Fibromyalgia is a chronic syndrome that continues to trouble patients for many years despite therapies that help to alleviate symptoms. Current therapies often provide a worthwhile palliation of symptoms, but the underlying disorder remains. Although remissions do rarely occur, the symptoms usually come back some time later. The fact that many suffer the symptoms for an average of five to seven years before being diagnosed represents the syndrome’s chronic nature.1 In a 1986 Arthritis and Rheumatism study of fibromyalgia patients followed for two years, 92 percent experienced pain continually.2
An American Journal of Medicine study surveyed 81 fibromyalgia patients about symptom remission. Twenty-three percent reported complete remission of pain or aching for a period greater than two months; the average duration of the pain-free episodes lasted 3 to 4 months. Most patients suffered a relapse of symptoms, and at the time of the study, none were in remission. However, some claimed as many as 12 remissions, and one person reported a remission lasting 20 years.3
It is difficult to predict the likelihood that a fibromyalgia patient will experience a resolution of symptoms. Some subtypes of fibromyalgia may have a better prognosis than others, but, thus far, researchers have grouped all fibromyalgia patients together. Results from published studies may appear less optimistic as well because volunteers for those studies typically come from academic referral centers, which tend to treat patients with more severe symptoms. However, the authors of the Arthritis and Rheumatism study mentioned above observed that younger women and those with mild symptoms during the early course of the disease are more likely to improve.4
- "Primary fibromyalgia (fibrositis): Clinical study of 50 patients with matched normal controls," by M. Yunus et al, Semin Arthritis Rheum, Vol. 11, 1981, pages 151-171.
- "The natural history of fibromyalgia," by D.T. Felson and D.L. Goldenberg, Arthritis and Rheumatism, Vol. 29, 1986, pages 1522-1526.
- "The clinical syndrome of fibrositis," by F.Wolfe, American Journal of Medicine, Vol. 81, 1986, pages 7-14.
- "The natural history of fibromyalgia," cited above.
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Last updated: 5/13/2022