Chronic Pain and Fibromyalgia: What's Normal, What's Not

Everyone experiences pain occasionally—and then there are people with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder whose often debilitating symptoms overlap with other diseases. So where does your pain fit in? This guide will help.
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What do your symptoms mean?

by Kate Rope

Everyone experiences pain occasionally, whether it’s a headache, muscle stiffness, or an upset stomach. Some people, such as migraine sufferers or those with irritable bowel syndrome, have to deal with pain and discomfort on a more frequent basis. And then there are people with fibromyalgia—a chronic pain disorder whose often debilitating symptoms overlap with many other diseases.

Now that three drugs have been approved to treat fibromyalgia, you may be hearing a lot about this condition. And if you’ve experienced unexplained pain recently, it’s easy to wonder whether you might even suffer from it. (Between 80% and 90% of those diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women.) Diagnosis can be tricky, but experts say that with the right information, it is possible to find the true cause of your pain—whether it’s fibro or something else—and get the treatment you need.

So where do your aches, pains, and everyday health woes fit in? Here’s our guide to what’s normal and what’s not, and when you should see your doctor.

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