Arthritis Care & Research. Advance online publication.
Previous research with civilian populations has found strong associations between fibromyalgia (FM) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This study is the first large-scale investigation of the prevalence of FM in military service members with and without PTSD.
Participants were active duty military recruited into either an epidemiological cohort study of service members prior to a military deployment or 1 of 3 PTSD treatment trials. Instruments used to document FM and PTSD included the PTSD Checklist – Stressor-Specific Version (PCL-S), the PTSD Symptom Scale-Interview (PSS-I), and the 2012 American College of Rheumatology fibromyalgia questionnaire.
Across the 4 studies, 4,376 subjects completed surveys. The prevalence of FM was 2.9% in the predeployment cohort and the prevalence was significantly higher in individuals with PTSD (10.8%) compared to those without PTSD (0.8%). In the treatment trials, all of the participants met criteria for PTSD prior to starting treatment and the prevalence of FM was 39.7%.
The prevalence of FM in active duty service members preparing to deploy is similar to that reported for the general population of the U.S., but higher than expected for a predominantly male cohort. Furthermore, the prevalence of FM was significantly higher in service members with comorbid PTSD and highest among those seeking treatment for PTSD. Further investigation is needed to determine the factors linking PTSD and FM.