A Bit of Fibromyalgia History to See How Far We’ve Come

I am a huge fan of history. I’ve been working on my family tree for a while now. I think it’s super important to know our roots. Similarly, I think it’s important to know the roots of our diseases. Although fibromyalgia (FM) may seem like a new syndrome or disease, it has actually been around for a very long time. It has gone through many name changes as new information about it has been discovered.

The first time it was described by doctors was in the 1800s. At that time, it was called muscular rheumatism, with symptoms including stiffness, aches, pain, fatigue, and sleep difficulties. In 1815, William Balfour, a surgeon from Scotland, first described what we now know as the “tender points” that patients with FM experience.

Around the year 1904, inflammation was thought to be the cause of FM. Thus, the term fibrositis was used by Sir William Gowers. In Latin, fibro means “connective tissue fibers,” and itis means “inflammation.” In 1913, doctor Luff wrote in the British Medical Journal that symptoms worsened when the barometric pressure lowered and when rain was on the way. The terms fibromyalgia wasn’t used until 1976. The name comes from Latin root words fibro, plus my (meaning “muscle”), al (meaning “pain”), and gia (meaning “the condition of”). In other words, fibromyalgia is a condition of pain in the muscles and connective tissues.

In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology wrote the first set of guidelines for fibromyalgia diagnoses. In 2005, the American Pain Society published the first guidelines for how to treat FM. The first prescription medication for FM, Lyrica (pregabalin), was approved by the FDA for treatment of this condition in 2007. Only in recent years have we learned about the connections between FM and other illnesses, such as irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome.

In more recent years, we’ve recognized FM as a central nervous system disorder. Through magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) of the brain, doctors can now diagnose FM with 93 percent accuracy.

The good thing is that research is always ongoing, and while I know that answers are slow in coming, they are coming. If you’re interested in seeing more dates and discoveries, click here.

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