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What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes pain and tender points throughout your body. Fibromyalgia can start at any age and is more common in women than in men.

What causes fibromyalgia?

Healthcare providers do not know exactly what causes fibromyalgia. Problems with chemicals that send pain messages to and from the brain are thought to cause fibromyalgia. It may also be caused or triggered by any of the following:

  • Hormone changes
  • Physical injury
  • Intense emotional trauma from sexual, physical, or emotional abuse

What are the signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia?

The most common symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread pain for at least 3 months. You may also have tender spots. Tender spots are specific areas or points on both sides of your body that are painful when pressed. You may have tender spots in your neck, upper chest, shoulders, or shoulder blades. Other common areas are the elbows, lower back, sides of the thighs, and knees. You may also have any of the following:

  • Fatigue and difficulty sleeping
  • Diarrhea, constipation, pain, or bloating
  • Headaches, memory problems, difficulty concentrating, or anxiety
  • Numbness, muscle stiffness, or swelling of the hands and feet
  • Pounding, racing heartbeats or chest pain

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms and other health conditions. He will do a manual tender point exam and press on specific sites or points in your body. Increased pain in most of these spots means a positive tender point exam. There are no specific lab tests to diagnose fibromyalgia. Blood and urine tests, a spinal tap, or sleep studies may be done to rule out other causes of pain.

How is fibromyalgia treated?

Fibromyalgia can be treated but not cured. The following can help you manage your pain and other symptoms:

  • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen: These medicines decrease pain. They are available without a doctor's order. Ask your healthcare provider which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. These medicines can cause stomach bleeding if not taken correctly. Ibuprofen can cause kidney damage. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage.
  • Pain medicine: You may be given a prescription medicine to decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take this medicine.
  • Muscle relaxers help decrease pain and muscle spasms.
  • Antidepressants: These help decrease depression, pain, and fatigue.
  • Antiseizure medicine: This is used to reduce fibromyalgia pain.

What are the risks of fibromyalgia?

If untreated, your symptoms may get worse. Pain may make it difficult to do daily activities. Your risk for fatigue, headaches, and depression may increase.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Keep a pain diary: Record your symptoms and what activity caused them. This may also help you track pain cycles and show a pattern to your symptoms.
  • Exercise: Ask your healthcare provider about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise and other strength-training activities may decrease pain and sleep problems.
  • Set good sleep habits: Do not nap during the day. Go to bed at the same time each night. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortable. Do not stay in bed if you cannot sleep. Get up and do something relaxing until you are sleepy. Do not drink caffeine or alcohol right before you go to bed. These can make it difficult for you to sleep. Limit other liquids to help decrease your need to urinate in the night.

Where can I find support and more information?

  • National Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia Association
    PO Box 18426
    Kansas City , MO 64133
    Phone: 1- 816 - 313-2000
    Web Address:

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You pain increases, even after you take your pain medicine.
  • You have difficulty sleeping.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You are depressed and feel you cannot cope with your condition.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Fibromyalgia

Associated drugs

Micromedex® Care Notes

Symptoms and treatments

Mayo Clinic Reference