How is fibromyalgia characterized?

Updated: Apr 23, 2020
  • Author: Chad S Boomershine, MD, PhD, CPI, CPT; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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Fibromyalgia (FM) is a syndrome of persistent widespread pain, stiffness, fatigue, disrupted and unrefreshing sleep, and cognitive difficulties, often accompanied by multiple other unexplained symptoms, anxiety and/or depression, and functional impairment of activities of daily living (ADLs). [1, 2] It typically presents in young or middle-aged women, but it can affect patients of either sex and at any age.

Fibromyalgia was once often dismissed by physicians and the public as a psychological disorder or "wastebasket" diagnosis because of an absence of objective findings on physical examination and usual laboratory and imaging evaluations. Some physicians still do not accept fibromyalgia as a discrete illness. However, basic and clinical investigations have clarified the neurophysiologic bases for fibromyalgia and led to its current classification as a central sensitivity syndrome (CSS). [3, 4]

Indeed, fibromyalgia can now be considered a neurosensory disorder characterized in part by abnormalities in pain processing by the central nervous system (CNS). [5] Increased understanding of the biological bases underlying fibromyalgia is rapidly leading to a new era of specific pharmacologic therapy for the condition.

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