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Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate both precipitating factors in patients with fibromyalgia and any differences in clinical presentation, symptom severity, and quality-of-life between those with and without precipitating physical trauma or infection.

Design: In a retrospective cross-sectional study, the authors compared patient characteristics and fibromyalgia symptom severity and quality-of-life with the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire and the Short Form-36 Health Survey in patients seen in a fibromyalgia treatment program.

Results: Of 939 patients, 27% reported precipitating factors (trauma, n = 203; infection, n = 53), with the rest having idiopathic fibromyalgia (n = 683). Patients with precipitating trauma were more likely to have worse Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire physical function than patients with idiopathic onset (P = 0.03). Compared with patients with idiopathic onset and precipitating trauma, patients with precipitating infection were more likely to have worse Short Form-36 Health Survey physical component summary (P = 0.01 and P = 0.003) but better role emotional (P = 0.04 and P = 0.005), mental health index (P = 0.02 and P = 0.007), and mental component summary (P = 0.03 and P = 0.004), respectively.

Conclusions: One-fourth of this study's patients with fibromyalgia had precipitating physical trauma or infection. Patients with precipitating infection had different sociodemographic characteristics, clinical presentation, and quality-of-life from the idiopathic and trauma groups. Further studies are needed to look into the relationships between precipitating events and fibromyalgia.

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