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Fibromyalgia or Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS)

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Fibromyalgia or Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS)

5 min read


Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain in the body. Read this article to learn about it.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Srivastava Durgesh

Published At June 4, 2019
Reviewed AtAugust 25, 2023

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia or fibromyalgia syndrome is a chronic or long-lasting condition characterized by muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue, sleep problems, memory loss, and mood swings. It affects women more than men and starts during middle adulthood. It is believed that this condition increases the sensation of pain experienced by a person by altering how the brain processes distress signals. There is no permanent cure for this disease, but medicines give substantial symptomatic relief.

These symptoms begin after an injury, surgery, infection, or a lot of mental stress. The other symptoms that are commonly seen in fibromyalgia patients are tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, anxiety, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome. In addition, it is now described as a central pain amplification disorder as this increases the pain sensation in the brain.

Fibromyalgia is considered a benign condition because even though it affects the quality of life, it is not fatal and does not cause heart attacks, stroke, cancer, or physical deformities. However, rheumatic diseases increase the risk of fibromyalgia such as -

  • Osteoarthritis (wearing down of protective tissue at the end of the bones).

  • Lupus (a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks its own tissues and organs).

  • Ankylosing spondylitis (an inflammatory disease affecting the spine and large bones).

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disorder affecting joints, including hands and feet).

What Are the Common Misconceptions About Fibromyalgia?

As the pain caused by this condition is subjective and cannot be measured, the common myths about this illness are -

  • The pain and discomfort are all in mind and are not real.

  • This condition only affects older women.

  • The pain experienced is minimal and cannot affect daily life.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Is it still unclear what causes fibromyalgia, but it is believed to be caused due to some problem in the nervous system, which makes some people more sensitive to pain when certain triggers come into play. These triggers can be -

  • Spine problems.

  • Arthritis.

  • Physical stress.

  • Emotional stress.

  • Trauma.

  • Genetics.

  • Infection.

What Are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

There are a lot of symptoms seen in fibromyalgia; some of the common ones are -

  • Generalized pain.

  • Jaw stiffness or pain.

  • Headaches.

  • Joint stiffness or pain.

  • Sleep disturbances.

  • Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS (intestinal disorder leading to diarrhea, pain, and discomfort in the stomach).

  • Restless leg syndrome or RLS (a condition causing an uncontrollable urge to move legs).

  • Tiredness.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

  • Memory problems.

  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet.

It might also cause:

  • Vision problems.

  • Dizziness.

  • Pelvic problems.

  • Weight gain.

  • Nausea.

  • Urinary problems.

  • Depression.

  • Anxiety.

  • Breathing and chest troubles.

  • Skin problems.

Who Is Commonly Affected?

As mentioned earlier, this disease is more common in women than in men. It is usually diagnosed between 35 to 45 years of age, but pain symptoms begin much earlier in life. Moreover, it is more likely to develop in patients with a family history of this condition.

Why Does It Hurt So Much?

It is believed that repeated nerve stimulation causes the following changes -

  • An abnormal increase in the levels of neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain that signal pain.

  • And the pain receptors in the brain become more sensitive to pain and start overreacting to pain signals.

What Are the Tender Points Used to Diagnose Fibromyalgia?

It can be tricky to diagnose this condition, as the pain can be caused due to many other reasons. So to diagnose fibromyalgia, doctors check for pain and tenderness in at least 11 points out of the 18 (nine pairs) known tender points when a patient complains of pain all over the body for a long time. The tender points are -

  1. The base of the skull.

  2. Neck and shoulder.

  3. Lower neck in front.

  4. Edge of upper breast.

  5. Below the elbow.

  6. Inner shoulder.

  7. Hip bone.

  8. Buttocks.

  9. Above the knee.

These points are no longer used to diagnose this condition.

How Is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?

When a patient complains of widespread pain for three months or longer, and if blood tests show no abnormality like hypothyroidism, the doctor might diagnose the condition as fibromyalgia. There is no specific lab test to diagnose this condition, but the other blood tests performed are -

  • Complete blood count (CBC).

  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR).

  • Rheumatoid factor.

  • Thyroid function test.

  • Cyclic citrullinated peptide test.

The three criteria for diagnosing this condition as proposed by the American College of Rheumatology are:

  1. Pain in the tender points and other symptoms over the last week with fatigue, sleep, and memory problems.

  2. The presence of symptoms for three months or more.

  3. Absence of any other health condition that might cause the same issues.

What Are the Treatment Options for Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is not curable, and treatment is done to manage symptoms. The treatment options include -


  • Painkillers - Acetaminophen or Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen sodium.

  • Antidepressants - Duloxetine and Milnacipran are used to reduce pain and fatigue.

  • Antiepileptic Drugs - Gabapentin and Pregabalin are also helpful in treating pain.


  • Physiotherapy - Water-based exercises and other exercises might help increase strength and flexibility.

  • Counseling - This condition can be stressful, so counseling will help deal with it.

  • Occupational Therapy - It will help you make changes to your workplace, which might reduce stress.

Alternative Medicine:

  • Acupuncture - Here, very fine needles are inserted into the skin to restore the normal balance of life forces. It also helps change the levels of blood and neurotransmitters in the brain, which might relieve some symptoms.

  • Massage - Massage helps relax your muscles, improves flexibility, and helps the body produce natural painkillers.

  • Yoga and Meditation - Breathing and relaxation techniques help control symptoms.

Home Remedies:

  • Avoid overexerting yourself and reduce emotional stress.

  • Get sufficient sleep every day.

  • Exercises like walking, swimming, and water aerobics might reduce pain, so do them regularly.

  • Eat a balanced diet.

  • Be as active as possible.

What Are the Foods That Are Beneficial and Foods to Be Avoided?

It is said that a vegetarian diet is better, as it is low in fat and protein and high in fiber, beta carotene, antioxidants, and minerals. Foods that can be beneficial are -

  • Food rich in antioxidants, like kidney beans, dark chocolate, cilantro, artichokes, and berries.

  • Food containing iron and ferritin includes green leafy vegetables, shellfish, red meat, and pumpkin seeds.

  • Fish like salmon, tuna, red meat, and turkey are rich in amino acids.

  • Foods containing Coenzyme Q10 like soy oil, beef, peanuts, and sardines.

  • Anti-inflammatory vegetables like kale, spinach, arugula, and bok choy.

  • Fruits low in the glycemic index, like apples, berries, peaches, and citrus fruits.

Food items to be avoided that can cause flare-ups are -

  • Bread.

  • Sugary beverages.

  • Pasta.

  • Cakes.

  • Cereals.

  • Candy.


Chronic pain and sleep disturbances associated with this illness generally interfere with a patient's daily activity and work, which can result in depression and anxiety. If you are suffering from widespread pain without apparent cause, it is best to consult a rheumatologist online.

Frequently Asked Questions


How Do You Get Fibromyalgia Syndrome?

Fibromyalgia can be caused by inheritance of specific genes from the families. It can also be caused due to other physical diseases such as arthritis that causes severe pain or any infection due to bacteria or viruses that increases the risk of getting fibromyalgia. Psychological causes are emotional or physical abuse.


What Are the Most Severe Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

The most severe fibromyalgia symptoms include widespread pain, increased sensitivity, joint stiffness, fatigue, muscle weakness, poor sleep quality, headaches, and irritable bowel syndrome. It might also cause cognitive problems in certain people.


How Serious Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is one of the chronic diseases that most commonly lasts as a lifelong condition. However, it is not a progressive disease. But, it is also not found to cause any damage to joints, muscles, or organs. Treatment is mainly focussed on symptomatic relief.


What Can Be Mistaken for Fibromyalgia?

Many diseases have the same symptoms of fibromyalgia that can be mistaken as fibromyalgia. That includes seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, Lyme disease, polymyalgia rheumatica, and lupus. The main symptom that causes confusion is the widespread presence of pain, along with joint involvement.


How Can You Test for Fibromyalgia at Home?

Previously, doctors diagnosed fibromyalgia by checking 18 specific points on a person's body to know how many were painful to firm press. Now the patient should have three months of widespread pain without any underlying medical cause. But, the diagnosis can not be made at home. To diagnose fibromyalgia, you would need to run a series of diagnostic tests that would not be possible from home.


What Does a Fibromyalgia Attack Feel Like?

The patients affected by fibromyalgia usually experience specific symptoms on a daily basis. But during a flareup attack, the symptoms worsen and appear more frequently for a particular period of time. The common symptoms seen during a fibromyalgia attack include widespread muscle pain and tiredness that makes completing routine activities difficult for the individual.


Can Fibromyalgia Cause Weight Gain?

One of the chief problems faced by people affected with fibromyalgia is interrupted sleep patterns. This eventually leads the person to suffer from extreme sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can cause increased appetite, decreased metabolism, and food cravings when the person is awake, and this ultimately leads to weight gain.


Does Fibromyalgia Hurt All the Time?

Fibromyalgia's chronic pain remains never-ending. The person experiences ongoing headaches, neck pain, joints pain and stiffness, and painful tender points that interrupt sleep. All these symptoms, one or the other, appear on a daily basis.


What does fibromyalgia feel Like?

A person affected by fibromyalgia feels like he or she has got pain that is constantly spreading throughout their entire body, especially at specific parts of the body, like the neck and back. Due to the fatigue caused by fibromyalgia, the person feels like having no energy.


Can Fibromyalgia Go Away?

In most of the patients, fibromyalgia does not go away by treatment also. But in certain people with time, fibromyalgia is found to go away. The exact treatment option is not established yet.


What Is the Best Painkiller for Fibromyalgia?

The most commonly prescribed medications in fibromyalgia patients are anticonvulsants like Pregabalin and Gabapentin. These are drugs used to treat epilepsy, but they can also improve the pain associated with fibromyalgia in some people. It is essential to note that these drugs should not be self-medicated without a doctor's proper prescription.


What Happens If Fibromyalgia Is Left Untreated?

When fibromyalgia is left untreated in a person, the patient's long-standing pain in association with fibromyalgia can lead to permanent changes in the way the person's body perceives pain. It can result in increased sensitivity to pain stimuli and abnormal pain sensitivity.


Does Fibromyalgia Cause All Over Body Inflammation?

The widespread pain experienced by a person affected by fibromyalgia confuses the disease as an inflammatory disease. But, fibromyalgia is not due to an inflammatory etiology. It is caused due to the abnormal sensory processing by one's central nervous system leading the person to be extremely sensitive to pain and other uncomfortable sensations.


Is Fibromyalgia Related to Thyroid Problems?

The thyroid disorder, hypothyroidism, often is related to fibromyalgia. It is found to occur together commonly. The cause is not well established yet. But, in studies performed, most patients with fibromyalgia were found to have hypothyroidism and vice versa.


What Is the Root Cause of Fibromyalgia?

The exact etiology of fibromyalgia is not yet established. However, the root cause of this condition is suggested to be the central nervous system. Here, the brain's pain processing nature is unusual, where there is an increased sensitivity to the perception of normal painful conditions or even painless triggers.


What Is the Best Muscle Relaxer for Fibromyalgia?

A muscle relaxant named Tizanidine is the most commonly used drug in patients affected with fibromyalgia. This drug has sympatholytic properties in it, too, along with muscle-relaxing features. However, this drug should not be self-medicated without a proper prescription from the doctor.


Is Fibromyalgia a Disease?

Yes, fibromyalgia is a disease characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain with associated symptoms such as fatigue, sleep interruptions, reduced memory retaining ability, and mood swings. However, the primary problem remains the brain's perception of normal painful stimuli as increased pain sensations.


What Is the New Name for Fibromyalgia?

In recent days fibromyalgia has been addressed with a new name known as the chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which is used especially in the United States. In other parts of the world, it is referred to as the "myalgic encephalomyelitis."


Why Do I Feel So Ill With Fibromyalgia?

Apart from symptoms related to muscle fibromyalgia, patients experience various other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, thyroid problems, depression, anxiety, mood swings, cognitive difficulties, and irritable bowel syndrome. All these symptoms make the affected person feel so ill.


What Foods Trigger Fibromyalgia Pain?

Many foods are found to trigger fibromyalgia, and those include sugar, fructose, coffee, tea, colas, chocolate, yeast containing beverages, gluten foods, dairy products, and vegetables like tomatoes, chilies, American bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant.


Does Fibromyalgia Get Worse as You Age?

Yes, as one's body gets weak through age, people affected with fibromyalgia will find it challenging to experience fibromyalgia symptoms. Especially, the bones get weak when the person's age increases, and the pain could be more severe in these patients.


Do You Get a Temperature With Fibromyalgia?

Patients with fibromyalgia have difficulties in maintaining their body temperature. Sometimes, the patient experiences too much coldness in their body. Dizziness is known to be reported in many patients. However, some patients are known to feel too much heat in their body. If you are experiencing these symptoms you should consult your doctor for proper treatment.


What Can You Do to Help Fibromyalgia?

There is no definitive cure for fibromyalgia. Therefore symptomatic treatment is done in patients by focussing on relieving temporary symptoms of the patient. That includes pain relievers for pain, antidepressants that can ease pain and fatigue, and anticonvulsants to treat pain. Other than this, lifestyle modifications by yoga, acupuncture, and physical therapy can be done.
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Dr. Srivastava Durgesh
Dr. Srivastava Durgesh



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