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An estimated 2% of the population suffers from the chronic pain syndrome called fibromyalgia.1 And 17% of Gulf War veterans with soft tissue syndromes had fibromyalgia.2 The disease also is associated with people who have had a car accident, a viral or bacterial infection, or who have lupus, hypothyroidism, or rheumatoid arthritis.
Patients experience relentless musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, abdominal problems, tension, migraine headaches, and a variety of other symptoms. Some people describe it as similar to the flu. The associated sleep disorder is called the alpha-EEG anomaly, in which fibromyalgia patients’ deep sleep is constantly interrupted by brain activity, leaving them feeling unrested when they awaken.
Some fibromyalgia patients also have temporomandibular joint dysfunction syndrome, which causes face and head pain or tenderness. Those patients also might be sensitive to odors, noise, bright lights, chemicals, medications, and certain foods. Environmental changes, hormonal changes, stress, and anxiety can lead to symptom flare-ups.
While fibromyalgia has no known cure, patients can learn to adjust and limit flare-ups and symptoms through rehabilitation treatment.
1. Cathebras P, Lauwers A, Rousset H. Fibromyalgia. A critical review. Ann Med Interne (Paris) 1998; 149:406-414.
2. Buskila D. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and myofascial pain syndrome. Curr Opin Rheumatol 1999; 11:119-126.
William Burkett, OTR, Clinical Supervisor of BMR Works, Bryn Mawr Rehab, 414 Paoly Pike, Malvern, PA 19355. Phone: (610) 251-5681.
John Kraus, MD, MMM, Chief Medical Officer, Bryn Mawr Rehab, 414 Paoly Pike, Malvern, PA 19355. Phone: (610) 640-3935.
Amy Malcomb, MHR, Business Development Coordinator, St. Francis Health System, One St. Francis Drive, Greenville, SC 29601. Phone: (864) 255-1757.
Teresa Woodard, PT, Director of Rehabilitation, St. Francis Hospital, One St. Francis Drive, Greenville, SC 29601. Phone: (864) 255-1428.