Objective: To determine the frequency of a precipitating event occurring prior to the onset of fibromyalgia syndrome, in a consecutive series of patients. Outcome in patients in whom there was a causative factor was compared with that in patients with primary fibromyalgia.
Methods: Records of patients presenting over a 4-year period who fulfilled criteria for fibromyalgia were reviewed, and patients were classified as having reactive fibromyalgia if a specific event prior to the onset of illness could be identified. Outcome features, including employment status and disability compensation, were compared in patients with reactive fibromyalgia versus those with primary fibromyalgia.
Results: Twenty-nine of 127 patients (23%) with a primary rheumatologic diagnosis of fibromyalgia reported having trauma, surgery, or a medical illness before the onset of fibromyalgia, and were classified as having reactive fibromyalgia. Patients in this group were more disabled than those with primary fibromyalgia, resulting in loss of employment in 70%, disability compensation in 34%, and reduced physical activity in 45%.
Conclusion: The development of fibromyalgia after a precipitating event may represent the onset of a prolonged and disabling pain syndrome with considerable social and economic implications.