Symptoms of fibromyalgia may vary in severity from person to person, ranging from mild to very debilitating. In addition, the symptoms vary from day-to-day or from month-to-month. Although symptoms may be extremely uncomfortable and often cause psychological stress, they rarely cause permanent physical damage.
The symptoms most commonly associated with fibromyalgia include:
Pain—Pain is the most prominent symptom, occurring for at least 3 months and taking many different forms. It has been described by patients as aching, burning, throbbing, shooting, tingling, or stabbing. Pain is felt on both sides of the body, both below and above the waistline. It is generally located in the neck, shoulders, back, legs, arms, and hips, although many people experience migratory pain (pain that moves from one part of the body to another).
Pain is often worse in the morning and may be most prevalent in muscle groups that are used frequently. Factors such as weather changes, stress, exercise, or menstrual cycles may cause the pain to increase.
Tenderness—Pain or discomfort when touched at certain pressure points. This pain may affect joints and muscles causing stiffness.
Fatigue—Although some people may experience only mild fatigue, in others it is so debilitating that they are unable to work. This fatigue is not improved by sleep, which itself is not normal or restful.
Sleep disorder—Sleep studies have shown that people with fibromyalgia who suffer from fatigue generally have increased brain arousal at the time when the deepest sleep cycle (stage IV, delta) should be occurring. This prevents the body from getting the normally restorative benefits of sleep and may be the cause of fatigue associated with fibromyalgia.
Difficulty thinking—Many fibromyalgia patients report an inability to concentrate, as well as memory impairment.
Concurrent symptoms and conditions—Certain symptoms and medical conditions are more prevalent in fibromyalgia patients, such as:
- Digestive problems that may cause cramping, heartburn, or irritable bowel syndrome
- Chronic headaches and jaw pain
- Temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
- Psychiatric conditions, such as mood disturbances, depression, anxiety, and nervousness
- Pelvic/urinary discomfort, which may be experienced as pelvic pain, frequent urination, painful menstrual periods, or painful sexual intercourse
- Restless leg syndrome
Heightened sensitivities—People with fibromyalgia often report an increased sensitivity to:
- Bright lights
- Certain foods
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
- Review Date: 09/2016 -
- Update Date: 09/17/2014 -