Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

woman with fibromyalgia pain sitting on bed

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain and tenderness all over your body. The level of pain can vary from mild to severe and can either feel like a dull ache, stinging burn, or stabbing pain. Other common symptoms include fatigue and trouble sleeping. 

Symptoms of fibromyalgia tend to come and go. In some cases, you may have a flare-up (or, a period where symptoms are active) and in other cases, you might not have any symptoms at all. It's important to note that symptoms are not progressive, which means that they do worsen over time.

People who were assigned female at birth are more likely to receive a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Unfortunately, researchers don't yet know the cause of the condition, but suspect that inflammatory diseases and mental health conditions may increase your risk of fibromyalgia. Additionally, factors such as stress, hormonal changes, and weather changes can trigger symptoms.

Nearly 4 million adults in the United States or 2% of the population live with fibromyalgia. Therefore, knowing the signs of the condition may encourage you to see your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms.

Pain Symptoms

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that causes aches and stiffness in different parts of your body. Generally, you might feel this pain in your arms, legs, head, chest, abdomen, back, and buttocks. 

The severity of fibromyalgia pain varies. While some people experience dull aches, others have burning or throbbing pain. Alongside body aches, you might also have: 

Neurological Symptoms 

Most people with the condition experience fatigue and trouble sleeping alongside their pain symptoms. It's common to feel extremely tired when waking up in the morning, regardless of how much you slept the night before. 

Other neurological symptoms of fibromyalgia may include:

  • Numbness in your arms and legs
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking clearly 
  • Forgetfulness or confusion
  • Sensitivity to lights and sounds 
  • Brain fog
  • Restlessness or insomnia
  • Dizziness

Psychological Symptoms

People with fibromyalgia are at an increased risk of experiencing mental health concerns. That's why many healthcare providers may recommend both pain medication and antidepressants if you receive a fibromyalgia diagnosis. With your condition, you may also experience: 

Digestive Symptoms

It is possible to experience gastrointestinal concerns when you have fibromyalgia. In fact, nearly 50% of people with fibromyalgia also experience symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). That said, it may be common to experience:

Symptoms in Children 

The demographic of people most at risk for fibromyalgia is middle-aged women. However, it is still possible for children to have fibromyalgia too. The most common symptom of fibromyalgia in children is widespread pain. Most children describe the pain as dull, burning, or throbbing.

Other possible symptoms of fibromyalgia in children include:

Symptoms in Men/Women

Researchers aren't sure why people assigned female at birth are more likely to experience symptoms and receive a fibromyalgia diagnosis than those assigned male at birth. However, experts suggest that women may also experience the following symptoms more often:

There is no known cause of fibromyalgia but researchers believe that there are certain factors that raise the risk for those assigned female at birth. Some theories suggest that hormonal changes that occur with the menstrual cycle and pregnancy can trigger a flare-up of fibromyalgia symptoms. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider 

Fibromyalgia is a serious condition that can affect your ability to work, go to school, perform daily activities, and spend time with others. If you suddenly start experiencing widespread pain, chronic fatigue, trouble sleeping, or drastic changes in your mood, it's essential to make an appointment with your healthcare provider and get tested. While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are treatments that can help you manage symptoms and lower flare-ups from occurring.

A Quick Review 

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain and tenderness all over your body. The pain may feel like a burning sensation, dull ache, or throbbing pain–which can occur in your arms, legs, head, chest, abdomen, back, and buttocks. Other common symptoms include fatigue, trouble sleeping, changes in mood, and digestive issues.

Fibromyalgia symptoms often come and go. You might have flare-ups some days while having no symptoms on other days. While the exact cause of the condition is unknown, researchers suspect that hormonal changes, stress, changes in the weather, and underlying inflammatory or mental health conditions can trigger symptoms.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia but it can be well-managed with treatment. If you begin to experience symptoms, see your healthcare provider to learn how to relieve your symptoms and prevent future flare-ups.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What age does fibromyalgia peak?

    It is possible to receive a diagnosis for fibromyalgia at any age, but most people with the condition begin to experience symptoms between the ages of 35 and 45. 

  • What happens if you ignore fibromyalgia?

    Fibromyalgia is not a progressive disease and symptoms do not necessarily worsen over time. There is no physical damage that will occur if you ignore your symptoms. However, fibromyalgia pain can be frustrating to endure. The good news is that the condition can be well-managed with treatment, so see your healthcare provider if you are experiencing symptoms.

  • How do you calm a fibromyalgia flare-up?

    A fibromyalgia flare-up can cause severe pain and fatigue. To manage a flare-up, talk with your healthcare provider about finding the treatment options that are right for you. Possible treatments include medications, stress management techniques, massage therapy, acupuncture, and gentle movement or exercise.

  • Does sitting make fibromyalgia worse?

    Sitting for long periods of time can cause muscle aches and joint stiffness. This may lead to an increase in pain. To prevent symptoms flare-ups, engage in gentle physical activity every day and avoid sitting for long periods of time.

  • Does fibromyalgia qualify for disability?

    Yes, having fibromyalgia may qualify for disability. There are certain criteria that you must meet in order to qualify for social security disability benefits. For more information, speak with your healthcare provider about how to apply for disability in your state.

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