For many years fibromyalgia has been considered something of a mystery, confounding the doctors who are trying to treat it and the patients who have to live with it. Only recently has new technology begun to unravel the truths about this mysterious disorder. As a result of this previous lack of scientific evidence, several myths about fibromyalgia have developed that, unfortunately, are still being repeated today. It’s time to dispel the myths and clarify the facts.
1. Myth: Fibromyalgia is a form of arthritis.
Fact: Fibromyalgia is a neurological disease.
Although it was once thought that fibromyalgia might be a form of arthritis, research over the past 10+ years has proven that to be false. Arthritis is defined as an inflammation of the joints, but there is no inflammation with FM, nor is there any damage to the joints. A fibromyalgia patient may have a type of arthritis (like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis) in addition to FM, but it is a completely separate disorder. On the fibromyalgia research front, new brain-imaging techniques and scientific studies are revealing that fibromyalgia is better defined as a central nervous system disorder that results in abnormal pain processing.
2. Myth: Fibromyalgia affects the muscles, joints and connective tissue.
Fact: There is no damage to the muscles, joints or connective tissue of people with fibromyalgia.
For many years fibromyalgia was described as a musculoskeletal disorder because much of the pain people experience with fibromyalgia feels like it is coming from the muscles, joints and connective tissues. However, years of testing failed to reveal any actual damage to the musculoskeletal system. What research has discovered is that a malfunction in the central nervous system of FM patients causes disordered sensory processing which leads to pain amplification. In other words, a stimulus that would not even be noticed by most people can be extremely painful to someone with fibromyalgia.