Fibromylagia: Known Historically but Widely Misunderstood

It can be difficult to find a fibromyalgia specialist capable of treating the unique symptoms of this condition. I offer private help for fibromyalgia patients who have been unable to find the relief they need through traditional NHS channels.

My comments aren’t intended to disparage the NHS and the work they do. Rather, they are simply to illustrate that fibromyalgia, while known historically for more than a hundred years, is still a widely misunderstood condition that can be difficult to diagnose and treat. That’s why it’s so important for patients to consult with a fibromyalgia specialist.

First Reports of Fibromyalgia

We tend to think of fibromyalgia as a recently discovered illness. It is anything but. Doctors and researchers have been studying it since the early nineteenth century. Dr William Balfour, a University of Edinburgh surgeon, was the first medical professional to describe fibromyalgia from a medical point of view. He did so in 1824.

Some 200 years before Balfour’s medical description, the symptoms we now attribute to fibromyalgia were known as muscular rheumatism. British neurologist Sir William Gowers came up with a new term in the early 1900s: he called it fibrositis in recognition of the many tender points that trigger pain in fibromyalgia patients.

It wasn’t until the early 1970s that medical research began to get a handle on fibromyalgia. Research studies showed that the tender points described by patients were not subject to inflammation. Given that the ‘itis’ suffix designates inflammation, it was determined that fibrositis was no longer the best name for the condition. It was renamed fibromyalgia syndrome in 1975.

A Legitimate Physical Condition

Changing the name to fibromyalgia syndrome removed the incorrect association between fibromyalgia and inflammation. However, designating it as a syndrome suggested that the physical symptoms of the condition were not real. In other words, patients were perceiving pain for reasons not related to a physical cause.

As you might expect, this led some in the medical profession to decide that fibromyalgia wasn’t real. It was eventually classified as a psychosomatic illness most likely to strike people who suffered from stress, depression, or anxiety.

It wasn’t until 1987 that fibromyalgia was finally recognised as a legitimate physical condition. Most medical literature began dropping the ‘syndrome’ designation, preferring the single term ‘fibromyalgia’ instead. Today, we have clinical diagnostic criteria that clearly define the symptoms we can expect to observe in fibromyalgia patients.

Our Knowledge Is Still Limited

Our understanding of fibromyalgia has come a long way since the 1600s. Unfortunately, our knowledge is still limited. Early research facilitated shortly after fibromyalgia was officially recognised as a legitimate disease suggested an autoimmune foundation. Later research proved otherwise.

More recent studies suggest that fibromyalgia patients are more likely to have overly sensitive central nervous systems. That being the case, it could be that fibromyalgia pain is produced by a central nervous system that is especially sensitive to things that trigger pain signals.

The bottom line is that fibromyalgia is a real illness that is still not fully understood. Some in my profession continue to misunderstand it as a psychosomatic illness. Rest assured that, as a fibromyalgia specialist, I do not see it that way. I have first-hand experience of working with patients who suffer with daily fibromyalgia pain.

If you are in need of a fibromyalgia rheumatologist in London, I am available. My private clinic is accepting new patients on a regular basis. Please contact my office and schedule an appointment. Let us work together to achieve the fibromyalgia pain relief you deserve.

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