What causes pediatric fibromyalgia?

The cause of fibromyalgia is not well understood. Genetics may play a role, and relatives of patients with fibromyalgia have increased risk of developing fibromyalgia themselves. However, there is no clear genetic cause for fibromyalgia. Patients with fibromyalgia have changes in the way their brains and nerves process pain. These changes may make them more sensitive to pain, and perceived pain may be more intense. This phenomenon is called “pain amplification.” The cause for this altered pain processing is unknown.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Children and adolescents with fibromyalgia have chronic pain affecting multiple areas of the body. Sometimes, the pain is made worse by episodes of anxiety, increases in physical activity, or changes in the weather. The pain may make it difficult to function in one’s usual daily activities. Muscle and joint pain is often accompanied by symptoms of fatigue, poor sleep, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, numbness, anxiety and/or depression. All of these fibromyalgia symptoms can wax and wane in severity.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

Currently, there is no available test for fibromyalgia. Diagnosis is based on recognition of characteristic symptoms of muscle pain and joint pain, as well as confirming the absence of any other identifiable problem that could be contributing to these symptoms. Recognition of other common symptoms, such as fatigue, poor sleep, irritable bowel symptoms, headaches, numbness, and anxiety can also help to support a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

A diagnosis of fibromyalgia is best made by a doctor with experience in recognizing fibromyalgia. Physicians at our Pediatric AMPS Program have extensive expertise with the diagnosis of all forms of amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome, including fibromyalgia.

How is fibromyalgia treated?

Treatment for pediatric fibromyalgia patients typically includes the following:

  • Daily aerobic and cardiovascular exercise
  • Physical therapy and/or occupational therapy
  • Psychology evaluation, to address coping techniques and patient/family education on behavioral pain management

The goals of fibromyalgia treatment are to improve your ability to participate in daily activities and to decrease the severity of your pain. Functional improvement often occurs first and then is followed by reduction of pain. For patients who do not experience improvement with outpatient treatment, inpatient or day-treatment programs are often beneficial.