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Highly Accessed Review

Beyond pain in fibromyalgia: insights into the symptom of fatigue

Ann Vincent12*, Roberto P Benzo3, Mary O Whipple2, Samantha J McAllister2, Patricia J Erwin4 and Leorey N Saligan5

Author Affiliations

1 Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, 55905, USA

2 Division of General Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, 55905, USA

3 Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, 55905, USA

4 Library Public Services, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, 55905, USA

5 Division of Intramural Research, National Institute of Nurs Res, Bethesda, MD, 20892, USA

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Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:221  doi:10.1186/ar4395

Published: 29 November 2013

Abstract

Fatigue is a disabling, multifaceted symptom that is highly prevalent and stubbornly persistent. Although fatigue is a frequent complaint among patients with fibromyalgia, it has not received the same attention as pain. Reasons for this include lack of standardized nomenclature to communicate about fatigue, lack of evidence-based guidelines for fatigue assessment, and a deficiency in effective treatment strategies. Fatigue does not occur in isolation; rather, it is present concurrently in varying severity with other fibromyalgia symptoms such as chronic widespread pain, unrefreshing sleep, anxiety, depression, cognitive difficulties, and so on. Survey-based and preliminary mechanistic studies indicate that multiple symptoms feed into fatigue and it may be associated with a variety of physiological mechanisms. Therefore, fatigue assessment in clinical and research settings must consider this multi-dimensionality. While no clinical trial to date has specifically targeted fatigue, randomized controlled trials, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses indicate that treatment modalities studied in the context of other fibromyalgia symptoms could also improve fatigue. The Outcome Measures in Rheumatology (OMERACT) Fibromyalgia Working Group and the Patient Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) have been instrumental in propelling the study of fatigue in fibromyalgia to the forefront. The ongoing efforts by PROMIS to develop a brief fibromyalgia-specific fatigue measure for use in clinical and research settings will help define fatigue, allow for better assessment, and advance our understanding of fatigue.