Pathophysiology of fibromyalgia

Am J Med. 2009 Dec;122(12 Suppl):S22-30. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2009.09.008.


This article reviews the biologic, genetic, and environmental factors that may contribute to the pathophysiology of fibromyalgia. As an affective spectrum disorder, fibromyalgia may share these causal factors with a number of related and co-occurring pain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or temporomandibular disorder. There is strong evidence that cardinal pain symptoms of fibromyalgia may be due to alterations in central processing of sensory input, along with aberrations in the endogenous inhibition of pain. Genetic research has shown familial aggregation of fibromyalgia and other related disorders such as major depressive disorder. Exposure to physical or psychosocial stressors, as well as abnormal biologic responses in the autonomic nervous system and neuroendocrine responses, may also contribute to dysfunctional pain processing. As fibromyalgia research continues to progress, it is expected that the pathophysiology of this disorder will be further elucidated, leading to more rational and targeted strategies for the treatment of patients with this condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology
  • Fibromyalgia / complications
  • Fibromyalgia / genetics
  • Fibromyalgia / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Neurosecretory Systems / physiopathology
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain / psychology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications