Fibromyalgia Syndrome, fibromyalgia for short, is a physiological illness that causes chronic pain “Fibro” means connective tissues, “my” means muscle, and “algia” means pain. This illness has been around for centuries, and ongoing research has concluded that it’s very real and debilitating. Sometimes this syndrome has mistakenly thought of as a relatively new development in the medical world.
We’re here to dispel that notion and give insight into the illness by going through its growth. In the following, we’ll dig through the history of physiological disorder to its current status. We’ll look at historical developments from both a medical and cultural perspective with a focus on the past hundred years.
Fibromyalgia awareness has never been higher, and a lot of that was due to the research accomplishments of the last century. Fibromyalgia history has its beginnings in the 1500s. Of course, at that time, medical knowledge was not what it is today.
It was first identified by name by the French doctor named Guillaume de Baillou. He called it “rheumatism”. This was used to describe musculoskeletal pain that had no tangible physiological evidence for the cause.
Now, remember at this time medical terms were used rather broadly.
An American neurologist named Georgie William Beard described the combination of fatigue with psychological issues such as neurasthenia and myasthenia.
He did this in 1880 and thought the physiological condition was stress-related. Over time, physicians conducted more research and came up with further terminology. Myogeloses, muscle hardening, and fibrositis were all used to described illnesses with fibromyalgia-like symptoms.
Out of these three, fibrositis became the most well-used term. It was come up with by British neurologist Sir William Gowers in 1904. Fibrositis was used to describe an illness that included symptoms like fatigue, cold sensitivity, random pain, and the exacerbation of symptoms after engaging in physical activity.
It would not be uncommon for physicians to diagnose the disorder. A paper was written in 1936 described fibrositis as a common form of chronic rheumatism. The same study found that 60% of insurance cases in Britain were related to rheumatic disease.
Additionally, referred muscle pain was conclusively confirmed to happen. The same study that proved this also might have been the first to notice the central nervous system’s involvement. Interestingly enough, for the treatment, he recommended injections of cocaine, which was used as an anesthetic at the time.
After Gowers published his studies, another physician concluded that Gowers’ findings on the process of inflammation were correct. However, this additional research was found to be incorrect decades later. During the 1930s, patterns were being studied relating to muscle pain and tender points.
Local injections of anesthetic, such as cocaine, continued to be the treatment of choice. Acceptance continued to gradually grow after the war.
A credible medical textbook titled Arthritis and Allied Conditions touched on a number of causes such as psychological issues, climate, and infections.
This was progress but descriptions of the illness remained vague. For instance, sleep issues weren’t mentioned.
With the onset of World War II, new attention was brought to the disease as doctors soon realized that military servicemen could be especially susceptible to fibrositis. Soldiers turning home often did not display inflammation or other physical symptoms, and the symptoms shown were related to depression and stress.
Researchers ended up calling it psychogenic rheumatism.
The so-called battle between the physical and psychological raged on. In 1968, medical researcher Eugene F. Traut wrote a paper that built on the foundation of research before him. He added characteristics like fatigue, headaches, sleep issues, anxiety, tender points, and a connection between the physical and psychological.
Some of these symptoms you may recognize as being associated with a contemporary diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Traut also focused on regional pain, like carpal tunnel syndrome.
In 1972, another researcher by the name of Hugh A. Smythe is credited to be the first to make a clear distinction between fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome. He described it solely as a widespread condition, and not one that only occurred within certain regions of the body.
He has been named the father of contemporary fibromyalgia. He recognized the importance of sleep in the role of the illness, and how disturbed sleep can lead to intensified symptoms. As a healthy person, you can also experience symptoms similar to fibromyalgia if you’re suffering from sleep deprivation. Another important study was published in 1981 by Muhammad Yunus.
This study described how individuals with fibromyalgia felt symptoms like pain, paresthesia, inflammation, sleep issues, and fatigue far more often than healthy subjects. They also had a much higher number of tender points. This paper was the first to credibly list out criteria that distinctly defined fibromyalgia. Muhammad’s further research found that conditions like fibromyalgia and IBS could even overlap, and theorized that this was caused by muscle spasms.
This idea was later supplanted by the concept of central sensitization.
Since then, further research has cemented fibromyalgia into stronger mainstream acceptance. For example, in 2005 the American Pain Society released its first guidelines for fibromyalgia pain management. Researchers have also worked on categorizing different forms of fibromyalgia. They are also looking at identifying instruments for diagnosis such as using body-scan technology.
Fibromyalgia history has come a long way. Research has been able to credibly locate both physiological and psychological evidence that the syndrome exists, and the list of evidence is ever going stronger.
This can only serve to aid you if you’re suffering from symptoms of fibromyalgia. Not only that, but this also helps with awareness and the stigma associated with the illness. We now understand what forms of medical and holistic treatments are effective.
The FDA first approved treatment in 2007, and two more drugs were approved in 2008 and 2009. There is also a more standardized system of diagnosis. You’re able to even distinguish the specific tender points that are causing you pain, and central sensitization abnormalities can be recognized.
As we better understand the illness, we can better treat it and help those in need.