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Fibromyalgia in Children

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia, also called fibrositis, is a chronic, widespread pain in muscles and soft tissues surrounding the joints throughout the body, accompanied by fatigue. The disease is fairly common, affecting approximately 2 percent of the U.S. population, mostly females.

Although its symptoms are similar to other joint diseases, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia is actually a form of soft tissue or muscular rheumatism that causes pain in the muscles and soft tissues.

Fibromyalgia is one of several pain syndromes included in the classification of musculoskeletal pain syndrome (MSPS), or pain amplification syndrome.

What causes or triggers fibromyalgia?

Although the cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, researchers believe there may be a link with sleep disturbance, psychological stress, or immune, endocrine, or biochemical abnormalities. Fibromyalgia mainly affects the muscles and the points at which the muscles attach to the bone (at the ligaments and tendons).

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Pain is the most common and chronic symptom of fibromyalgia. Pain may begin in one area of the body, such as the neck and shoulders, but eventually the entire body may become affected. The pain ranges from mild to severe and may be described as burning, soreness, stiffness, aching, or gnawing pain. Fibromyalgia is usually associated with characteristic tender spots of pain in the muscles. The following are other common symptoms of fibromyalgia. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Moderate to severe fatigue

  • Decreased exercise endurance

  • Sleep problems at night

  • Depressed mood

  • Anxiety

  • Poor school attendance

  • Headaches

Symptoms of fibromyalgia may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

There are no laboratory tests that can confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Instead, diagnosis is usually based on reported symptoms. Laboratory tests and other tests, such as X-rays, may be performed in order to rule out other causes of the symptoms shown by your child.

What is the treatment for fibromyalgia?

Specific treatment for fibromyalgia will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

  • Your child's overall health and medical history

  • Extent of the condition

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, and therapies

  • Expectation for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Although there's no cure for fibromyalgia, the disease can often be successfully managed with proper treatment, as fibromyalgia doesn't cause damage to tissues. Treatment may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications (to relieve pain and improve sleep)

  • Pregabalin (or Lyrica—approved by the FDA in 2007 to treat fibromyalgia in adults, but there are few studies in children)

  • Exercise and physical therapy (to stretch muscles and improve cardiovascular fitness)

  • Relaxation techniques to help relieve pain 

  • Heat treatments

  • Occasional cold applications

  • Massage

  • Short-term use of antidepressant medication at bedtime (to improve sleep and mood)

  • Exercise