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Q. Are bulging discs the worst symptom of fibromyalgia?

Answered by
Dr. Vivek Chail
and medically reviewed by Dr. Vinodhini. J
This is a premium question & answer published on Jan 26, 2020 and last reviewed on: Jan 27, 2020

Hello doctor,

I just want to confirm with you that fibromyalgia does not cause bulging discs. My workman's company blamed my fibromyalgia for disc bulging because in the past I have had headaches and neck pain with my fibro. The bulging disc pain was within three hours (numb, hurting, tingling arm all the way down) after helping a coworker shovel and then running a big vibrating roller. It was different than bursitis I have ever experienced. I developed a headache after the pain in my arm calmed down. The headache was in the front left of my forehead. Definitely not a tension fibro headache (I also have occipital neuralgia that came with the fibro in the back of my scalp).

After hearing that it can happen while doing anything was when I came to the conclusion that that is the only thing I did differently that day. I feel like no matter what happens to me the fibromyalgia will get the blame. After researching degenerative disc disease, almost everyone has it. I do not think this is a well known fact. It happens as you age and can be as early as your teens and 20's. People also want to blame things on that as a pre-existing condition, yet if they had an MRI they would have it too. Otherwise, my spine is beautiful according to my doctor. I am 51 years old and was a heavy equipment operator and a PCA for my aunt at the same time while having three teenagers at home.

The fibromyalgia and stress is really getting to me now though and I am having a tough time even working eight hours a week as a PCA. Just so tired and fed up with misconceptions and lack of doctor and public awareness. I hope this post and your answer will help other fibromyalgia patients because I know I am not the only one dealing with this.

Dr. Vivek Chail

Radiodiagnosis Radiology


Welcome to

I have read through your query in detail. Please find my observations below.

Fibromyalgia is still a less understood illness with pain and discomfort involving muscles and bones and the main feature includes that it is puzzling or difficult to identify. It is elusive and is a diagnosis. The diagnosis is made on the elimination of known conditions which might cause similar symptoms after using standard diagnostic tests and investigations.

Therefore, if a patient is known to have bulging discs then it has to differ from fibromyalgia. In other words, you might have had fibromyalgia if there is no particular finding in the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. Therefore it is important to document MRI scan findings and then the diagnosis of fibromyalgia might be set aside and changed to include degenerative disc disease following the proof of bulging discs.

The problem is that probably earlier investigations have led your employers to believe that you have fibromyalgia. However, a single incident has changed things for you and they refuse to accept it. The best way out will be to have evidence-based medical diagnosis and take suggested treatment.

I agree that there is a lot of miscommunication about fibromyalgia and people with real problems are often labeled wrongly considering an earlier diagnosis which was made months to years back.

In conclusion, fibromyalgia is not concerned with bulging discs and if your MRI scan shows bulging discs which might be related to your pain and discomfort symptoms then you have the option of making a point with the workman comp authority.

Hope this answers your question.

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