ABC Fibromyalgia Glossary

There's a lot of medical terminology used in relation to the diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia. Educating yourself is one of the keys to getting a proper diagnosis and correct treatment, so it's important to know what the doctors are talking about.

This is Part One of a six-part glossary that gives a plain-English overview of some of the most common terms you might come across during your fibro research or when talking to doctors.

Adherence. This word might come up when discussing treatment plans. It refers to how well the patient follows the treatment plan set out by the doctor

Adverse Events. This is medical-speak for the negative side effects of treatment. Unfortunately many medical fibromyalgia treatments have negative side effects which are the reason why some people look into alternative care options.

Allodynia. This is the official name of the condition that causes a painful reaction when you shouldn't be experiencing one. For example, the lightest touch on your skin can be painful for fibro sufferers.

Autonomic Nervous System. This is part of the nervous system in the spine. It's responsible for controlling involuntary actions like intestinal performance, secretion or blood vessel functions. The autonomic nervous system is also responsible for stimulating smooth muscle and the heart to action. The term might come up in describing fibromyalgia symptoms.

Barthel Index. This is a guide for measuring how well a person is able to function independently with daily living activities such as dressing, bathing or walking. It was first developed in 1965 by Mahoney and Barthel and modified in 1988. The index has 15 items that are assessed on four scores:

1. Function intact

2. Function limited

3. Assistance required

4. Function impossible

The Barthel Index may be used by a doctor to determine how significantly fibromyalgia has impacted your daily life.

Blinded Trial. This term might come up when discussing fibromyalgia research or if you choose to be part of a clinical trial. When a blind trial is conducted, participants don't know what treatment they're on or if they're getting the medication or the placebo. A single blind study means that the patient doesn't know. Double blind studies are also conducted where neither the patient nor the doctor knows who's getting what.

CAM. This is an acronym for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. Click here to find out more information about alternative treatments.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). This is a type of talking therapy called psychotherapeutic therapy in medical terms. The talk therapy is highly structured and follows a systematic, goal-oriented procedure. The ultimate goal of CBT is to substitute undesirable thoughts and behaviors with desirable ones. Many fibromyalgia sufferers experience depression and undergo CBT as a way to help them manage it.

Comorbidity. This term is used to describe when one person has two chronic diseases. It's common for fibromyalgia patients to have more than one chronic condition at a time such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibro.

Concomitant. This refers to the situation where more than one treatment is being used at the same time especially if one treatment is under investigation. It's not uncommon for fibro sufferers to undergo concomitant therapies. Treatments could all be for the fibro or they could be for related or unrelated conditions.

Connective tissue. This is a general term used to describe the tissues that hold the different parts of the body together. They include the bones, joints and cartilage. Fibromyalgia sufferers often experience pain in the connective tissues of their bodies.

Corticosteroid. This is a type of steroid hormone that simulates hormones found naturally in the adrenal gland. Corticosteroid reduces inflammation and pain is sometimes prescribed to fibro sufferers.


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