Author(s): Yunus MB, Ahles TA, Aldag JC, Masi AT
Detailed clinical study of 50 patients with primary fibromyalgia and 50 normal matched controls has shown a characteristic syndrome. Primary fibromyalgia patients are usually females, aged 25-40 yr, who complain of diffuse musculoskeletal aches, pains or stiffness associated with tiredness, anxiety, poor sleep, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, subjective swelling in the articular and periarticular areas and numbness. Physical examination is characterized by presence of multiple tender points at specific sites and absence of joint swelling. Symptoms are influenced by weather and activities, as well as by time of day(worse in the morning and the evening). In contrast, symptoms of psychogenic rheumatism patients have little fluctuation, if any, and are modulated by emotional rather than physical factors. In psychogenic rheumatism, there is diffuse tenderness rather than tender points at specific sites. Laboratory tests and roentgenologic findings in primary fibromyalgia are normal or negative. Primary fibromyalgia should be suspected by the presence of its own characteristic features, and not diagnosed just by the absence of other recognizable conditions. This study has also shown that primary fibromyalgia is a poorly recognized condition. Patients were usually seen by many physicians who failed to provide a definite diagnosis despite frequent unnecessary investigations. A guideline for diagnosis of primary fibromyalgia, based upon our observations, is suggested. Management is usually gratifying in these frustrated patients. The most important aspects are a definite diagnosis, explanation of the various possible mechanisms responsible for the symptoms, and reassurance regarding the benign nature of this condition. A combination of reassurance, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, good sleep, local tender point injections, and various modes of physical therapy is successful in most cases.