Fibromyalgia is a long-term disorder that affects the muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. It’s characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep problems, memory and mood issues. It is believed that fibromyalgia amplifies pain sensations by affecting how the brain and spinal cord process pain signals. Fibromyalgia treatment success is possible, thanks to several pain management options.
- The cause of fibromyalgia is currently unknown.
- Possible triggers may include physical or emotional trauma, including surgery, infection, or significant psychological stress.
- In some cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no specific triggering event.
- Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men.
- People with fibromyalgia pain often tend to have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and depression.
- Pain – from mild to severe – is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia.
- Painful areas are called “tender points” and are generally found in the soft tissue on the back of the neck, shoulders, chest, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, and knees.
- The pain may feel like a deep ache or a shooting, burning pain.
- The joints are not affected by fibromyalgia, though pain may feel emanating from the joints.
- Chronic fatigue, depressed mood, and sleep problems are also common symptoms.
- Other symptoms can include memory and concentration problems, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, tension headaches, and palpitations.
There is no test to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Instead, a diagnosis is based on a collection of symptoms. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a person must have had at least three months of widespread pain in at least 11 of 18 specific tender point areas. The presence of other symptoms, including fatigue, waking up tired, and having difficulty concentrating, is also a component of diagnosing fibromyalgia. Ruling out conditions that have similar symptoms to fibromyalgia can help make a diagnosis. Blood tests that can help with this process include:
- Complete blood count
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- Thyroid function tests
- Vitamin D levels