Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes aches and pain all over the body. It is a chronic (ongoing) condition of pain, stiffness, and usually fatigue.
Fibromyalgia affects several million people in the US. It is usually diagnosed in middle age although symptoms may start at an earlier age. It affects women more often than men or children.
What fibromyalgia is exactly, or what causes it, is not known. Fibromyalgia has been linked to:
Women who have a family member with fibromyalgia are more likely to have it themselves. It is not known if this is due to hereditary or environmental factors.
Researchers are working to find possible causes of the symptoms. One theory is that fibromyalgia causes a lower pain threshold. This may be because the brain has gotten more sensitive to the chemicals that send pain signals, or there are more of these chemicals than normal.
Pain is the main symptom. The aches, pains, and stiffness may be different day to day or week to week. The pain may move from one part of the body to another. It is most common in the neck, chest, arms, legs, hips, and back.
Other common symptoms are:
You may have:
People with fibromyalgia are tender throughout the body. The tenderness is most noticed at specific places on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs. These places are called tender points. These points hurt when pressure is put on them.
The symptoms may get worse when you exert yourself too much or when the weather is damp and cold. Younger adults with fibromyalgia are more likely to have chronic headaches or anxiety. Their symptoms may get worse more easily from weather, mental stress, or poor sleep.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical history and your patterns of symptoms. He or she will examine you, looking for places that are tender. There is no one test that diagnoses fibromyalgia. However, you may have blood tests to make sure you don’t have any conditions that cause symptoms similar to fibromyalgia, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
The most successful treatment is a healthy diet, regular exercise, and rest.
If diet, exercise, and rest do not relieve your symptoms, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help relieve some of the symptoms. There is no medicine that can cure fibromyalgia. However, some medicines may help some of the symptoms, such as:
Your provider can help to find other ways to reduce your pain and tiredness, such as heat or massage therapy.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic problem. The symptoms sometimes get better and at other times get worse, but you will likely keep having symptoms for months to years. Although the illness can cause a lot of discomfort, it does not damage your joints, muscles, or other tissues, and it does not shorten your life.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Phone: 1-877-22-NIAMS (1-877-226-4267)
Web site: http://www.niams.nih.gov.
Doctors don’t know how to prevent fibromyalgia. However, as with many medical problems, staying as healthy as possible with regular exercise, a good diet, and enough rest may be the best prevention.