From RationalWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition, often termed a "syndrome" (or collection of symptoms with no specific defining characteristic) which is characterized by chronic pain, often in the joints as well as pain or unusually strong reactions to pressure or palpation of the muscles and skin. It affects women during child bearing years far more frequently than any other demographic. Because of the ambiguous nature of the diagnosis, as well as the sense that the symptoms are simply common problems in a modern life, and because so many of the symptoms mimic conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia is considered a controversial or disputed diagnosis, not unlike Chronic fatigue syndrome or AIDS before an underlying cause for AIDS was found.

The only way to diagnose fibromyalgia is to rule out all other causes for the individual symptoms, making it a diagnosis of exclusion. In part, because it is so poorly understood, and no one can find an underlying cause, there is no good treatment for the overall condition; the patient must simply address the symptoms - something they would be doing with or without the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

Since it also mostly affects women, it induces tremendous arse-elbow dysphoria in the medical profession, or that part that dismisses such things as feminine frippery.


The symptom shared most often by patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia is chronic pain throughout the body, and specifically the joints, as well as hypersensitivity to pressure or palpation on the skin or muscles. Other symptoms include chronic fatigue, nerve pain, spasms and cramps, issues with the bowel, and problems with insomnia and waking up frequently at night. Since each of these symptoms is also a symptom of other problems, including things like stress, diet, and depression, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia is applied only when there are no other causes for the symptoms. This in turn, is exactly why the condition itself is sometimes considered a controversial diagnosis, and why it is ripe for medical woo.

The American Medical Association accepts that for a patient to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, she or he must have otherwise unexplainable chronic pain lasting for more than 3 months in all 4 regions of the body (upper/lower and right/left), and must be sensitive to pressure in 11 of 18 specific sites on the body.[1]


There is no specific or widely accepted treatment for fibromyalgia, and none can be offered until the underlying cause is discovered. Some treatments that seem to have some effect beyond just managing the symptoms are antidepressants, muscle relaxants and anti-seizure medication to target the body's muscular system. And, of course, pot seems to help.[2] There are currently three drugs specifically targeted at fibromyalgia: pregabalin, duloxetine, and milnacipran. However, none of these drugs has a consistently high effective rate nor will they work for all or even "most" patients.[3]


When a patient does not really understand the illness they have; when they are in constant pain, and when there is no known cure, woo meisters come out of the woodwork to feed, e.g., Drs. Mehmet Oz[4] & Andrew Weil.[5]