Fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain disorder that affects about 10 million people in the United States. It can be challenging for doctors to diagnose fibromyalgia, partly because symptoms often vary from person to person. Currently, there are no definitive tests to prove that a patient is suffering from the disorder. If you’re worried about pain you or a loved one may be experiencing, watch for these 6 common warning signs of fibromyalgia.
Warning sign #1: Sensitivity to touch
One of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia is allodynia, or a sensitivity to touch. Simple everyday gestures such as a pat on the back or a rub on the arm can result in extreme pain.
Your skin isn’t the only part of your body that might be sensitive to touch. Tender points may also cause you pain if pressed or touched. Doctors may even use these tender points to give a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Common tender points of fibromyalgia include:
- front and back of the neck
- mid- to upper-back of the shoulders
- upper chest
- upper buttocks
Fibromyalgia warning signs #2: Fibro Fog
People with fibromyalgia often have cognitive difficulties that accompany their other symptoms. Fibro fog refers to these symptoms. With fibro fog, you might have short-term memory loss, difficulty finding word substitutions and disorientation that can last up to a minute per episode.
Other symptoms of fibro fog include:
- misplacing objects
- becoming easily distracted
- forgetting plans
- difficulty carrying on conversations
- inability to remember new information
Fibro fog has no specific cause. However, sleep problems, low thyroid levels or changes in the blood flow to the brain may be to blame.
Warning sign #3: Tingling
Another distressing, yet common, symptom of fibromyalgia pains is widespread tingling or numbness. These sensations are usually localized to specific areas of your body, specifically in your hands, arms, feet, legs or sometimes even your face.
When you have fibromyalgia, the tingling or numbness you feel may be downright debilitating. The tingling you experience will generally increase when you are anxious or when you find it difficult to fall asleep. In addition, tingling can become worse at specific times of day such as first thing in the morning or late at night. The frequency of tingling can also vary according to your schedule.
Fibromyalgia warning signs #4: Excessive fatigue
If you are living with and treating fibromyalgia, you may find sleep hard to come by. The sleep disturbances that accompany fibromyalgia can affect how quickly you get to sleep, how deeply you sleep and how long you sleep each night. More likely than not, lack of good sleep will only exacerbate your other symptoms.
The fatigue you feel with fibromyalgia is usually an all-encompassing exhaustion that eventually interferes with your regular activities and life. The exhaustion you feel may come on suddenly, draining you of all energy.
There are several reasons you might have excessive fatigue. There are 2 common sleep disorders that overlap with fibromyalgia: chronic fatigue syndrome and restless leg syndrome.
Chronic fatigue syndrome is characterized by disturbed sleeping for more than six months, along with a sore throat, enlarged nodes, and muscle and joint pain.
Restless leg syndrome has been shown to be more prevalent in individuals who have fibromyalgia. If you have this chronic condition, your legs tend to be restless when you sleep. This leads to non-restorative rest at night.
Fibromyalgia warning signs #5: Migraines
Regular, persistent migraines occur in more than half of patients with fibromyalgia. A recent study showed that the rate of fibromyalgia is higher in patients who have chronic migraines compared to tension headaches. This suggests a possible link between the conditions.
In many cases, these migraines are due to an over-response to stimuli. The triggers for both migraines and fibromyalgia may be the same. These include light, noise, touch and/or joint stiffness.
Trigger management is important to prevent migraines from happening. Migraines due to fibromyalgia can also be attributed to hormone changes in the body and might worsen with lack of sleep and depression.
Fibromyalgia warning signs #6: Depression and anxiety
It’s not uncommon for those who have fibromyalgia to also suffer from mental health problems. This includes anxiety and depression. Around 20% of people who suffer from fibromyalgia report a co-occurring mental health condition. The pain, fatigue and stress that fibromyalgia brings can cause many people to withdraw from their daily activities and social lives.
Canceling plans – or not making them at all because of flare-ups – can cause isolation, resulting in depression. Not knowing when your next symptoms will occur can contribute to a constant state of anxiety.
Many fibromyalgia patients have been told for years that their pain is just in their head. This can discourage many of them to seek out help from a mental health specialist. However, there’s been a shift in the way doctors treat patients, so don’t be discouraged to seek out a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Learn more about fibromyalgia warning signs in this video:
The bottom line on warning signs of fibromyalgia
If you are suffering from these common warning signs of fibromyalgia and widespread pain across your body, talk to your health care professional. While a diagnosis may be difficult to hear, remember that effective treatment for fibromyalgia is possible. This includes pain relievers, physical therapy and antidepressant medications.
Many people also benefit from natural remedies and light physical activity such as yoga, acupuncture and meditation. You can also look into changing your diet for day-to-day pain relief.
Have you noticed any warning signs of fibromyalgia?
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Hi my name is Cheryl I have chronic back pain I also get persistent nerve pain across my back, down my legs front and back and under my feet. My memory is so bad sometimes I double up on my medication. I did take something for my nerve pain but was useless.
I am on antidepressants and panadeine forte.
I try to walk my back and legs seize up I get an unbearable aching pain and until I sit down for a while I can’t move. Then off I go again.
I stand in line for something or wait at the traffic lights my pain becomes so unbearable I feel like I have to get pulled along so I can move again. Most days I don’t want to get out of bed it drives me crazy I hope to try medical marijuana so my life is bearable again. I have had this pain for at least 35 years enough is enough!!!!
Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I’m sorry that you’re experiencing such painful symptoms that have such a significant experience on your day to day life. Our online community is a great resource where you can support, share stories and gain insight from others who are having similar experiences. Please visit forum.painresource.com to sign up and collaborate with others in our community.
Your Friends at Pain Resource
For around 8/9 month I have suffered with server migraines/ depression/ lack of sleep and the most scary part numb/ Heavy lower limbs I.e hips and legs to the point where it takes around half hour before I can move enough to get out of bed do these sound like symptoms of fm
I’m sorry you’re experiencing these issues. The best person to consult with in regard to your specific condition is your primary care doctor. He or she will be able to address the specifics of your condition, and will guide you in the right direction. Please feel free to check back for information here that can help to supplement the guidance of your doctor.
We will also be rolling out a forum community next month, where people like yourself can share stories and support one another. This might be a great resource for you to discuss your experience with others.
Your Friends at Team Resource
Hi I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 5 years ago and have tried many of the drugs but without success.
At the moment I’m having severe breathlessness and pain which I’m finding hard to deal with.
I also have a compromised immune system and take hydroxyurea and impogen injections 3 times a week.
Have you any suggestions , would love anything you think might help.
Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry that you’ve been having such a difficult time. Please consult with your primary care doctor, and let him or her know that the medications that you have been taking aren’t working, and that you’re having difficulty breathing as well. Because your doctor best understands your specific situation, he or she will be able to guide you in the best direction.
Pain Resource Team
hi i have pain from top of my head to toe i get tingling numbness every night in hands an feet always have headache never sleep well im in constant pain im struggling to work at minute its really hard
Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that you’re having difficulty with tingling, headaches and sleeping. That has to be very hard to deal with. Have you spoken with your primary care doctor? While he or she might not have the answers, they can refer you to a specialist who can help you get to the bottom of what is causing these issues for you.
Pain Resource Team
Hi I’m jodie the last 2 months my head feels floaty keep getting headaches not sleeping well but fall asleep in the day and I ache all over need some advice please
Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been having trouble with aches and sleeping. It can be very frustrating to try to get too the root of a problem when it has such an impact on your day to day life. The most important thing that you can do is reach out to your primary care doctor, who is familiar with your particular situation, and can point you in the right direction to start feeling better.
Pain Resource Team
I have been to many doctors over the years for a few different reasons. I suffer from chronic migraines, I have degenerative disk disease, arthritis, broken 2 vertebrae (1 of them twice) one broken in several places. I have tried so many things it’s sad. Different therapies and medications. Over the counter and prescription. Nothing works and if it does a little bit it doesn’t last long. I dont sleep well either and like the other lady I have a hard time staying awake during the day. I feel exhausted 99 % of the time. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated because I’m at a total loss as to what to do. There are so many nights when I try to go to sleep that I would wish and hope I wouldn’t wake up because I couldnt stand another day like the last.(no, I’m not suicidal) I would never do anything that drastic, but it doesn’t stop me from wishing it was my last day sometimes.