Fibromyalgia is a syndrome in which the patient experiences chronic widespread bodily pain including in the neck and arms. The intensity of the pain varies, with periods of more intensity. The condition is accompanied by chronic fatigue and insomnia in addition to other disturbing symptoms.
Fibromyalgia can be hard to diagnose, and does not reveal itself in blood tests, leading doctors to ignore their patients' complaints and reach a correct diagnosis.
Prof. Dan Buskila, an expert in internal medicine and rheumatology at Ben-Gurion University, explains why it's so difficult to diagnose: "When we talk about disease, we essentially know what causes it, a known bacterium or pathogen. This syndrome is accompanied by several symptoms that occur at a certain frequency and in certain types of patients, but they don’t form into a disease with a known cause, and that's why we call it a syndrome."
What causes this syndrome? This syndrome involves a disruption of pain mechanisms, causing an amplification of pain. So even though the patient feels their body is in pain, its source is actually in the brain. When we talk about fibromyalgia, we’re essentially talking about a group of patients with different subgroups; in one group, fatigue is more prominent, in another, pain is more prominent, in one group there are psychological components, and in the other, there are none. The symptoms are very different, making it difficult to diagnose and treat the syndrome.
So, it's a type of rheumatism. Is it treatable? "That's correct. Unfortunately, this syndrome is currently incurable, and once the pain mechanisms have been disrupted in the brain, it's irreversible. There's some trigger that causes this disruption, but we don't have any way to overcome it,” he explained.
“It's important to understand that the most crucial thing in fibromyalgia is to improve aerobic fitness. We've learned that a significant part of treatment comes from physical activity, so exercising is very important. The other important part is the doctor-patient relationship. A relationship based on compassion, caring, and wanting to help.”