Fibrositis/fibromyalgia syndrome in the workplace

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Fibrositis/fibromyalgia syndrome (FS) is a common endemic community rheumatic condition. While the cause of FS is unknown it is accepted that exacerbation of many of the symptoms of this condition can occur with physical activity or stress. It is thus to be expected that special issues will arise in relation to the interaction between work and FS. However, the influence of work activities per se on the causation or exacerbation of FS is unclear. Indeed opinions on such interactions far outweigh scientific facts. The problems which arise are of the utmost importance because of the significant interplay between the medicolegal system, with its associated issues of causality, compensation and litigation, and the work environment. Similarly, there is little known about the influence of the medicolegal stresses in their own right on the expression of FS itself. While such problems are common everyday events, they receive little discussion in the rheumatologic literature. Nevertheless, few will deny that the relationship between FS and work is important. It may result in major problems with regard to disability and chronic pain in the patient on the one hand and loss of production and high cost to the community on the other. During the 1980s a major epidemic of FS occurred in the work-places of Australia. This epidemic distorted the background endemic interaction of FS and work, and exaggerated many of the issues which appear to underly the link between work and the clinical features of FS. It is apparent that the causative factors of endemic FS and its relationship to work may become clearer through dissection of the various events involved in this epidemic. This article thus applies the model of fibrositis/fibromyalgia syndrome to the Australian epidemic, suggests reasons for the cause of the epidemic, and provides insight into prevention of similar epidemics in other countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)45-60
Number of pages16
JournalRheumatic Disease Clinics of North America
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1989

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