Fibromyalgia - Ancient and Modern

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Fibromyalgia - Ancient and Modern

Postby Painintheneck » Sat Jun 23, 2018 4:19 pm

I recently acquired a book: Everybody’s Family Doctor (no author given but published by Odhams Press Ltd in 1935). After eighty-three years it’s well out of copyright. But well out of date….? Perhaps not. In this fascinating dictionary-like tome of illnesses and medicine, which some of you might have lurking about, there is a significant entry on Fibrositis (an arguably older name for FM). I think it's worth my transcribing the whole reference:

Fibrositis or myalgia is a condition in which inflammation occurs in the muscular tissues of the body. Tiny swellings, or nodules as they are called, appear in the tendon coverings of the nerves, ligaments and similar structures which form part of the muscular tissue of the body. These swellings are very painful to the touch and they cause intense pain on movement of any of the muscles. There is often a certain amount of stiffness as well. The name “muscular rheumatism” is often used for fibrositis, and it is generally considered to be due to the same causes which produce other forms of rheumatism.
When fibrositis occurs in the back the condition is known as lumbago, and this form can be very crippling indeed. Another common type of this condition occurs in the neck (stiff neck), or the chest may be attacked (pleurodynia). There is also a very common condition of aching and stiffness of the muscles over most of the body. The pain may come on suddenly and, as a rule, there are intervals of pain until the condition is cured.
Fibrositis appears to occur more often in men than in women, and it is commoner after middle life.The condition is probably due to the presence of some infection in the body. Usually bad teeth or infected tonsils are the cause, or there may be some poisons present in the intestines owing to a faulty diet. Attacks may also follow exposure to cold or wet, or prolonged fatigue or strain.
Treatment. If the pain is very severe the patient should rest in bed, but as a rule the milder attacks are not severe enough to compel complete rest. Heat applied to the body is the most soothing way of easing the pain, and this may be given in the form of a hot bath, hot fomentations, or hot-water bottles. Radiant heat baths or hot air baths are very good if they can be taken.
Massage should be carried out as it tends to increase the circulation of the blood over the affected part. The swellings or nodules should be looked for, and if these can be gently rubbed away, so much the better. Liniments may be rubbed into the skin to stimulate it, and a very useful one consists of methyl salicylate, menthol, oil of eucalyptus, and oil of camphor. An ointment made of methyl salicylate and lanolin is also very good. A combination of massage and heat can be given by going over the affected part with a warm iron. The skin should be protected by layers of brown paper, and only the very lightest pressure should be used.
Drugs such as sodium salicylate or aspirin may be given to help relieve the pain. If the attack is severe, 15 to 20 grains of sodium salicylate may be given every three hours for the first twelve or twenty-four hours, then the dose should be gradually lessened.
The treatment so far has only dealt with relieving the pain, but this can in no way bring about a real cure. The cause of the fibrositis must be discovered, and this can only be done by a complete overhaul of the body, especially the teeth and tonsils.

This description of fibrositis undoubtedly applies to fibromyalgia. But what I as a middle-aged bloke found intriguing was the third paragraph. In 1935 fibrositis (FM?) was apparently more prevalent in men of a certain age, and could result from infection, or a bad gut, or stress (as we would refer to "prolonged fatigue and strain" nowadays). Modern medicine seems to contradict some of those old findings; but modern medicine might have got it wrong.

P.S. Watch out for the news headline: Husband Rushed to Hospital after asking his wife to iron him! :-)
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