Fibromyalgia - Symptoms

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What are fibromyalgia symptoms and signs?

The defining feature of fibromyalgia is chronic widespread pain. This means pain in multiple areas of the body, most commonly in muscles, tendons, and joints. The pain is generally above and below the waist, on the left side of the body and on the right side of the body, but can be localized, often in the neck and shoulders or low back, initially. The pain is chronic, which means it is present for more than three months. Patients commonly feel as if they "hurt all over" or as if they have the flu, or are about to develop a cold or the flu. It is common for some days to be worse than others, and many patients report "flare-ups" where their pain and other symptoms are worse for several days in a row or longer.

Fatigue is the other universal symptom of fibromyalgia. It is most noticeable upon awakening, but it may also be marked in the mid-afternoon. It is very common to wake up in the morning not feeling refreshed, even after sleeping through the night. Patients commonly feel they sleep "lightly" and may have multiple nighttime awakenings with difficulty returning to sleep.

While widespread pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbances are the defining symptoms of the syndrome, fibromyalgia is associated with many other symptoms. Disordered thinking (cognitive disturbances) is often referred to as "fibro fog." Patients describe difficulty with attention and completing tasks, as well as a general sense of being in a fog.

Depression and anxiety are present in 30%-50% of patients at the time of diagnosis with fibromyalgia. Headaches are present in more than half of patients. Patients also may have a variety of poorly understood pain symptoms, including abdominal pain, dry eyes, dry mouth, chest wall pain, pelvic pain, and bladder symptoms, heart palpitations, numbness and tingling, multiple allergies and chemical sensitivities, weight gain, and others.

The physical examination is remarkable for tenderness in specific anatomic locations, such as the back of the neck where the neck muscles connect to the skull. There are 18 such locations, which are referred to as fibromyalgia tender points. In the past, studies required patients to have 11 out of a possible 18 fibromyalgia tender points in order to be included in a scientific study on fibromyalgia, but this definition of fibromyalgia has changed in the past few years.

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Comment from: jhnwtn, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 19

My fibromyalgia came from having had Ross River fever and Epstein-Barr virus. It didn't happen immediately but after starting to recover from the virus and CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), they seemed to happen at the same time. I still have problems with the fibromyalgia. I get pain and stiffness in my muscles, and at the moment, I have intense pain in my left foot like having had someone put a nail into the bone where I stand on. I get fatigue, memory problems, muscle stiffness in my fingers, and stiffness if I've sat in one position for a while. I have problems with certain beds (like I can't sleep on really hard beds now); they need to be soft mattress beds. I have stiffness in my neck, shoulders, etc. I take Osteo Panadol and Mobic when it's really bad. I haven't found I've had too many problems with the Mobic, but then I don't take it all the time only when I absolutely need it.

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Comment from: Rose, 55-64 Female (Caregiver) Published: March 19

I am a 59-year-old woman who was diagnosed with FMS (fibromyalgia syndrome) by a rheumatologist 25 years ago. My symptoms include chronic flu-like pain and nausea, sharp needle-like pain in strange places, spasms that are extreme on occasion, severe migraines, insomnia, chronic listlessness and malaise, anxiety, depression, brain fog, and weakness in my limbs and eyesight. I have a very savvy doctor who collaborates with me in managing my symptoms with natural methods and the latest info -- very crucial. I use baths, massage pads, walking, a gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian diet, very little over-the-counter muscle relaxants and Gravol every night, herbal teas, and supplements. If it's a bad day, I use ibuprofen.

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