What is Fibromyalgia and its Symptoms

Dr. Pamela Squire, MD, CCFP, DCAPM, ISAM, CPE, discusses What is Fibromyalgia.

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Dr. Pamela Squire, MD, CCFP, DCAPM, ISAM, CPE, discusses What is Fibromyalgia.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Pamela Squire, MD, CCFP, DCAPM, ISAM, CPE

Duration: 2 minutes, 39 seconds  What is Fibromyalgia  

For a long time, fibromyalgia was not well understood.  

Recent research has shown us that it's really a problem with the whole pain-sensing system. There are a number of other diseases that patients with fibromyalgia may also have that are also related to abnormal pain-sensing systems.  

These include things like temporomandibular joint disorder, irritable bowel, interstitial cystitis, and other problems similar to those. They involve problems with pain, with fatigue, and with mood.

There is no test that shows fibromyalgia. Other things have to be ruled out that can cause widespread pain and your own individual physician will help you do that. Because there is no test that determines it, you really have to exclude other causes first.

Fibromyalgia is a disorder of your pain-sensing system. Another example is phantom limb pain. What's fascinating is the difference between how people are treated with both of those problems.
For years patients with what is  fibromyalgia were disbelieved or it was thought to be due to hysteria or personality disorder, and yet patients with phantom limb pain have always been believed. And the story surrounding that is really a story about our society and sociology.

Phantom limb pain was first described during World War I by the surgeons who knew these soldiers before they were injured. And so after they were injured and the soldier said “You know, you're going to think I'm crazy, but I'm telling you, my leg is killing me and it's not there.”  

The surgeon didn't say “I think you're crazy,” the surgeon said “I know you, you're one of the bravest men I've ever met, you tell me your leg hurts, I believe you.” And they wrote it up in medical textbooks and we learned about it in medical school and believed it.

Fibromyalgia was different. It was women presenting to physicians, saying things like “Even though I sleep eight hours I'm tired, I hurt everywhere, if you touch me, it bothers me.”

In the context of not being able to find anything wrong, because both of those were problems with the pain-sensing system, there was no test that we could do - at least then -  to prove that. But the difference between a woman complaining to a physician and a soldier complaining to the surgeon really created two sets of different circumstances under which we view those two diagnoses.

The best place to find more information about how to manage chronic pain are with provincial, state or national pain associations.

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Presenter: Dr. Pamela Squire, Family Doctor, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Family Doctor

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.