Fibromyalgia is typically thought to affect middle-aged women, causing widespread chronic pain and debilitating fatigue. Now, new research is shedding light on less well-known victims of fibromyalgia: teenagers.
Despite insufficient research, many physicians tell worrying parents that their teens are likely to “outgrow” the symptoms. But a new study suggests that over 80% of teens with fibromyalgia suffer from ongoing symptoms into adulthood, and 51.1% meet diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia well into their twenties.
“Although we expected that many patients with [juvenile fibromyalgia] would continue to have symptoms, we did not expect to find that as many as half of them would meet full criteria for [FM] in adulthood and only a very small number (15%) would be pain-free,” Dr. Kashikar-Zuck, who is professor of pediatrics at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, told Medscape Medical News. Fortunately, Dr. Kashikar-Zuck noted that few had additional medical complications and many were able to function well in spite of the symptoms.
In one of the first long-term studies on juvenile fibromyalgia (JFM), Dr. Kashikar-Zuck and her colleagues studied 94 adolescents treated at a pediatric rheumatology clinic, along with 33 healthy controls. After six years, they conducted follow-up tests including a tender-point examination and questionnaires about healthcare utilization, pain, mood, and physical functioning. The mean follow-up age was 21 years old. Compared to healthy controls, patients with a history of JFM had greater anxiety and depression, poorer physical function, higher pain levels, and more frequent medical visits. Patients who still met the criteria for FMS had the worse physical function and emotional impairment.
The authors concluded that teens who show signs of juvenile fibromyalgia should be taken seriously, as it is likely the beginning of a lifelong pain condition. At the same time, diagnosing fibromyalgia in teenagers opens opportunities for families to take advantage of early treatment options that could slow the progression of the disease and prevent disability.
Chiropractic care, combined with exercise therapies, has been shown to reduce musculoskeletal symptoms in patients with FMS. Earlier studies have also shown that chiropractic care is an extremely safe, drug-free way to relieve chronic pain in children and teens.
Kashikar-Zuck, S, et al. Long-term outcomes of adolescents with juvenile-onset fibromyalgia in early adulthood. Pediatrics 2014. doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-2220.
Kelly, JC. Teenagers with fibromyalgia unlikely to outgrow the pain. Medscape Today. February 28, 2014. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/821275.