Fibromyalgia Isn't Just a "Woman's Condition"
Previous research has suggested that women are significantly more likely than men to have fibromyalgia, but a new study suggests otherwise. The study found that men are almost as likely as women to suffer from the fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). Researchers from the University of Kansas School of Medicine discovered that 1.8% of men and 2.4% of women have FMS. These slight differences are considered statistically insignificant, which confirms the results of another recent study from the Mayo Clinic that also found no major gender disparities in the prevalence of FMS.
The University of Kansas study also suggests that fibromyalgia should be considered a spectrum disorder, like autism, rather than a discrete disorder, like cancer. This would explain why some patients experience very little symptoms while others suffer from several.
"We were able to get important glimpses into fibromyalgia in the general population rather than just the patients who come in to clinics, where the bias is to the sickest people," explained the lead author of the study, Dr. Fedrick Wolfe, in a recent article from Pain Medicine News.
Dr. Wolfe and colleagues surveyed 2,445 volunteers from Germany, and used 2010 guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology to diagnose respondents with fibromyalgia. The prevalence of FMS was 2.1% in the general population, but increased substantially with age. Only 0.8% of people under the age of 40 had the condition, followed by 2.5% of people aged 40-60, and 3% of those over the age of 60. Scores on the polysymptomatic distress scale also increased with age, suggesting that older adults are more likely to suffer from polysymptomatic distress.
The continuum nature of the condition suggests the need for a multidimensional treatment approach for FMS. Studies suggest that chiropractic care, nutrition, and exercise are all effective in ameliorating fibromyalgia symptoms. In one 2009 study, FMS patients who did resistance training in addition to receiving chiropractic adjustments had better improvements in pain than those not treated by a chiropractor.
Wolfe F, et al. Fibromyalgia prevalence, somatic symptom reporting, and the dimensionality of polysymptomatic distress: results from a survey of the general population. Arthritis Care Research 2013; 65(5):777-85. doi: 10.1002/acr.21931.