Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects approximately 5 million individuals in the United States. These individuals comprise an estimated 5%–6% of all patients in primary care clinics and 10%–20% of all rheumatology outpatients.
Though characterized primarily by widespread pain, fibromyalgia is associated with a number of additional symptoms, including insomnia, fatigue, mood disturbance, paresthesias, back pain, facial pain, stiffness, headaches and cognitive difficulties. It is the combination of these symptoms – and not just pain – that results in the very high socioeconomic burden of fibromyalgia. Yet current treatment strategies are primarily focused on pain relief.
Pain relief should not be the sole aim of therapy, at least not according to patients. In one recent large survey low back pain was the discrete symptom most commonly reported by those with fibromyalgia, followed by recurrent headaches, arthritis, muscle-spasm, tingling, and balance problems. When those same survey respondents were asked to rank their symptoms by severity, morning stiffness ranked first, followed by fatigue, poor sleep, then pain. About 28% of patients report fatigue as their most debilitating symptom. Clearly, an ideal fibromyalgia medication would address all of these various symptoms.