Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. The pain associated with fibromyalgia is often described as a constant dull ache, typically arising from muscles. To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.
Most Common Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Pain All Over – People describe fibromyalgia pain as deep muscular aching, throbbing, shooting, stabbing, or intense burning. Muscle groups used the most may hurt more. In addition, the severity of regional pains can make your fibromyalgia symptoms worse.
Fatigue – Exhaustion can be one of the most incapacitating fibromyalgia symptoms. You may feel as though your arms and legs are weighted down by concrete blocks and your body may be so drained of energy that every task requires great effort.
Sleep Difficulties – It’s not just about falling asleep. Repeat arousals prevent you from reaching deep, restorative sleep, so you wake up feeling as though you have been hit by a Mack truck. An overnight sleep study may show symptoms of repeat arousals, but a specific sleep disorder may not be found.
Brain Fog – Trouble concentrating, retaining new information, and word-finding are common fibromyalgia symptoms that seriously interfere with daily functioning. You may be easily distracted and this symptom appears to correspond to the severity of pain (as though the brain is consumed by the pain, limiting your ability to perform cognitive tasks).
Morning Stiffness – You may wake up to enhanced muscle soreness with fibromyalgia, but you probably also feel more stiff than usual. The cause of these muscle symptoms is unknown, but warm water and gentle stretching usually help alleviate them.
Muscle Knots, Cramping, Weakness – No matter how much you try to relax your muscles, they may feel tense. Many contain rope-like knots called myofascial trigger points, making you more susceptible to muscle cramping and weakness. The pain of fibromyalgia may also be a source of muscle weakness.
Digestive Disorders – Constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain, gas and bloating, irritable bowel, and nausea are found in roughly 40 to 70% of fibromyalgia patients. Acid reflux and a slowed digestion are also common.
Headaches/Migraines – Recurrent tension headaches or migraines are present in 50 to 70% of fibromyalgia patients. Headache symptoms are usually rated as severe, occur at least two times per week, and often have a migraine component. This head pain is partly due to trigger points in the shoulder, neck, and head muscles.
Balance Problems – Balance confidence is greatly reduced in people with fibromyalgia. Walking patterns are altered and the odds of falling are increased.
Itchy/Burning Skin – Your skin may look normal or it may have itchy red bumps similar to hives. Burning pain, similar to a bad sunburn, is also common in fibromyalgia patients.
Other Strange Symptoms? – Do bright lights, sounds, or odors bother you? These symptoms could be part of your fibromyalgia.
Long term follow-up studies have shown that fibromyalgia is chronic, but the symptoms may wax and wane. The impact that fibromyalgia can have on daily living activities, including the ability to work a full-time job, differs among patients. Overall, studies have shown that fibromyalgia can be as disabling and life-impacting as rheumatoid arthritis.
For more information on Fibromyalgia, visit the Fibromyalgia Network at: