Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that is characterized by diffuse muscle, joint and bone pain as well as fatigue. This syndrome most commonly affects women between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, is difficult to diagnose, and there are few effective treatments.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia include widespread and diffuse pain, achiness in the joints, and an exaggerated response to otherwise non-irritating stimuli along the skin (for example, movement of clothing across the skin may be painful). A chronic sleep disorder in which deep sleep may be frequently interrupted is also associated with fibromyalgia, and this may also result in some cognitive deficits that are sometimes referred to as "brain fog" or "fibrofog." Symptoms may become worse in certain conditions, including cold damp weather, hunger, or following physical activity. Some women with fibromyalgia also report almost complete relief of symptoms in warm tropical climates.
The American College of Rheumatology (1990) requires two criteria for diagnosis. The first is a history of greater than 3 months of pain that is widespread (involves all four quadrants of the body: right side, left side, above the waist and below the waist). The second is pain in at least 11 of 18 designated possible tender points on exertion of 4 kilograms force.
The treatment for fibromyalgia is directed at reducing symptoms such as pain. Conventional analgesics, including nonsteroidal anti inflammatory agents or narcotics, are rarely effective. Physicians have used a variety of alternative medications with mixed results. Consultation with an expert in the treatment of this perplexing disorder is suggested and possibly entry into an experimental protocol when available.