Facts to Know:
- Pediatric fibromyalgia is a chronic illness characterized by muscle pain and joint pain.
- Other symptoms, such as fatigue, headaches and irritable bowel symptoms are common.
- Treatment of fibromyalgia typically includes daily aerobic and cardiovascular exercise, physical therapy evaluation, and psychology evaluation.
- Fibromyalgia is estimated to affect approximately 1% of adolescents and young adults
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.” For this reason, fibromyalgia is sometimes called “amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome.” The cause for this altered pain processing is unknown.
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.
Currently, there is no available test for fibromyalgia. A diagnosis of fibromyalgia is best made by a doctor with experience in recognizing 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.
Treatment for pediatric fibromyalgia patients typically includes the following:
- Daily aerobic and cardiovascular exercise
- Physical therapy/Occupational therapy
- Psychology evaluation, to address coping techniques and patient/family education on behavioral pain management
The goals of fibromyalgia treatment are to improve the patient’s ability to participate in daily activities and to decrease the severity of the 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.