Fibromyalgia is a frustratingly complex and debilitating condition that causes a wide range of physical pain and emotional distress.

It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects as many as 4 million adults in the United States. Most people affected are women, however, men can also suffer from the disorder. It can be diagnosed at any age between puberty and menopause, with 20 – 50 years of age being the most common range. 

A disorder of the Central Nervous System

The term fibromyalgia is derived from fibro– (fibrous tissue), myo– (muscle), and algos (pain). Despite pain that is muscular in origin, fibromyalgia is a disorder of the central nervous system that affects the brain’s messaging leading to abnormal pain processing. This is called central sensitization syndrome (CSS).

CSS is an inflammatory condition that damages the structure and undermines the functioning of the nervous system. It is both “neuro-dysregulatory” and “neurodegenerative.” 

Neurodysregulation refers to the extent to which CSS interferes with the healthy functioning of the body’s nervous system, undermining neural activity in the brain, spinal cord, and other neural pathways throughout the body. Neurodegeneration refers to the actual injury and destruction of neural tissue in the brain and body. 

Both conditions (neuro-dysregulation and neurodegeneration) can cause or exacerbate physical pain, emotional suffering, and erode mental clarity. The mediating factor in this process is the production and release of inflammatory substances in the brain called microglia. Under repeated assaults over time, the microglia remain upregulated, continuing to spew out inflammatory chemicals even though the trauma that originally caused them to become active is no longer present. This response can show up in any number of ways like chronic pain, depression, anxiety disorders, and fibromyalgia. 


People with fibromyalgia have chronic and widespread pain, as well as “tender points” on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs, which hurt when slight pressure is applied. Individuals may also have other symptoms, such as:

A difficult diagnosis

Despite established diagnostic criteria and a greater recognized prevalence, a person with fibromyalgia visits an average of 5 or more physicians before the diagnosis is finally made. Why is fibromyalgia so difficult to diagnose? There are several factors. One of the biggest factors is that results of laboratory testing and imaging studies present as normal. Fibromyalgia also shares many of its symptoms with other illnesses. Biotoxicity disorders, serious hormone imbalances, autoimmune disorders, insomnia, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), nutritional deficiencies, and musculoskeletal injuries all share the same generalized pain and fatigue that is associated with FM. Consequently, patients often see several physicians and specialists, each time to be disappointed that their pain is ongoing.

If you are living with fibromyalgia, it’s crucial you find someone who is a legitimate expert in managing chronic pain conditions.

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To arrive at an accurate diagnosis, your physician not only needs to understand your symptoms and how they are affecting your life; he or she also needs to determine what “event” may have triggered your condition. The causes of fibromyalgia and the mechanisms that sustain it are multidimensional and may include traumatic injury to your muscle, bone, or nervous tissue, bacterial or viral illness, environmental toxins, neurological disorders, chronic depression, post-traumatic stress disorder – to name just a few. 

A Functional Medicine approach to treating fibromyalgia 

Understanding more about the triggering mechanisms of your fibromyalgia will help shape the course of your treatment program. Functional Medicine uses an approach that looks at each body system for imbalances and deficiencies that may be causing or exacerbating your condition. Using a “whole body” approach ensures that underlying factors are identified and considered in your treatment program.

Fibromyalgia is not the result of a single cause-and-effect, and therefore cannot be treated by a single remedy. We use an integrative approach with multiple treatment modalities. These therapies may include:


Consumer Guide: 18 Things You Should Know Before Selecting a Doctor to Treat Your Fibromyalgia Syndrome by Dr. Gary Kaplan

We are here for you, and we want to help.

Our goal is to return you to optimal health as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment please call: 703-532-4892 x2

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia by my neurologist several years ago, but I had a bad reaction to the drugs he prescribed. Thanks to the Kaplan Center, I’ve been able to find alternative ways to control my symptoms. Some of the most helpful are acupuncture, meditation, herbal supplements, dietary changes, and lymph drainage therapy.