Fibromyalgia - Symptoms

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The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?

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What are fibromyalgia symptoms and signs?

The universal symptom of fibromyalgia is pain. As mentioned earlier, the pain in fibromyalgia is not caused by tissue inflammation. Instead, these patients seem to have an increased sensitivity to many different sensory stimuli and an unusually low pain threshold. Minor sensory stimuli that ordinarily would not cause pain in individuals can cause disabling, sometimes severe pain in patients with fibromyalgia. The body pain of fibromyalgia can be aggravated by noise, weather change, and emotional stress.

The pain of fibromyalgia is generally widespread, involving both sides of the body. Pain usually affects the neck, buttocks, shoulders, arms, the upper back, and the chest. "Tender points" are localized areas of the body that are tender to light touch. Fibromyalgia tender points, or pressure points, are commonly found around the elbows, shoulders, knees, hips, back of the head, and the sides of the breastbone and are typical signs of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia Tender Points Diagram

Fatigue occurs in 90% of patients. Fatigue may be related to abnormal sleep patterns commonly observed in these patients. Normally, there are several levels of depth of sleep. Getting enough of the deeper levels of sleep may be more important in refreshing a person than the total number of hours of sleep. Patients with fibromyalgia lack the deep, restorative level of sleep, called "non-rapid eye movement" (non-REM) sleep. Consequently, patients with fibromyalgia often awaken in the morning without feeling fully rested, even though they seem to have had an adequate number of hours of sleep time. Some patients awaken with muscle aches or a sensation of muscle fatigue as if they had been "working out" all night!

Mental and/or emotional disturbances occur in over half of people with fibromyalgia. These symptoms include poor concentration, forgetfulness, and memory problems, as well as mood changes, irritability, depression, and anxiety. Since a firm diagnosis of fibromyalgia is difficult and no confirmatory laboratory tests are available, patients with fibromyalgia are often misdiagnosed as having depression as their primary underlying problem.

Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include migraine and tension headaches, numbness or tingling of different parts of the body, abdominal pain related to irritable bowel syndrome ("spastic colon"), and irritable bladder, causing painful and frequent urination. Like fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome can cause chronic abdominal pain and other bowel disturbances without detectable inflammation of the stomach or the intestines.

Each patient with fibromyalgia is unique. Any of the above symptoms can occur intermittently and in different combinations.

Return to Fibromyalgia

See what others are saying

Published: November 07

Fibromyalgia attacked my body more than 10 years ago after knee surgery. I was in a wheelchair for about six months, and I used a cane for another six months. I did not even know how to walk anymore. I fought the fibromyalgia with a lot of pain pills and tears. I was on so many medications that it damaged my stomach lining. Learning to break the cycle wasn't easy because it was painful. It caused tiredness and depression. To this day, I am no longer on meds, and I live a new life with a new career. I have no more depression. It tries to creep in, but I fight it off through prayer. I have bowel problems, this pain that pain, etc., etc., etc. I find that when I help others and talk about it, it brings hope to others. Learning to stop the cycle is a battle. But there is hope.

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Comment from: nanarae, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 31

My fibromyalgia began after a strep infection right after Hurricane Andrew. All my doctors were "blown away" and the only way to check what I thought was a bad cold was waiting in a triage line outside of a hospital- so I didn"t get it checked. A few weeks after my bad cold", I came down with rheumatic fever and was in intense pain and had incredible fatigue for weeks. My blood lab tests were through the roof. The pain/fatigue never really subsided, and I felt awful and struggled at work all year. My doctor thought I had rheumatoid arthritis. The following summer I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. That was almost 22 years ago, and my life has been full of pain, fatigue, and tears. I am just barely able to work (teacher) and I hate to give in and quit. My life has been greatly impacted and limited as a result of fibromyalgia.

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