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What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a common rheumatological syndrome presenting with chronic (long-term), diffuse musculoskeletal pain and tenderness.  There is usually associated sleep disturbance, fatigue and /or tiredness.

How common is the problem?

Fibromyalgia affects between 2% to 10 % of the general population, in all ages, ethnic groups and cultures.  But this condition is up to seven times more common among females than males.

What is it impact on a patient’s quality of life?

Fibromyalgia’s impact on an individual’s quality of life is significant.  Individual with fibromyalgia may be forced by the condition to accept a shorter working week or less physically demanding job.  The limitation is comparable with a patient suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the clinical features of fibromyalgia patients?

Fibromyalgia patients have abnormal sensitivity to painful stimulus.  This hypersensitivity to painful stimulation is seen not only at “painful areas” but also at “normal” areas in the body.

Onset can be gradual or after a traumatic event.  Patient usually described a continuous, deep, throbbing or aching pain in the muscles.  Patient commonly too complained of associated insomnia and/ or daytime tiredness or fatigue. 

It is also common for patients to have problems of anxiety, depression, headache, light-headedness, constipation, diarrhea, urgency, dysuria, abdominal or pelvic pain and pain during menstruation.

What is the cause of fibromyalgia?

The cause of fibromyalgia is not completely understood.  There appeared to be disturbances in the nerve transmission, the brain processing of information and/ or the central hormones released.  There is also a suggestion that there maybe a genetic basis to the pain, although it is more likely that multiple genes are involved.

How is fibromyalgia treated?

Management of fibromyalgia syndrome requires a multi-modal approach.  It includes educating the patients, families and friends, and encouraging patients to take an active role in self-care.  Patient’s acceptance of his/ her condition is important and together with physical therapies, exercise programs, psychological and psychiatric support and sparing use of medications, we can work together towards recovery.  At times, acupuncture can be applied and integrated into the treatment regime of patient.

What is the implication of having fibromyalgia?

It is important to know that fibromyalgia does not threaten a patient’s life.  Unfortunately, this condition can cause severe disability and thus substantially compromise the quality of life.

Although complete resolution of symptom is difficult to achieve, significant improvement in symptom can be obtained with adequate treatment.