Background: Fatigue is increasingly recognized as an important symptom in fibromyalgia (FM). Unknown however is how fatigue is experienced by individuals in the context of FM. We conducted qualitative research in order to better understand aspects of fatigue that might be unique to FM as well as the impact it has on patients' lives. The data obtained informed the development of a conceptual model of fatigue in FM.
Methods: Open-ended interviews were conducted with 40 individuals with FM (US [n = 20], Germany [n = 10] and France [n = 10]). Transcripts were analyzed using qualitative methods based upon grounded theory to identify key themes and concepts.
Results: Participants were mostly female (70%) with a mean age of 48.7 years (range: 25-79). Thirty-one individuals (i.e., 77.5%) spontaneously described experiencing tiredness/lack of energy/fatigue due to FM. Participants discussed FM fatigue as being more severe, constant/persistent and unpredictable than normal tiredness. The conceptual model depicts the key elements of fatigue in FM from a patient perspective. This includes: an overwhelming feeling of tiredness (n = 17, 42.5%), not relieved by resting/sleeping (n = 15, 37.5%), not proportional to effort exerted (n = 25, 62.5%), associated with a feeling of weakness/heaviness (n = 20, 50%), interferes with motivation (n = 22, 55%), interferes with desired activities (n = 27, 67.5%), prolongs tasks (n = 15, 37.5%), and makes it difficult to concentrate (n = 21, 52.5%), think clearly (n = 12, 30%) or remember things (n = 9, 22.5%).
Conclusion: The majority of individuals with FM who participated in this study experience fatigue and describe it as more severe than normal tiredness.