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All About FibromyalgiaA Guide for Patients and their Families$
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Daniel J. Wallace and Janice Brock Wallace

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780195147537

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195147537.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 13 June 2021

How Our Understanding of Fibromyalgia Evolved

How Our Understanding of Fibromyalgia Evolved

1 How Our Understanding of Fibromyalgia Evolved
All About Fibromyalgia

Daniel J. Wallace

Janice Brock Wallace

Oxford University Press

There are times when rheumatologists have been accused of making up new syndromes. For example, in the last 20 years, our specialty has described new rheumatic entities including Lyme disease, the musculoskeletal manifestations of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), eosinophilic myalgia syndrome (from L-tryptophan contamination), and siliconosis (which, if it exists, results from silicone breast implants). Fibromyalgia is not in this group. Evidence for the syndrome can be found as far back in history as the book of Job, where he complained of “sinews (that) take no rest.” Seemingly exaggerated tenderness of the muscles and soft tissues to touch was documented in the nineteenth-century medical literature by French, German, and British scientists, who called it spinal irritation, Charcot’s hysteria, or a morbid affection. Tender points were first described by Balfour in 1824 and Villieux in 1841. The English physician Sir William R. Gowers (1845-1915) coined the term fibrositis in 1904 in a paper on lumbago (low back pain) when he tried to describe inflammatory changes in the fibrous tissues of the muscles of the low back. Gowers was wrong. There is no such thing as inflammation of the fibrous tissues, but the term lived on because British physicians used fibrositis to denote pain in the upper back and neck areas among Welsh coal miners in the 1920s and 1930s. The definition of fibrositis cross-pollinated during the Second World War when United States, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand physicians served with their British counterparts. Soldiers who were unwilling to fight or who experienced shell shock, or complained of aches and pains due to carrying heavy gear without any obvious disease, were diagnosed as having fibrositis. A symptom complex of fatigue, palpitations, dizziness, gastrointestinal symptoms, headache, sleep disturbance, and aching was first noted by the Union physician J. M. da Costa among 300 soldiers during the Civil War who had what he termed an “irritable heart.” The first mention of fibrositis in the North American medical literature appeared in a rheumatology textbook chapter written by Wallace Graham in 1940.

Keywords:   American Medical Association, Civil War, Epstein-Barr virus syndrome, Icelandic disease, Lyme disease, fibrositis, multiple sclerosis, neurasthenia, siliconosis, tender points

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