M Clement Hall


Drop the word ‘Fibromyalgia’ into a doctors’ coffee room conversation and you can be guaranteed to raise tempers. So polarised is the profession that when I told my physiotherapist daughter I was contemplating writing a book on the subject, her advice was, ‘They’ll either love you or hate you – depending which side you take!’

There can be few such medical conditions in which the profession is so polarised – and so confidently polarised, no matter on which side of the argument the individual stands. Either the patients are masquerading – pretending a disability they know they do not have – or they are abused by a society that fails to give them the support they deserve while painfully suffering from this severely debilitating illness.

It is reliably estimated that as many as five percent of adult American women suffer from this disabling medical condition known as Fibromyalgia. So, can one reasonably believe fifteen million mature American women are suffering from a condition that does not exist?

If one supposes each of these women has a husband or partner, one parent, one sibling and one child, the proportion of the American population directly or indirectly affected by this ‘non-existent’ condition of Fibromyalgia must be as high as ten percent. In a country with a population soon to reach three hundred million – that adds up to more than thirty million persons!

In Canada where, in general, specialists only accept patients referred by their primary physician, it is reported that Fibromyalgia is the second most frequent reason for a rheumatology consultation.

Despite the unquestioned frequency of the diagnosis, and the known millions of persons involved in the western world where they have access to doctors with the training to make such a diagnosis, the subject of Fibromyalgia remains extremely controversial.

The author believes the form of presentation in this book is unique – sides are not taken. Agreed facts are presented, so the readers – be they medical professionals or lay – may have an informed basis on which to develop their own conclusions.

The book is composed in several parts, written as if it were a research project and progressing from a review of six patients of differing socio-economic backgrounds and describing the varying investigations, diagnoses and treatments they have undergone. These are given as a series of novellitas progressing through to explanations and then on to discussion. Each novellita is assembled from many years of wide clinical practice. Although each described experience will be recognised by some patient or doctor as one they have known themselves, and none of the novellitas represents any particular patient, collectively they cover the range of experiences Fibromyalgia patients are likely to have encountered.

The author believes every patient and every family member will see themselves represented in one or more of these novellitas. Furthermore it is believed, members of the medical profession will find themselves represented – favourably or unfavourably as the occasion arises – and as they themselves interpret the novellitas.

Other segments of the book describe, in language appropriate to the lay reader, the medical issues relating to diagnosis and treatment of this condition that has so long bemused the medical profession. Although the style of language is acceptable to the lay reader, it is not so simplistic that a member of one of the medical professions would find it unacceptable.