The History of Fibromyalgia

The History of Fibromyalgia

By: Dr Alex Robber

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is now a recognized clinical entity which causes chronic pain and disabilities. Muscle pain has been known as rheumatism and then as muscle rheumatism for several years. Gowers coined the term fibrositis in 1904 and was not converted into fibromyalgia until 1976.

In 1972, Smythe laid the foundations for modern FMS by defining widespread discomfort and points of tenderness. In 1975 the first study of the sleep electroencephalogram was carried out. The first controlled clinical study was published in 1981, with confirmation of documented symptoms and tender points.

The first data-based parameters were also introduced in that same report. The important idea of an interconnection between FMS and other similar conditions was proposed in 1984. The first American College of Rheumatology guidelines were published in 1990, and in the 1990s the emergence of neurohormonal pathways with central sensitization.

In 1986, serotonergic / norepinephric drugs were first proven effective.

In 1592, French doctor Guillaume de Baillou coined the word “rheumatism” to describe musculoskeletal pain not caused by injury. This term encompassed fibromyalgia. Doctors initially used fibromyalgia with the diagnosis “muscular rheumatism”

Scottish surgeon William Balfour described nodules or “Tender Points” in 1815 and we are eventually used to treat fibromyalgia with these “Tender Points.”

A few decades later (1800’s), French doctor Francios Valleix used the word “neuralgia” to describe the referred discomfort of fibromyalgia from tender points moving along the nerves.

In 1880, American neurologist George William Beard invented the words “neurasthenia” and “myelasthenia” to describe the common pain and tiredness of fibromyalgia.

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In 1936, fibrositis was the most common form of severe chronic rheumatism published in medical papers. It also explained that fibrositis accounted for 60 percent of rheumatic disease insurance cases in Britain.

In 1949, a chapter on fibrositis (Fibromyalgia) was included in the medical textbook entitled “Arthritis and Allied Conditions.” It states: “There can no longer be any questions about the presence of such a disorder (Fibromyalgia)”

In 1968, The first accurate medical report was released.

Researcher Hugh A. Smythe published a textbook chapter on fibrositis (Fibromyalgia) in 1972, which had a far-reaching effect on future studies and led him to be named the “grandfather of modern fibromyalgia.” Hugh A.

Smythe was the first to describe Fibromyalgia’s widespread symptoms, thereby separating it from myfascial pain syndrome in 1976, though researchers made good progress in defining Fibromyalgia. The term “fibrositis” has therefore been shortened to Fibromyalgia: “fibro” meaning connective tissue, “my” meaning muscle, and “algia” meaning pain

A study conducted by Muhammed Yunus in 1981 found widespread pain, fatigue and poor sleep were significantly more common in people with fibromyalgia who had no fibromyalgia; the number of Fibromyalgia tender points was significantly higher; and numerous other symptoms were also significantly more common.

Important medical advances include for Fibromyalgia included:

  • 1984 – First study published linking higher fibromyalgia prevalence in those with rheumatoid arthritis
  • 1985 – First controlled study of juvenile fibromyalgia was published
  • 1990 – American College of Rheumatology establishes official diagnostic criteria for Fibromyalgia consisting of widespread pain and tenderness in at least 11 of 18 specific tender points, thus standardizing research inclusion criteria around the world
  • 1991 – Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire developed for doctors to evaluate function
  • 1992 – Discovery of low growth-hormone levels found in people with Fibromyalgia
  • 1993 – Studies demonstrate central sensitization and HPA axis abnormalities in Fibromyalgia
  • 1994 – Confirmation of elevated substance P (pain messenger) in cerebrospinal fluid in Fibromyalgia
  • 1995 – First U.S. prevalence study shows fibromyalgia in 2% of the world’s population
  • 1995 – First SPECT (brain imaging) showing abnormal blood-flow patterns in the brain in those with Fibromyalgia
  • 1999 – First study demonstrating genetic component to explain why Fibromyalgia runs in families
  • 2000 – Review of evidence in Fibromyalgia coins the term central sensitization syndromes
  • 2005 – American Pain Society releases first guidelines for treating fibromyalgia pain
  • 2007 – Lyrica (pregabalin) becomes first FDA-approved treatment in the U.S. (Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Savella (milnacipran) followed, in 2008 and 2009, respectively
  • 2010 – American College of Rheumatology releases diagnostic criteria for Fibromyalgia using the questionnaires, WPI And SS Diagnostic Assessments for diagnosing and assessing the severity of Fibromyalgia
  • In 2012 the United States Social Security Administration determines Fibromyalgia is a life long chronic illness. Further, Fibromyalgia becomes federally protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act And meets the Criteria for FMLA or Family Medical Leave Act
  • In 2012 the first diagnostic blood test for Fibromyalgia, called “FM/a,” is developed by Epigentics and is FDA approved in the United States
  • In 2018, a second diagnostic blood test for Fibromyalgia, called “IsolateFibromyalgia,” is developed by iQuity Labs and is FDA approved in the United States.

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