Fibromyalgia Epidemiological Study

by Karen Lee Richards Patient Advocate

By Karen Lee Richards, ChronicPainConnection Expert

In late 2005, the National Fibromyalgia Association in conjunction with several well-known fibromyalgia researchers conducted the first FM epidemiological study to be done since the 1980s. The findings from that study were published on BioMed Central in March 2007. Up until that point, information about the fibromyalgia patient population was mostly gathered from anecdotal evidence.

An epidemiological study looks at the incidence, distribution, and control of a particular disease in a population. This particular study sought to compile demographics and other significant data about the fibromyalgia patient population. Below is the abstract for "An Internet Survey of 2,596 People With Fibromyalgia."


Background: This study explored the feasibility of using an Internet survey of people with fibromyalgia (FM), with a view to providing information on demographics, sources of information, symptoms, functionality, perceived aggravating factors, perceived triggering events, health care utilization, management strategies, and medication use.

Methods: A survey questionnaire was developed by the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) in conjunction with a task force of "experts in the field." The questionnaire underwent several rounds of testing to improve its face validity, content validity, clarity and readability before it was mounted on the Internet. The questionnaire consisted of 121 items and is available online at the website of the National Fibromyalgia Association.

Results: The questionnaire was completed by 2,569 people. Most were from the United States, with at least one respondent from each of the 50 states. Respondents were predominantly middle-aged Caucasian females, most of whom had fibromyalgia symptoms for more than four years. The most common problems were morning stiffness, fatigue, non-restorative sleep, pain, concentration, and memory. Aggravating factors included: emotional distress, weather changes, insomnia, and strenuous activity. Respondents rated the most effective management modalities as rest, heat, pain medications, antidepressants, and hypnotics. The most commonly used medications were: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen, cyclobenzaprine, amitriptyline, and aspirin. The medications perceived to be the most effective were: hydrocodone preparations, aprazolam, oxycodone preparations, zolpidem, cyclobenzaprine, and clonazepam.

Conclusion: This survey provides a snapshot of fibromyalgia at the end of 2005, as reported by a self-selected population of people. This descriptive data has an heuristic function, in that it identifies several issues for further research, such as the prescribing habits of fibromyalgia health care providers, the role of emotional precipitants, the impact of obesity, the significance of low back pain and the nature of FM-related stiffness.

Download the full article: "An Internet Survey of 2,596 People With Fibromyalgia"

Source: BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2007, 8:27

Karen Lee Richards
Meet Our Writer
Karen Lee Richards

Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She writes for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.