Fibromyalgia: diagnosing and managing a complex syndrome

J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2012 Apr;24(4):184-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2011.00671.x. Epub 2011 Nov 11.


Purpose: The purpose of this clinical review is to clarify and discuss the diagnosis and management of fibromyalgia. This includes typical signs and symptoms, pathophysiology, concomitant disease states, differential diagnoses, and recommended pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatment modalities.

Data sources: The search included Evidence Based Medicine Reviews, Ovid MEDLINE, PubMed, and CINAHL. Search terms used: fibromyalgia diagnosis, fibromyalgia pathophysiology, incidence of fibromyalgia, fibromyalgia comorbidities, etiology of fibromyalgia, fibromyalgia treatment, American College of Rheumatology criteria. Search limited to sources from 1990 to 2010.

Conclusions: Fibromyalgia is a complex muscular rheumatism that is not fully understood and often misdiagnosed. Signs and symptoms may overlap with many other conditions that must be properly ruled out to prevent diagnosis based upon arbitrary clinical judgment. Treatment is most beneficial when tailored to individual patient presentation, and further research is warranted, particularly in the domains of pathophysiology and efficacy of treatment options.

Implications for practice: An accurate knowledge of current research will aid the nurse practitioner in effectively prescribing evidence-based clinical interventions. Optimal fibromyalgia management can be achieved through a multifaceted treatment approach and is enhanced with early identification of the disease process.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Anticonvulsants / therapeutic use
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fibromyalgia / diagnosis*
  • Fibromyalgia / drug therapy
  • Fibromyalgia / nursing
  • Fibromyalgia / pathology
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors


  • Analgesics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antioxidants