Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome characterized by widespread muscular pain and tenderness. Locations typically fluctuate among the muscles, joints and back. Other symptoms are abdominal pain, headache, generally feeling unwell, morning stiffness, and poor quality of sleep. There is yet no fully clarified cause of fibromyalgia, but it strongly shows a tendency to run in families. It tends to affect women between the ages of 20 and 50 years. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is based on the pattern and duration of symptoms and excluding other possible causes for the symptoms. Exercise, pain medications and emotional support are the pillars of treatment. There is no specific cure for fibromyalgia. Some people learn to manage their symptoms and some people may have pain which does not respond well to treatment.
The causes of fibromyalgia are largely unknown. There are several factors that may combine to trigger the symptoms of fibromyalgia. These include having a family member who also suffers from fibromyalgia, depression, disturbed sleep, stress, and suffering a muscular injury or emotional trauma. It most commonly occurs in women between the ages of 20 and 50 years.
The main symptom of fibromyalgia is a deep burning pain or ache which occurs in muscles on both sides of the body and in multiple areas. Other symptoms may include feeling unusually tired, difficulty sleeping, difficulty concentrating and memory problems.
The diagnosis may be made based on the symptoms, the duration of pain and the physical examination. A diary of symptoms may help to make the diagnosis. A blood test may also help to confirm the diagnosis in some people, but a normal or negative result does not exclude fibromyalgia. However, to confirm the diagnosis, a doctor should exclude other possible causes of the symptoms. Blood and urine tests are often done with the aim of excluding other conditions.
Treatment of fibromyalgia can be difficult because the cause is not well understood. Physical therapy and exercise programs are very effective in reducing pain and muscle stiffness for people with fibromyalgia. Some people also find stress-relieving activities helpful. Simple pain relief, such as paracetamol, may provide some relief, as may using hot packs or massage. People who don't get relief through these methods should see a pain specialist, who may be able to recommend other medications. Many people with fibromyalgia find support groups or counseling helpful in coming to terms with the diagnosis and dealing with the long-term pain.
Other names for fibromyalgia
- Diffuse myofascial pain syndrome
- Fibromyalgia-fibromyositis syndrome
- Fibromyalgia syndrome
- Muscular rheumatism