A Look at the Facts: What is Fibromyalgia?

what is fibromyalgia

Often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, fibromyalgia is a common condition. People with this condition experience widespread muscle and joint pain as well as intense fatigue. But just what is fibromyalgia?

Anyone can develop this chronic condition. It causes many common symptoms. While there isn’t a cure, there are treatment options, lifestyle changes and coping techniques that can help you manage pain. We’ve got the answers you need to help relieve your pain below. 

Fibromyalgia 101

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes widespread pain and tenderness as well as muscle and joint pain. It also causes fatigue, among various other symptoms.

These symptoms can be severe. Fibromyalgia affects the way you function from day to day. Doctors aren’t sure what causes this condition. However, some think that it might be caused by how the brain and spinal cord process pain signals from nerves.

It’s estimated that 3-6% percent of people across the globe live with it. 

man in pain with fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia doesn’t fall under the category of rheumatic diseases, or diseases that cause inflammation or damage to your joints, tissue or muscles. Its common symptoms are close to that of arthritis though. This means you might be referred to see a rheumatologist to help you develop an effective treatment plan.

What causes it?

Medical experts do not fully understand fibromyalgia or its exact causes yet. They do know that people with it experience amplified pain due to an abnormality in how their central nervous system processes pain. They also believe that genetic factors may leave an individual more likely to develop fibromyalgia.

Some people experience a slow, gradual onset of symptoms. The majority of people with fibromyalgia seem to develop the condition after it is triggered by an illness or injury. It’s possible that such a trauma aggravates an existing physiological problem that the individual wasn’t aware of previously. 

Risk factors of fibromyalgia include: 

  • Your age: While it can affect people of all ages, including children, you are more likely to develop fibromyalgia as you get older
  • Having lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Your sex: Women are twice as likely to have fibromyalgia as men
  • Experiencing traumatic events such as car accidents or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Enduring repetitive injuries that put stress on one of your joints
  • Experiencing illness (such as viral infections)
  • Having a family history of the condition
  • Being obese

More research is needed to fully understand its causes and potential improved management methods.

woman holding her head in pain

What are the symptoms? 

Everyone is different and may experience a variety of symptoms. However, fibromyalgia has several common symptoms including:

  • Widespread muscle and joint pain
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep problems
  • Low pain threshold
  • Memory and mood issues
  • Chronic headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Trouble concentrating or remembering (fibro fog)

While not as common, there are other possible symptoms of fibromyalgia, which may include:

Having fibromyalgia has been compared to having the flu. The symptoms may fluctuate throughout the day. They may also flare up when aggravated. Factors such as weather changes, high stress levels, cold environments and overexertion can all cause flareups. Even without these aggravating factors, fibromyalgia symptoms can be unpredictable, making it difficult for people living with fibromyalgia to make plans.

Many symptoms of fibromyalgia can be symptoms of other conditions. In fact, fibromyalgia symptoms may mimic Raynaud’s Syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), restless leg syndrome (RLS) and more. This makes fibromyalgia particularly challenging to diagnose. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s best to see your doctor to discuss them.


    • Hi Naheed.

      Thanks for stopping by Pain Resource. I’m sorry to hear that this condition is causing you a lot of pain. The first step is to speak with your doctor. He or she will be able to map out the best treatment plan for your particular condition, since every person is different. If you are working with a doctor and aren’t getting the relief you need, schedule another appointment and tell your doctor what’s going on. Often we have to work to get the treatment that we need to feel better.

      On our site we seek to offer helpful information that supplements your plan laid out together by you and your primary care doctor. We also have a community where people share successes and support one another. We’d love to have you as a part of our community. Please visit forum.painresource.com to join.


      Your Friends at Pain Resource


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