Overview

Fibromyalgia, is it a real disease or not? The fibromyalgia debate has been going on for many years. For some practitioners, the syndrome is believed to be psychological in origin, but many patients who suffer from fibromyalgia can tell you that it definitely is not something they are imagining. It is a real illness that can strike without warning, cause significant pain and suffering, and negatively affect quality of life.

Fibromyalgia may start out as achy feelings at certain points in the body, the hips or shoulders, for example. The pain seems to change location, and a generalized aching, sleep disturbance, or extreme fatigue can be the problem that drives the patient to see a health care provider. Because the pain complaints are so vague and affect different areas of the patient's life, it is very difficult to pin down the source of the problem until the patient has been seen repeatedly over a period of time, perhaps years.

What also makes the diagnosis difficult is the variation in the symptoms. Sometimes the pain is better, at other times it can be debilitating. The changes in symptomatology and intensity make it hard for the health care provider to develop a comprehensive plan of care to deal with the pain, fatigue, memory lapses, and sleep disturbances. There is also wide variation in the degree of disability with the condition between patients. These differences in patients and symptoms add to the confusion about what fibromyalgia is and is not.

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