Fibromyalgia Terms and Definitions

Acupressure: A form of alternative medicine using thumbs or fingertips to apply pressure to specific points on the body to obtain relief from tension and/or pain.

Acupuncture: A traditional Chinese practice involving the insertion of fine tipped needles at particular points of the body to relieve pain.

Allodynia: A condition in which you have a painful reaction to a stimulus, such as a light touch on your skin, that is not normally painful.

Alternative Medicine: This refers to any form of either healing or treating disease that is outside the mainstream or conventional medical fields. These include Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to name a few.

Analgesic: A drug used to bring about some form of pain relief.

Antidepressant: A prescription drug prescribed to mitigate moodiness and depression. Certain antidepressants may be used to promote sleep and decrease pain.

Arthritis: Reference to inflammation of any joint in your body resulting in swelling, pain redness, and stiffness. Rheumatoid arthritis may be co-morbid with fibromyalgia.

Autonomic Nervous System (ANS): The part of the body’s nervous system comprised of both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems that controls involuntary actions e.g. the function of blood vessels, secretions, performance of the intestines and esophagus.

Central Nervous System (CNS): This part of the human nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord and regulates and governs the reception of sensory impulses and the dispatching of motor impulses as well as other vital activities.

Central Sensitization (Central Sensitivity): This possible mechanism for fibromyalgia refers to the increased sensitization by the whole central nervous system (CNS) to a stimulus.

Co-morbidity: This refers to two specific chronic diseases co-existing or co-mingling in one individual simultaneously. People with FMS, for example, may also have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and/ or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Depression: Depression is classified as a mood disorder. Characteristics include sadness, a decrease of interest in normally satisfying activities, a negative self-image, hopelessness, indecisiveness, passivity and suicidal intentions. Other features may be appetite and/or weight loss or gain and disturbances in sleep patterns.

Dopamine:  A monoamine neurotransmitter that occurs in the central nervous system (CNS) is the source of norepinephrine production and is responsible for helping regulate such body functions as various feelings, e.g. happiness, motivations, pleasure, sexual desire, as well as balance, movement, walking. Dopamine also plays a role in physical energy, thinking, and short-term memory, insulin regulation and the immune function.

Fatigue: This goes beyond a conventional form of tiredness. It describes or defines a condition of bone-tired weariness that involves a lessened ability to work effectively.

Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS): A syndrome typified by constant and pervasive pain as well as a finely honed and painful response to pressure (allodynia). It is also very common to have significant fatigue and sleep disturbances.

Fibro Fog:  A common symptom of fibromyalgia, this is characterized by a sensation of feeling listless, fatigued and temporarily confused. Fibro fog is also marked by poor concentration, a short attention span and short-term memory loss.

Flare or Flare-up: A specific length of time (with a beginning and end) during which the symptoms of a disease recur, increasing in intensity then decreasing.

Genetic Predisposition: This refers to the genetic susceptibility to inherit a specific trait of a disease.

Hypothalamicpituitaryadrenal (HPA) Axis: This describes a complex set of interactions occurring among between various parts of the brain – the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, and the adrenal or suprarenal glands located on top of each kidney. This results in the regulation of various body functions including temperature, mood, digestion, the immune system, sexuality and the body’s reactions to such things as stress and injury.

Immune System: This is the system that acts to protect your body from disease and harm caused by the invasion of any foreign matter including bacteria and viruses.  Of particular importance are the thymus, lymph nodes, spleen, antibodies and lymphocytes e.g. the B cells and T cells.

Inflammation: This reaction by your body to any injury to or invasion of foreign substances into the body’s tissue is characterized by swelling, heat, pain and redness of the affected area.

Melatonin: A hormone that is derived from another hormone, serotonin. Together, they are active in controlling your sleep and wake cycle.

Neuroendocrine System: The name combines two systems: the endocrine system and the nervous system. The combination of the two creates a complex organization that is involved in such aspects as the body’s immune system, fatigue, sleep patterns and responses to various physical, emotional and environmental stressors.

Neuropathy: Changes to nerve functions resulting from such things as disease or trauma that produce a dysfunctional nervous system.

Neurotransmitter:  A substance that sends nerve impulses (signals) across a synapse to put into motion various body functions.

Norepinephrine: A hormone and neurotransmitter manufactured in the adrenal gland, it works in conjunction with epinephrine (adrenaline) to activate the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and to transmit signals between specific nerves.

Overlapping Condition: This describes an illness (secondary) that accompanies one already present (primary). Individuals with fibromyalgia may have several overlapping conditions including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), restless leg syndrome (RLS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS):  This is a neurological disorder featuring unusual leg movements such as the desire to move them at any point, including when resting, to alleviate the overwhelming sensations of what is often described as burning, like insects crawling inside or a tugging feeling.

Serotonin: Also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT, this neurotransmitter is found particularly in the brain, blood serum, and gastric mucous membrane of mammals. It is known to be a powerful agent for narrowing the blood vessels (vasoconstrictor).

Sjogren’s Syndrome (SS):  A chronic form of inflammatory autoimmune disease. The most commonly noted characteristics include the drying of the mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes. This syndrome may co-exist with rheumatoid arthritis and/or fibromyalgia.

Sleep Disorder: A disorder related to the inability to achieve and maintain normal sleeping patterns. Examples of sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy. People with fibromyalgia are most often affected by non-restorative sleep – the inability to obtain enough quality sleep to result in feeling refreshed after awakening.

Substance P:  A neuropeptide made up of 11 amino acid residues found throughout the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nervous system (PNS). It functions as a neurotransmitter to make extended postsynaptic excitation and is critical in the processing of pain.

Syndrome:  A collection of symptoms and signs occurring jointly that characterize a particular disease or abnormality.

Systemic: This refers to a condition or disease that spreads through or affects the entire body as a result of entering a physical system like the bloodstream or central nervous system.

T Cells (T Lymphocytes):  A form of white blood cell that is a component of the immune system which protects the body from disease or infections.

Tender Points: These are extremely sensitive sections of muscle and soft tissues. When stimulus pressure is applied pain may result.

Trigger Points: These are small areas of muscle featuring tight bundles of fibers to which the application of pressure triggers pain to various sites of the body.

This article was originally published on July 11, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/7/2015