What is it?

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a long-lasting disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body. It also can cause you to feel overly tired (fatigue) and have trouble sleeping. Doctors do not fully understand what causes fibromyalgia, but people with the disorder are more sensitive to pain.

Who gets it?

Who gets fibromyalgia?

Anyone can get fibromyalgia, but more women get it than men. It can affect people of any age, but it usually starts in middle age. The chance of having it increases as you get older. It occurs in people of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

If you have other diseases, especially rheumatic diseases, mood disorders, or conditions that cause pain, you may be more likely to have fibromyalgia. These diseases include:

Although fibromyalgia tends to run in families, the disorder also occurs in people with no family history of it.

What are the symptoms?

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

The main symptoms of fibromyalgia are:

  • Long-lasting, widespread pain throughout the body. Pain is often felt in the arms, legs, head, chest, abdomen, back, and buttocks. People often describe it as aching, burning, or throbbing.
  • An overwhelming feeling of being tired.
  • Trouble sleeping.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Muscle and joint stiffness.
  • Tenderness to touch.
  • Numbness or tingling in the arms and legs.
  • Problems with concentrating, thinking clearly, and memory (sometimes called “fibro fog”).
  • Higher sensitivity to light, noise, odors, and temperature.
  • Bloating or constipation.
What causes it?

What causes fibromyalgia?

Doctors do not know what causes fibromyalgia. People with the disorder tend to be more sensitive to pain.

Because fibromyalgia tends to run in families, genetic factors likely contribute to the disorder, but environmental (nongenetic) factors may also play a role in a person’s risk of developing the disorder.

Is there a test for it?

Is there a test for fibromyalgia?

There is no one test for fibromyalgia. To see if you have the disorder, doctors may:

  • Take your medical history.
  • Do a physical exam.
  • Order lab or imaging tests to help rule out other diseases and conditions.
How is it treated?

How is fibromyalgia treated?

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, so treatment works to help improve your symptoms. Your treatment will likely include a mix of the following.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, which can help change the way you think about pain.
  • Medications to help relieve the pain and improve sleep.
  • Therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and hypnosis. Before using these therapies, talk to your doctor about the best options for you.
  • Physical exercise and other movement therapies like yoga or tai chi.
Who treats it?

Who treats fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia treatment often requires a team approach, but it is primarily treated by:

  • Rheumatologists, who specialize in arthritis and other diseases of the bones, joints, and muscles. Fibromyalgia is not a form of arthritis, and it does not damage the bones, joints, or muscles, but rheumatologists usually treat it because the symptoms are similar to those of arthritis.

Other health care professionals who may be involved in your care include:

  • Exercise physiologists, who are trained in understanding the body’s response to physical activity.
  • Mental health professionals, who help people cope with difficulties in the home and workplace that may result from their medical conditions. A counselor trained in cognitive behavioral therapy can help you learn skills and techniques to better control the pain.
  • Pain management specialists, who are trained in the evaluation and treatment of pain.
  • Physical therapists, who improve quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands-on care, and patient education.
  • Primary health care providers, including family doctors, internists, or pediatricians, who coordinate care between the different health care providers and treat other problems as they arise.
  • Sleep specialists, who address problems related to sleep, sleep disorders, and sleep health.
Living With It

Living with fibromyalgia

Having fibromyalgia can affect your quality of life and your ability to take part in everyday activities. However, there are things you can do to help you live with the disorder, including the following.

  • Exercising. Regular exercise is one of the most useful ways to combat fibromyalgia. Aerobic activity—such as walking, biking, swimming, and water exercises—can also improve sleep and lessen anxiety and depression. Start exercising at a low level and increase over time. Activities that engage the mind and body, such as yoga and tai chi, are also helpful. Be sure to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise routine.
  • Learning about fibromyalgia and getting support. Learn as much as you can about fibromyalgia, and join an online or in-person support group that includes others who are dealing with it. Having a support network can help you manage difficult times.
  • Creating a relaxing sleep environment and following a sleep routine to help with feeling overly tired (fatigue).
    • Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day.
    • Do not watch TV, read, or use a laptop or phone in bed—it can keep you awake.
    • Try to keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool.
    • Avoid caffeine and nicotine, and limit alcohol intake.
    • Avoid working or exercising close to bedtime. Try some relaxing activities that get you ready for sleep, such as listening to soft music, meditating, or taking a warm bath.
    • Pace yourself during the day. Try not to use up all your energy each day, because doing too much can make your symptoms worse.

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