What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread pain
and tenderness in the muscles and soft tissue (including
tender points) as well as sleep problems, fatigue,
and a variety of other symptoms. These problems can be severe
enough to disrupt a person's work and daily activities.
Fortunately, the condition does not permanently damage the
muscles, joints, or internal organs.
Fibromyalgia is a syndrome of
chronic pain, not a disease or a psychological
What causes Fibromyalgia?
There are theories as to what may cause Fibromyalgia, but at
this point there is not enough evidence to support any single
cause. Some theories suggest that Fibromyalgia may be related to
oversensitive nerve cells, an imbalance of chemicals in the
brain (neurotransmitters), or an inability of the brain or
spinal cord to dampen pain signals.
What are the symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
Most people with Fibromyalgia endure cycles of muscle, soft
tissue, and back or neck pain, sleep problems, and often
debilitating fatigue. Fibromyalgia is also characterized by the
presence of up to 18 specific
tender points on the body—these are painful only when
you press directly on them.
Although less common than pain, fatigue, and sleep problems, a
variety of other symptoms may occur as well. These include
headaches, morning stiffness, difficulty concentrating, a
circulatory problem that affects the small blood vessels of the
irritable bowel syndrome. As with many conditions
that cause chronic pain,
depression are common in people with Fibromyalgia and
may make symptoms worse.
Symptoms tend to come and go. Periods when they are constant
(flares) may be followed by periods when they are absent
(remissions). Some people find that cold, damp weather,
emotional stress, overexertion, and other factors make their
How is Fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose because there is a lot
of variation in the combination of symptoms it causes and how
different people experience the symptoms. Also, its symptoms are
similar to those of many other disorders and diseases.
Fibromyalgia is often diagnosed after other conditions have been
ruled out; there are no tests that can confirm the diagnosis.
The presence of specific tender points as well as chronic,
widespread pain on both sides of the body above and below the
waist can help confirm a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.
How is Fibromyalgia treated?
While there is no specific cure for Fibromyalgia, symptoms of
this syndrome can be treated and controlled. If you have
Fibromyalgia, taking an active role in your treatment is very
important to managing your condition.
Treatment may be different for each individual. It can include:
exercise to help with muscle aches and stiffness.
in your routine, schedule, and surroundings to improve your
sleep habits and reduce stress.
Taking medications to help you sleep better and to relieve pain.
Getting counseling to help you manage chronic pain and find
better ways to handle stress.
Some people with Fibromyalgia also find complementary therapies
such as acupuncture, massage, behavioral therapy, and relaxation