Widespread muscle pain, fatigue, and weakness are defining characteristics of patients with fibromyalgia (FM). The aim of this review is to summarize recent investigations of muscle abnormalities in FM, which can be classified as structural, metabolic, or functional in nature. Histologic muscle abnormalities of membranes, mitochondria, and fiber type have been well described at both the light microscopic and ultrastructural levels. These structural abnormalities often correlate with biochemical abnormalities, defective energy production, and the resultant dysfunction of FM muscles. The observed abnormalities in FM muscles are consistent with neurologic findings and disturbances in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Functional changes in FM muscles are assessed most directly by strength and endurance measurements, but pain and psychologic factors may interfere with accurate assessments. To compensate for diminished effort, the decreased efficiency of the work performance by patients with FM can be verified from P-31 magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) data by calculation of the work/energy-cost ratio for various tasks. In the disease course, muscle abnormalities may be elicited by intrinsic changes within the muscle tissue itself and/or extrinsic neurologic and endocrine factors. The accurate assignment of intrinsic or extrinsic factors has been substantially clarified by a recent surge of experimental findings. Irrespective of the multifaceted causes of muscle dysfunction and pain, an in-depth understanding of the muscle defects may provide ideas for characterization of the underlying pathogenesis and development of new therapeutic approaches for fibromyalgia syndrome.
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