Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread
musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory
and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia
amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain
processes pain signals.
Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma,
surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In
other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no
single triggering event.
Women are much more likely to develop fibromyalgia than
are men. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension
headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders,
irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.
While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of
medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation
and stress-reduction measures also may help.
he pain associated with fibromyalgia often is described
as a constant dull ache, typically arising from muscles. To
be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides
of your body and above and below your waist.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by additional pain when
firm pressure is applied to specific areas of your body,
called tender points. Tender point locations include:
- Back of the head
- Between shoulder blades
- Top of shoulders
- Front sides of neck
- Upper chest
- Outer elbows
- Upper hips
- Sides of hips
- Inner knees
Fatigue and sleep disturbances
People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though
they report sleeping for long periods of time. Sleep is
frequently disrupted by pain, and many patients with
fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders, such as restless
legs syndrome and sleep apnea, that further worsen symptoms.
Many people who have fibromyalgia also may have:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Doctors don't know what causes fibromyalgia, but it most
likely involves a variety of factors working together. These
- Genetics. Because fibromyalgia
tends to run in families, there may be certain genetic
mutations that may make you more susceptible to
developing the disorder.
- Infections. Some illnesses appear
to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
- Physical or emotional trauma.
Post-traumatic stress disorder has been linked to
Because many of the signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia
are similar to various other disorders, you may see several
doctors before receiving a diagnosis. Your family physician
may refer you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes
in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory
What you can do
Before your appointment, you may want to write a list
- Detailed descriptions of your symptoms
- Information about medical problems you've had in the
- Information about the medical problems of your
parents or siblings
- All the medications and dietary supplements you take
- Questions you want to ask the doctor