Reports From National Arthritis Meeting

Dr. Shiel Gives Perspectives Of Interest On Fibromyalgia From
2003 Annual Scientific Meeting Of The American College Of Rheumatology

Below are perspectives on key reports presented at the recent national meeting of the American College of Rheumatology:


Fibromyalgia (formerly known as fibrositis) is a chronic condition that causes pain, stiffness, and tenderness of the muscles, tendons, and joints. Fibromyalgia is also characterized by restless sleep, awakening feeling tired, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and disturbances in bowel function.

While fibromyalgia is one of the most common diseases affecting the muscles, its cause is currently unknown. The painful tissues involved are not accompanied by tissue inflammation. Therefore, despite potentially disabling body pain, patients with fibromyalgia do not develop body damage or deformity. Fibromyalgia also does not cause damage to internal body organs. Therefore, fibromyalgia is different from many other rheumatic conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, and polymyositis). In those diseases, tissue inflammation is the major cause of pain, stiffness, and tenderness of the joints, tendons, and muscles, and leads to joint deformity and damage to the internal organs or muscles.

Since the symptoms of fibromyalgia are diverse and vary among patients, treatment programs must be individualized. Treatment programs are most effective when they combine patient education, stress reduction, regular exercise, and medications. Recent studies have verified that the best outcome for each patient results from a combination of approaches that involves the patient in customization of the treatment plan.

Medicine Treatments

Ultracet was found to be helpful in improving quality of life in fibromyalgia patients.

Dr. Shiel's Perspective:   In treating patients with fibromyalgia it is important to not only relieve symptoms, but also to return quality of life. In other words, we don't simply want to knock out pain, we also want to resume function and normal daily activities. This research reports that Ultracet (tramadol/acetaminophen) actually improved the vitality of the patients in this study.

Websites Helpful

Fibromyalgia websites were found to be helpful for patient education by researchers from the University of Chicago. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh also reported that the quality must include easy reading so that viewers can understand the concepts.

Dr. Shiel's Perspective:   Well, we already knew that at!  However, a word to the wise is in order. It is quality that makes for helpful reading when it comes to medical information.

Genes May Play A Role

One group of researchers reported on fibromyalgia that ran in families (familial). Another group reported on a gene that is responsible for forming the receptor for the chemical messenger serotonin.

Dr. Shiel's Perspective:   Well, this is exciting. Rheumatologists have known for years that medications such as Prozac (fluoxetine) that block serotonin can help patients with fibromyalgia. Perhaps it is possible to inherit a form of receptor for this chemical messenger that functions abnormally, resulting in fibromyalgia!

Aquatic Exercise

Water exercise therapy was found by researchers from Brazil to significantly benefit patients with fibromyalgia.

Dr. Shiel's Perspective:   This wonderful form of exercise has long been shown to be helpful for patients with many forms of joint disease.  Water exercise may be especially valuable for patients who are unable to tolerate land-based therapy programs.

For more information, please visit the  Fibromyalgia Center.

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What characterizes fibromyalgia? See Answer

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