You hurt all over, and you frequently feel exhausted. Even after numerous tests, no one can find anything specifically wrong with you. If this sounds familiar, you may have fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points – places on your body where slight pressure causes pain. Fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men. Previously, fibromyalgia was known by other names such as fibrositis, chronic muscle pain syndrome, psychogenic rheumatism and tension myalgias.
Although the intensity of your symptoms may vary, they’ll probably never disappear completely. It may be reassuring to know, however, that fibromyalgia isn’t progressive or life-threatening. Treatments and self-care steps can improve fibromyalgia symptoms and your general health.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary, depending on the weather, stress, physical activity or even the time of day. Common signs and symptoms include:
Fibromyalgia is characterized by pain in specific areas of your body when pressure is applied, including the back of your head, upper back and neck, upper chest, elbows, hips and knees. The pain generally persists for months at a time and is often accompanied by stiffness.
Fatigue and Sleep Disturbances
People with fibromyalgia often wake up tired and unrefreshed even though they seem to get plenty of sleep. Some studies suggest that this sleep problem is the result of a sleep disorder called alpha wave interrupted sleep pattern, a condition in which deep sleep is frequently interrupted by bursts of brain activity similar to wakefulness. So people with fibromyalgia miss the deep restorative stage of sleep. Nighttime muscle spasms in your legs and restless legs syndrome also may be associated with fibromyalgia.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
The constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bloating associated with IBS are common in people with fibromyalgia.
Headaches and Facial Pain
Many people who have fibromyalgia also have headaches and facial pain that may be related to tenderness or stiffness in their neck and shoulders. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, which affects the jaw joints and surrounding muscles, also is common in people with fibromyalgia.
It’s common for people with fibromyalgia to report being sensitive to odors, noises, bright lights and touch.
Doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia. It’s likely that a number of factors contribute to the development of fibromyalgia.