Everything You Need to Know About Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a long-term (chronic) condition. It causes:

pain in the muscles and bones (musculoskeletal pain)

areas of tenderness general fatigue

sleep and cognitive disturbances.

This condition can be hard to understand, even for healthcare professionals. Its symptoms mimic those of other conditions, and there aren’t any real tests to confirm the diagnosis. As a result, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed.

In the past, some healthcare professionals even questioned whether fibromyalgia was real. Today, it’s much better understood. Some of the stigma that used to surround it has eased.

Fibromyalgia can still be challenging to treat. But medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes can help you to manage your symptoms and to improve your quality of life.

Fibromyalgia symptoms

Fibromyalgia causes what’s now referred to as “regions of pain.” Some of these regions overlap with what was previously referred to as areas of tenderness called “trigger points” or “tender points.” But some of these previously noted areas of tenderness have been excluded.

The pain in these regions feels like a consistent dull ache. Your healthcare professional will consider a diagnosis of fibromyalgia if you’ve experienced musculoskeletal pain in 4 out of the 5 regions of pain outlined in the 2016 revisions to the fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria.

This diagnostic protocol is referred to as “multisite pain.” It’s in contrast to the 1990 fibromyalgia diagnostic criteria definition for “chronic widespread pain.”

This process of diagnosis focuses on the areas of musculoskeletal pain and severity of pain as opposed to an emphasis on pain duration, which was previously the focal criteria for a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

This process of diagnosis focuses on the areas of musculoskeletal pain and severity of pain as opposed to an emphasis on pain duration, which was previously the focal criteria for a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

fatiguetrouble sleepingsleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested (nonrestorative sleep)headachesdepressionanxietytrouble focusing or paying attentionpain or a dull ache in the lower bellydry eyesbladder problems, like interstitial cystitis

In people with fibromyalgia, the brain and nerves may misinterpret or overreact to normal pain signals. This may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain or abnormality in the dorsal root ganglionTrusted Source affecting central pain (brain) sensitization.

Fibromyalgia can also affect your emotions and energy level.

Learn which of its symptoms could have the biggest impact on your life.

Fibromyalgia fog

Fibromyalgia fog – also known as “fibro fog” or “brain fog” – is a term some people use to describe the fuzzy feeling they get. Signs of fibro fog include:

memory lapsesdifficulty concentratingtrouble staying alert

According to a 2015 studyTrusted Source published in Rheumatology International, some people find mental fogginess from fibromyalgia more upsetting than pain.

Fibromyalgia symptoms in females

Fibromyalgia symptoms have generally been more severe in female people than in male people. Female people have more widespread pain, IBS symptoms, and morning fatigue than male people. Painful periods are also common.

But when the 2016 revisions to the diagnostic criteria are applied, more male people are being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which may reduce the degree of distinction between the pain levels that males and females experience. More research needs to be done to further evaluate that distinction.

The transition to menopause could make fibromyalgia worse. Complicating things is the fact that some symptoms of menopause and fibromyalgia look almost identical.

Fibromyalgia in males

Male people also get fibromyalgia. Yet, they may remain undiagnosed because it’s seen as a predominantly female disease. But current statistics show that as the 2016 diagnostic protocol is more readily applied, more male people are being diagnosed.

Male people also have severe pain and emotional symptoms from fibromyalgia. The condition affects the quality of life, career, and relationships of men, according to a 2018 survey published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Part of the stigma and difficulty in getting diagnosed stems from society’s expectation that men who are in pain should “suck it up.” Male people who do venture in to see a doctor can face embarrassment, and the chance that their complaints won’t be taken seriously.

Fibromyalgia trigger points

In the past, people were diagnosed with fibromyalgia if they had widespread pain and tenderness in at least 11 out of 18 specific trigger points around their body. Healthcare professionals would check to see how many of these points were painful by pressing firmly on them.

Common trigger points included the:

back of the headtops of the shouldersupper chesthipskneesouter elbows

For the most part, trigger points are no longer a part of the diagnostic process.

Instead, healthcare professionals may diagnose fibromyalgia if you’ve had pain in 4 out of the 5 areas of pain as defined by the 2016 revised diagnostic criteria, and you have no other diagnosable medical condition that could explain the pain. Read More

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