What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is chronic condition that causes pain all over the body, fatigue, and other symptoms. People with fibromyalgia may be more sensitive to pain than people who don't have it. This is called abnormal pain perception processing.
What causes fibromyalgia?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Researchers think that certain things might contribute to its cause:
- Stressful or traumatic events, such as car accidents
- Repetitive injuries
- Illnesses such as viral infections
Sometimes, fibromyalgia can develop on its own. It can run in families, so genes may play a role in the cause.
Who is at risk for fibromyalgia?
Anyone can get fibromyalgia, but it is more common in:
- Women; they are twice as likely to have fibromyalgia
- Middle-aged people
- People with certain diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or ankylosing spondylitis
- People who have a family member with fibromyalgia
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Pain and stiffness all over the body
- Fatigue and tiredness
- Problems with thinking, memory, and concentration (sometimes called "fibro fog")
- Depression and anxiety
- Headaches, including migraines
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Pain in the face or jaw, including disorders of the jaw know as temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ)
- Sleep problems
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?
Fibromyalgia can be hard to diagnose. It sometimes takes visits to several different health care providers to get a diagnosis. One problem is that there isn't a specific test for it. And the main symptoms, pain and fatigue, are common in many other conditions. Health care providers have to rule out other causes of the symptoms before making a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. This is called making a differential diagnosis.
TYour health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:
- A medical history, including asking detailed questions about your symptoms
- A physical exam
- X-rays and blood tests to rule out other conditions
- The guidelines for diagnosing fibromyalgia, which include
- A history of widespread pain lasting more than 3 months
- Physical symptoms including fatigue, waking unrefreshed, and cognitive (memory or thought) problems
- The number of areas throughout the body in which you had pain in the past week
What are the treatments for fibromyalgia?
Not all health care providers are familiar with fibromyalgia and its treatment. You should see a doctor or team of health care providers who specialize in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is treated with a combination of treatments, which may include medicines, lifestyle changes, talk therapy, and complementary therapies:
- Over-the-counter pain relievers
- Prescription medicines that were specifically approved to treat fibromyalgia
- Prescription pain medicines
- Certain antidepressants, which may help with pain or sleep problems
- Lifestyle changes
- Getting enough sleep
- Getting regular physical activity. If you have not already been active, start slowly and gradually increase how much activity you get. You may want to see a physical therapist, who can help you create a plan that is right for you.
- Learning how to manage stress
- Eating a healthy diet
- Learning to pace yourself. If you do too much, it can make your symptoms worse. So you need to learn to balance being active with your need for rest.
- Talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you learn strategies to deal with pain, stress, and negative thoughts. If you also have depression along with your fibromyalgia, talk therapy can help with that too.
- Complementary therapies have helped some people with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. But researchers need to do more studies to show which ones are effective. You could consider trying them, but you should check with your health care provider first. These therapies include
- Fibromyalgia (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Fibromyalgia (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Fibromyalgia (Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health) Also in Spanish
- Focusing on Fibromyalgia : A Puzzling and Painful Condition (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
- What Is Fibromyalgia? (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases) Also in Spanish
Treatments and Therapies
- 7 Things To Know about Complementary Approaches for Fibromyalgia (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- Fibromyalgia: In Depth (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- Fibromyalgia: MedlinePlus Genetics (National Library of Medicine)
Statistics and Research
- Mind and Body Practices for Fibromyalgia: What the Science Says (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Fibromyalgia (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Physical Activity and Exercise Experience in Spanish and US Men with...
- Article: Strong and aversive cold processing and pain facilitation in fibromyalgia patients...
- Article: Increased gut permeability and bacterial translocation are associated with fibromyalgia and...
- Fibromyalgia -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- American College of Rheumatology
- Find a Rheumatologist (American College of Rheumatology)
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Also in Spanish
- Fibromyalgia (For Parents) (Nemours Foundation)