Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Nursing

Dissertation Committee

Dr. Joseph F. Burkard, DNSc, CRNA, Chairperson; Dr. Jane M. Georges, PhD, RN; Dr. Dana Rutledge, PhD, RN


Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia, Online Support Groups, Phenomenology, Talk Therapy, Treatment Bias


Most research on fibromyalgia (FM) focuses on women aged 40 to 60 and concentrates primarily on treatment modalities. There is little mention of FM in younger women (ages 18 to 28) and nothing published on these women’s experiences of living with the condition. Anecdotal evidence and information gathered from “Fibro” chat rooms and blog sites reveal the existence of a surprisingly large population of younger of women suffering with FM.

This qualitative study explores the lived experiences of thirteen young women diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Using the phenomenological approach described by van Manen, the interviews yield a story for each woman, describing the effects of a debilitating, chronic pain condition on day-to-day experiences, relationships, and self-image. The women’s narratives also explore the daily battles these women wage - both physical and emotional, and how they perceive the medical community - a revealing topic for anyone involved in healthcare.

Of particular interest are the similarities and differences to other qualitative studies describing older participants with FM, related to growth and development, length of time from symptoms to diagnosis, and response to frequently prescribed medications. Additionally, future research related to this younger demographic should be cognizant of the unique methods – described in this study – of the recruitment strategies and communication with this very vulnerable group of women (and men) as they venture from adolescence into young adulthood.

Document Type

Dissertation: USD Users Only