What is fibromyalgia?

February 7, 2023

What is fibromyalgia?
Share the article

Fibromyalgia is a condition that results in widespread pain in the muscles and joints, alongside fatigue and cognitive issues such as memory problems. Despite extensive research, the root cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, and there is currently no cure. However, medical professionals can offer treatment options to help manage the symptoms

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic health condition that causes widespread pain and tenderness in the body. It can lead to fatigue and musculoskeletal discomfort that can be challenging to deal with. Symptoms often fluctuate and can occur in periods of flare-ups, making it difficult to manage. The root cause of fibromyalgia is not yet known, but research suggests that stress, health conditions, or life changes can trigger it. Genetics may also play a role, as those with a family history of fibromyalgia may be more susceptible. If you experience any new pain or discomfort, especially in your muscles, it is best to consult with a doctor as it may be an early sign of fibromyalgia.

Causes of fibromyalgia

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. However, research suggests that it is a disorder of the central nervous system that causes abnormal pain processing. Some possible triggers of fibromyalgia include:

  • Genetics: Fibromyalgia tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic component.
  • Infections: Certain infections may trigger fibromyalgia in some people.
  • Physical or emotional trauma: Physical or emotional trauma can trigger the onset of fibromyalgia in some people.
  • Other health conditions: Fibromyalgia is more common in people with other health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or chronic fatigue syndrome.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Widespread pain: Pain that is felt throughout the body, including in the muscles, joints, and soft tissues.
  • Fatigue: A feeling of tiredness that is not relieved by rest.
  • Sleep disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or waking up feeling unrefreshed.
  • Cognitive difficulties: Trouble concentrating, memory problems, and difficulty with executive function.
  • Headaches: Migraines or tension headaches.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome: A group of symptoms that affect the digestive system.
  • Restless leg syndrome is characterized by an urge to move the legs, usually due to uncomfortable sensations.

Risk factors of fibromyalgia

One of the major risk factors for fibromyalgia is genetics, as certain genes may make individuals more susceptible to developing the condition. Additionally, people with fibromyalgia often have heightened sensitivity to pain, and research suggests that genetic mutations responsible for the neurotransmitters that regulate pain signals could be involved.

Other risk factors for fibromyalgia include age, with people over the age of 40 being at higher risk, as well as sex assigned at birth, with females being twice as likely to develop the condition. Certain health conditions such as osteoarthritis, depression, anxiety disorders, chronic back pain, and irritable bowel syndrome have also been linked to fibromyalgia, as have infections and physical or emotional trauma.

Prevention of fibromyalgia

While it’s not possible to prevent fibromyalgia, maintaining overall health through stress management, healthy diet and exercise, and good sleep habits can help reduce the severity of the symptoms. Seeking medical advice and treatment as soon as symptoms arise can also help with symptom management.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia

To diagnose fibromyalgia, your doctor will conduct a physical examination and inquire about your medical history and that of your immediate family members. Since the symptoms of fibromyalgia resemble those of other medical conditions, your doctor may recommend certain tests, such as blood tests and X-rays to rule out other conditions, such as arthritis, lupus, or a thyroid disorder.

To assess the extent of your pain and the impact of your symptoms on your daily routine, your doctor will use a two-part scoring system. If one other possible condition has been excluded, you and your doctor can devise a treatment plan to manage your fibromyalgia symptoms.

Treatment for fibromyalgia

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for fibromyalgia. Your doctor will collaborate with you to identify a combination of treatments that alleviates your symptoms. Be sure to keep your provider updated on your symptoms and any changes in them.

Treatment options for fibromyalgia may include:

  • Exercises, such as stretching or strength training.
  • Sleep therapies.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy.
  • Stress management therapy.

What can I expect if I have fibromyalgia?

Living with fibromyalgia can be a long-term commitment. While finding an effective treatment can lead to fewer and milder flare-ups for some people, it is still something that requires ongoing management. Follow-up appointments with your doctor are important for making any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan or medication. It’s essential to understand that fibromyalgia is a legitimate condition that can impact your daily life, and seeking support from a mental health professional can be helpful for managing stress and emotional symptoms.

When should I make an appointment with my doctor?

Consult a (rheumatologist) if you are experiencing new symptoms such as pain, fatigue, or changes in your mental health, such as:

  • Suicidal or depressive thoughts.
  • Migraines or headaches.
  • Memory issues or the sensation that your brain is “foggy”
  • Sleep issues.

What questions should I ask my doctor?

  • Is it fibromyalgia or something else?
  • Which tests will I require?
  • Which treatments will be most effective for me?
  • How frequently will I need to return for follow-up appointments to adjust my treatments?
  • Should I seek the help of a mental health professional?
  • Does this imply that my relatives are more likely to develop fibromyalgia?

People also ask

What are usually the first signs of fibromyalgia?

The first signs of fibromyalgia can vary from person to person, but common early symptoms may include:

  • Widespread pain and tenderness in muscles and joints
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Cognitive difficulties, such as memory and concentration problems
  • Headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms
  • Depression or anxiety

What is the main cause of fibromyalgia?

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Some research suggests that abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and nervous system may contribute to the development of fibromyalgia.

What does fibromyalgia do to a person?

Fibromyalgia can have a significant impact on a person’s physical and mental health. Common symptoms of fibromyalgia include chronic pain and fatigue, sleep disturbances, cognitive difficulties, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. These symptoms can lead to a decreased quality of life, social isolation, and depression or anxiety.

What are the top 10 symptoms of fibromyalgia?

The top 10 symptoms of fibromyalgia may include:

  • Widespread pain and tenderness
  • Fatigue and exhaustion
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Headaches
  • Stiffness or muscle spasms
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms
  • Sensitivity to temperature, light, or sound
  • Depression or anxiety.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.



Department of Neurology

Department of Neurology

Chat with us!
Chat with us