The term fibromyalgia originates from these Greek and Latin root words: fibro, myo and algos. These words, when translated, respectively refer to fibrous tissues, muscles and pain.
When combined as fibromyalgia, they refer to the main symptoms of the condition: painful tendons, ligaments and muscles. Of course, fibromyalgia is best characterized by the widespread pain that blossoms throughout the body’s soft tissues.

History of Fibromyalgia


Fibromyalgia may have existed for centuries before the 1900s. Conditions with symptoms similar to fibromyalgia have been recorded in medical journals since the early 1800s. There are even reports of similar illness with fibromyalgia-like symptoms dating back to as early as 1500BC.
Fibromyalgia was first thought as a mental disorder, due to the fact that little information about early fibromyalgia existed at the time. Doctors actually first described a fibromyalgia-like condition as early as the 1800s. The condition, known as muscular rheumatism, had symptoms like stiffness, aches, pains, fatigue and trouble sleeping.

One of the most notable early accounts of fibromyalgia actually comes from the Bible. The passages Job 7:3-4 and 30:16-17 describe his physical pain, which demonstrated similarities to fibromyalgia.
Another early real life case of fibromyalgia happened to Florence Nightingale in the mid 1800s. She fell ill with fibromyalgia-like symptoms when working during the Crimean War, and ‘never completely recovered’ from the condition. She spent most of her last years bedridden and suffering from fibromyalgia-like pain and fatigue.
Modern fibromyalgia originates from an earlier condition with similar characteristics as fibromyalgia. Fibrostis, which originated from a 1904 lecture held by Sir William Gowers, is the earliest recorded form of fibromyalgia.

Gowers and colleagues believed fibrositis was caused by inflammation originating from the fibrous tissues in the body. Research from the 1970s and 1980s debunked that assumption, proving that no muscle inflammation occurred in cases of fibrositis (fibromyalgia). By then, the research refocused on learning more about the dysfunction of the central nervous system.
By the mid-1970s, fibrostis was changed to fibromyalgia, and 1990 saw the American College of Rheumatology establish the condition’s current criteria for diagnosis.


fibromyalgia has actually been around for centuries. Although not immediately identified as fibromyalgia, the symptoms of the condition more or less revealed that fibromyalgia was around far earlier than most medical researchers assumed.
In order to understand how fibromyalgia has developed over the years, the following is a timeline of events marking the historical medical development of fibromyalgia.

1600s: Symptoms of a condition like fibromyalgia were appointed a name: muscular rheumatism.

1816: Dr. William Balfour, a University of Edinburgh surgeon, characterized fibromyalgia for the first time.

1824: Dr. Balfur first described the ‘tender points’ associated with fibromyalgia.

1904: Sir William Gowers first established the term ‘fibrositis,’ which referred to the inflammation of fibers. It helped described the tender points in people with muscular rheumatism.

1972: Dr. Huge Smythe established the foundation for modern fibromyalgia by describing the condition’s encompassing pain and tender points.

1975: The first sleep electroencephalogram study that identified sleep-related symptoms of fibromyalgia was performed.

1976: Fiberositis was changed to fibromyalgia, after the medical community didn’t find any evidence of inflammation causing fibromyalgia-like symptoms.

1981: The first controlled study, which validated known fibromyalgia-like symptoms and tender points, was published.

1987: The American Medical Association established fibromyalgia as a legitimate physical condition.

1990: The American College of Rheumatology created diagnostic criteria fibromyalgia, which was made for research purposes. The fibromyalgia criteria later became a tool for clinicians, allowing them to properly diagnose patients.

2007: The United States Food and Drug Administration approved Lyrica for fibromyalgia treatment. Since then, Cymbalta and Savella have also received approval by the FDA for treatment.


Over the years, different theories about fibromyalgia have appeared in the medical community. Many of the theories focus on figuring out what causes fibromyalgia, in addition to what the condition may actually be.
For hundreds of years, doctors actually considered a psychological disorder, since there wasn’t enough evidence supporting fibromyalgia as a condition during those early days. Today, we now know fibromyalgia is a disorder with specific symptoms that make people feel constant pain and fatigue.


Starting in the 20th century, fibromyalgia started becoming recognized by medical professionals as a real physical condition. It was first thought to have been a disease within the muscles and surrounding fibrous tissues.
Tests performed on patients with the condition were found to have lacked the damage originating from inflamed muscles and tissues. Some researchers also attributed early fibromyalgia as an autoimmune disorder, but research didn’t find any evidence supporting that.


Once the 21 century arrived, medical researchers and doctors were able to perform better fibromyalgia research. The new laboratory testing methods, along with brain-imaging techniques, allowed researchers to finally identify ‘sensitization of the central nervous system’ in people with fibromyalgia.


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This web site is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the medical advice or services of your health care providers.

Every effort has been made to make this web page as accurate as possible. This information is not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment, or the justification for accepting or declining any medical treatment for any health problems or diseases. Any application of the information presented in these web pages is at the reader's own discretion. Therefore, any individual who has a specific health problem should consult his or her health care provider . No-one associated with the Fibromyalgia Research UK Charity can be held liable for any use or misuse relating to the information provided. This information is provided to the general public and it is the sole responsibility of persons using this information to consult with his or her health care provider. The information contained on this web site is not intended, and should not be construed, as professional medical advice or recommendations. No information provided should be construed as the practice of medicine or an offer of medical advice.

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