What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia (also referred to as FM or FMS) is a medical disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain and allodynia, a heightened and painful response to pressure. Fibromyalgia symptoms are not restricted to pain, leading to the use of the alternative term fibromyalgia syndrome for the condition. Other symptoms include debilitating fatigue, sleep disturbance, and joint stiffness. Some patients may also report difficulty with swallowing, bowel and bladder abnormalities, numbness and tingling, and cognitive dysfunction. Fibromyalgia is frequently comorbid with psychiatric conditions such as depression and anxiety and stress-related disorders such as posttraumatic stress disorder. Not all people with fibromyalgia experience all associated symptoms. Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect 2 - 4% of the population, with a female to male incidence ratio of approximately 9:1.

Evidence from research conducted in the last three decades has revealed abnormalities within the central nervous system affecting brain regions that may be linked both to clinical symptoms and research phenomena. These studies show a correlation, but not causation. Some research suggests that alterations in the central nervous system might be the result of childhood stress, or prolonged or severe stress.

Historically, fibromyalgia has been considered either a musculoskeletal disease or neuropsychiatric condition. Although there is as yet no cure for fibromyalgia, some treatments have been demonstrated by controlled clinical trials to be effective in reducing symptoms, including medications, behavioral interventions, patient education, and exercise. The most recent approach of a diagnosis of fibromyalgia involves pain index and a measure of key symptoms and severity.

Fibromyalgia is considered a controversial diagnosis, due to lacking scientific consensus to its cause. Not all members of the medical community consider fibromyalgia a disease because of a lack of abnormalities on physical examination and the absence of objective diagnostic tests. Source: Wikipedia

Fibromyalgia has been recognized as a diagnosable disorder by the National Institutes of Health and the American College of Rheumatology.


Research trends in Fibromyalgia

What are common areas of research?

  • Central nervous system involvement
  • MRI detection of pain
  • Medical and non-medical treatments
  • Functionality, economic impact, and outcomes


FORWARD and Fibromyalgia research

What are your important concerns about living with a rheumatic disease like fibromyalgia? Is your treatment effective? We believe that rheumatic disease research needs the personal perspective of people who have rheumatic diseases.
FORWARD conducts patient-reported research. All of our data comes directly from people with fibromyalgia, which gives us the ability to see how people live with fibromyalgia in the real world. We focus on treatment safety, costs and outcomes (how well treatments work).

Anyone with fibromyalgia (or any rheumatic disease) is welcome to participate and lend a hand in improving treatment and care. Learn more about participating.