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What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by the core symptoms of chronic widespread pain and tenderness, fatigue, sleep disturbance and cognitive disturbance. The severity of each differs between individuals. Without a clear understanding of its underlying cause, doctors have considered it a rheumatic condition. Ongoing research efforts have provided a better knowledge of the disease, and now it is considered as a centralized pain state (the pain sensation comes from a deregulation in the nervous system).


Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by the core symptoms of chronic widespread pain and tenderness, fatigue, sleep disturbance and cognitive disturbance. The severity of each differs between individuals. Without a clear understanding of its underlying cause, doctors have considered it a rheumatic condition. Ongoing research efforts have provided a better knowledge of the disease, and now it is considered as a centralized pain state (the pain sensation comes from a deregulation in the nervous system).

Rareshare would like to acknowledge Dr. Kim Lawson, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology at Sheffield Hallam University for reviewing this content.

A global mean prevalence of 2.7% is proposed with some estimates suggesting as many as 10 million people in the United States have fibromyalgia. Although doctors don’t know why, women make up about 80% of the people who have this disorder.

Synonyms for Fibromyalgia has not been added yet.

The exact, underlying cause of fibromyalgia is not known. Researchers believe that the disorder develops because of several different factions including environmental and genetic factors. However, researchers are unsure of what these factors are. The nervous system has been the target for a number of years of research of how people with fibromyalgia experience and processes pain. Fibromyalgia has developed in people after suffering physical trauma, as in an accident (e.g. car accident) or psychological stress or trauma (e.g., child abuse, divorce). Sometimes, people develop fibromyalgia spontaneously, with no identifiable reason or triggering event. Researchers are continuing to study fibromyalgia to try and learn what factors are necessary for development of the disorder and what the underlying cause or causes are

Fibromyalgia can be associated with core symptoms and co-morbidities. One person can be affected very differently from another. Common symptoms are widespread pain and tenderness in key areas of the body. Pain and tenderness may come and go and affect different areas of the body at different times. Individuals with fibromyalgia are often very tired. Another common symptom is cognitive dysfunction often referred to as “brain fog” or “fibro fog.” Patients describe “fibro fog” as having difficulty paying attention, a poor ability to focus their thoughts or concentrate, and problems thinking. This can make it hard to complete tasks and can interfere with memory recall.

Other symptoms can include headaches or migraines, morning stiffness, numbness or tingling of the hands and feet and sensitivity to bright lights or loud noises. Some women may have painful menstrual periods. Sometimes, fibromyalgia can be co-morbid with other disorders including irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis, temporomandibular joint disorder, and sleep disturbances including restless legs syndrome.

Name Description
Brain Fog / Trouble Concentrating Can’t recall words (anomia) / names – using wrong word – memory lapses – lose track of present location – overwhelmed performing multiple tasks – low mental acuity – varies from day to day
Pain usually both left and right side Pain usually both left and right side – in soft tissues – feels like “bones hurt” – generalized – radiating – gnawing – numbness, tingling, prickling, “pins and needles” – aching / burning in hands, arms, feet, legs, and sometimes face / jaw – some pain always present – firm touch can cause discomfort – worse in morning, improves throughout day, worsens at night – affected by activity level, weather, sleep patterns, stress, and foods – burning skin
Stiffness Stiffness worse on awakening and after sitting or standing in one position muscle tightness / lack of flexibility, especially legs, back, shoulders
Chronic fatigue Moderate / severe / extreme exhaustion – disabling – muscle twitching – muscle weakness – shakiness – long periods of sleeping – strong need to fall asleep / a quick nap often refreshes, but unrelenting fatigue returns
Exercise intolerance Too much or wrong exercise may worsen FMS symptoms
Emotional change Easily irritated / dissatisfied with work, home and life in general – “negative minded”, depersonalization (world feels vague, not real), trouble recognizing faces
Weakness Weakness
Impaired coordination Can be in all areas – can’t pick feet up
Tender Points Painful, sensitive locations on the body corresponding to branching of the arteries
Restless Leg Syndrome Periodic limb movement disorder – during sleep or while awake
Trouble falling asleep Waking at all hours – not rested when awake – easily awakened – abnormal sleep patterns
Sensitivity or over-sensitive to smell, noise, bright or flickering light Normal sounds can be excruciating certain foods, medicines – change in weather – feeling cold or hot when others are not – abnormal neurological sensations – increased neurological sensations
Thinning hair Thinning hair
Soft fingernails Soft fingernails and toenails that break easily
Chronic headaches Muscular (tension) and severe migraine headaches – often from trapped HA in narrow passages in sinus. It swells, creating severe pressure.
Eyes problems with focus / skeletal tracking muscles of the eyes – “visual confusion” and nausea

According to the American College of Rheumatology, fibromyalgia is defined as a chronic widespread condition associated with fatigue, sleep and cognitive disturbance and a variety of additional physical symptoms.

There is no test to confirm a fibromyalgia diagnosis, it is based on the presence of the characteristic symptoms. However, tests can be run to rule out another condition of the muscles and/or bones with similar symptoms. 

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but the symptoms can be managed using a combination of non-drug and medication based treatments. 

Non-pharmacologic treatments have been proved really important in fibromyalgia management, especially activity and exercise. Some patients may benefit from low-impact exercise like Tai Chi. Patient education and psychological treatment such as mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT are also important. Such coping techniques involve helping the patients to understand how thoughts and behaviors can affect pain sensation and other symptoms. 

Among the prescription drugs that can be used to treat fibromyalgia are duloxetine (Cymbalta), minacipran (Savella), amitriptyline (Elavil) and cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril). All these medications alter the brain chemicals that control the pain levels. Pregabalin (Lyrica) and gabapentin (Neurontin) work by reducing the increased activity of the nerve cells involved in pain transmission. Cymbalta, Savella and Lyrica are approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of fibromyalgia.

Doctors also recommend people with fibromyalgia get plenty of sleep on a regular structured pattern, live a healthy lifestyle including eating a balanced diet and maintain activity, and take time to relax each day. 
Since fibromyalgia affects people differently, each patient would require a different combination of interventions for optimal management.

Fibromyalgia affects the quality of life because of its symptoms but it is considered a benign disease. How it affects one person can be different from how it affects another person.

Name Description
Painful bumps on tongue These are usually inflamed taste buds – swollen with serous fluid and blood. Get your pH up to normal and they will go away on their own.
Night Sweats Eat a little piece of Swiss Cheese or other slow-burning protein not long before bedtime, so it lasts all night.
Pain and Stiffness For short term, temporary use – apply a small amount of Camphor Spirit to areas that are stiff, painful or feel congested. Wipe on like sunscreen. Very small amount.
“Ice Pick” Headaches Spray 4-Way Brand Nasal Spray (or any house-brand 1 % Phenylephrine decongestant) into both nostils. Wal-Four is Walgreen’s house brand. Hold nose closed, tilt head back a little bit and apply air pressure to the nose and sinuses. Works almost instantly.
Can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep Wear an eye mask and ear plugs to block out all light and all sound – at your head. We are overly sensitive to light and sound. The least amount keeps us from getting to deep restorative sleep. Having a fan or tv may help us get to sleep, but will also keep us from getting to deep sleep. When you get enough good sleep, Restless Leg will stop also.
Itchy or burning skin Very common symptom for Overly Acidic Fibromyalgia. Especially where skin creases or clothes stay in close contact. Very acidic perspiration causes it. Don’t wear clothes more than once, especially bras. The acid can be absorbed by the band and build up even worse. Wipe the area with a warm wet washcloth and most of the acid will be removed.
  3. Cohen, H. (2017). "Controversies and challenges in fibromyalgia: a review and a proposal." Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis 9(5): 115-127.
  4. Schmidt-Wilcke, T. and M. Diers (2017). "New Insights into the Pathophysiology and Treatment of Fibromyalgia." Biomedicines 5(2).
  5. Questions and Answers about Fibromyalgia. The National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website.
  6. Fibromyalgia. Mayo Clinic website.
  7. Fibromyalgia. The American College of Rheumatology website.
Accused of hypochondria? Created by maebven
Last updated 1 Feb 2012, 01:32 AM

Posted by gavsmom
1 Feb 2012, 01:32 AM

My son was diagnosed two years ago. It took almost 4 years for a diagnosis. I had to beg a local children's hospital to evaluate him because his pediatrics group refused to refer him. He was unable to walk some days and had severe pain in his breast bone area. A doctor said in front of him that she felt there was no way that his pain was "real" and I noticed her look at the other doctors and make faces like here we go again. His pain started after he had his appendix out in 2005. He was only 6 years old. He finally got referred to physical therapy, counseling and chiropractor. These things have helped build up his stamina and he was finally able to play baseball again last year. He still deals with chronic pain and occasional chronic fatigue but it is not as severe. His fine motor issues have gotten worse and he drops things frequently and has trouble tying his shoes . He was very coordinated and strong before this surgery. He has or has had most of the symptoms listed on this site. No prescription meds have helped him. Massage (light) seems to help also. It has been a very stressful ordeal for him and us. Feel so helpless, so unfair. Doesn't seem to be any experts in this field. Our confidence in the medical community is very low.

Posted by montoyalove
27 Jan 2012, 12:33 AM

Hi my name is Anna, I'm 41 and was diagnoised with Fibro, almost a year ago. I had been very ill, and had several pains which the Drs couldn't figure out. In and out of the ERs. I gess my experience wit being acused of this is at home. I know its annoying hearing me day after day week by week n so on about I HURT!! Truth is I do :-( and I wish someone could genuinly. Understand, and I know it sounds awful but yes I want ur pitty! The. Only one who fully understands is my mom, she also has it. Although mine is a lot worse, I really would lolve sum answers to why.

Posted by maebven
7 Jun 2009, 03:13 PM

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in the nineties after years of suffering the indignity of connective tissue pain, headaches, severe fatigue, brain fog and several other sometimes debilitating physical and mental problems. I was eventually diagnosed with celiac disease, Graves' disease, Hashimoto's disease and pernicious anemia. There are all autoimmune diseases that though common, are often overlooked. Doctors who at first treated me like a hypochondriac were more than willing to label me with fibromyalgia and put me on anti-depressants, muscle relaxers and other expensive medications instead of looking beyond the horses to see that there were a herd of zebras in my metaphorical corral. Although the fibromyalgia diagnosis wasn't helpful for me, it was not nearly as bad as being accused of hypochondria early on. This affected my relationships with nearly everyone in my life and the taint of that mistake still stains relationships I have with family and friends, who prefer to believe their suspicions about my desire to get well were justified than to admit I was actually quite ill (and could have used their support). I am now writing a book on the destructive impact on a patient of an improper hypochondria diagnosis and would love to hear stories of people who have been through that experience. Even if you haven't been officially diagnosed with hypochondria, perhaps you feel you've been suspected of it and mistreated because of it. Please contact me with your stories at kitkellison at G Mail dot com. Put "hypochondria" in the subject head so I can discern you from spam. Thanks again. We will never be taken seriously as patients unless we stand up for ourselves. Let's do this thing!

My Helpful Tips On Pain Mgmt. Created by mummy2three
Last updated 27 Jan 2012, 12:16 AM

Posted by montoyalove
27 Jan 2012, 12:16 AM

Hi, I have tried all these things and nothing works. I will try the rice in a bag, because my only relief is my heating pad. I need more help if possible, I'm dying inside cuz I lost my life, and dam it, I WANT IT BACK!

Posted by rmsjohns
29 Apr 2009, 04:10 AM

I also use the above suggestions, especially the heated seats in the winter. I like to soak in a very warm tub of water with epson salts for about 20 minutes. Adding water if needed to keep it lwarm, as I don't have a whirlpool tub yet. :( I like to use the Icy Hot pain patches on my neck when I am home, and if I am going out I use the bengay that has no odor during a flare up. Would love to hear other's ideas. Mair

Posted by mummy2three
9 Jul 2008, 04:30 PM

My favorite for pain and inflammation is Biofreeze but, on our last trip I ran out. So I bought some ActivOn and it works pretty well too. In the car I turn on the heated seats. I always use them in the winter but, in the summer too if I can't stand the pain (just crank up the ac). My last on is to put rice in either an old sock (make sure that it doesn't have any holes) or old knee-high pantyhose. Tie the end and put in the microwave until the rice is warm. This seems to work better than a heating pad.

Symptom Tricks and Tips for FMS Created by AnneatFibroFix
Last updated 4 Nov 2011, 02:53 PM

Posted by ldylarke
4 Nov 2011, 02:53 PM

wow I can't believe I"ve never seen this anywhere else online. GREAT tips! I was particularly thrilled that I might be able to do something about that hateful burning itchy skin thing. Any other tips on that? It's really annoying for me. I'm always so HOT :( As you had indicated it was ok to share this resource, it can be found on my site under coping tips. Thanks so much!

Posted by mummy2three
9 Jul 2008, 07:05 PM

Thanks =) Mandy

Posted by AnneatFibroFix
9 Jul 2008, 04:50 PM

Please feel free to share the information. Annie

View Full Thread (9 more posts)
Fibromyalgia connection to MTHFR? Created by Marcelle
Last updated 2 Jun 2011, 08:26 PM

Posted by Marcelle
2 Jun 2011, 08:21 PM

I recently read that Fibromyalgia could be a symptom of MTHFR a genetic blood mutation. I have MTHFR and also suffer from Fibromyalgia. I'm curious to know if others in this community have been tested for MTHFR? Here is the link to the article I refered to:

Community External News Link
Title Date Link
Community Resources
Title Description Date Link

An online resource for Fibromyalgia written by a patient.

Fibromyalgia Network

An online resource for people affected by fibromyalgia.


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Discussion Forum

Accused of hypochondria?

Created by maebven | Last updated 1 Feb 2012, 01:32 AM

My Helpful Tips On Pain Mgmt.

Created by mummy2three | Last updated 27 Jan 2012, 12:16 AM

Symptom Tricks and Tips for FMS

Created by AnneatFibroFix | Last updated 4 Nov 2011, 02:53 PM

Fibromyalgia connection to MTHFR?

Created by Marcelle | Last updated 2 Jun 2011, 08:26 PM


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