says Dr. Yunus, should be treated as an individual, considering both the biological and psychosocial contributions to his or her symptoms and suffering.