Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal
pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers
believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the
way your brain processes pain signals.
Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or
significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate
over time with no single triggering event.
Women are much more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men. Many people
who have fibromyalgia also have tension
headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.
While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help
control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures also may help.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Widespread pain. The pain associated with fibromyalgia often is described
as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months. To
be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body
and above and below your waist.
- Fatigue. People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they
report sleeping for long periods of time. Sleep is often disrupted by
pain, and many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders,
such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
- Cognitive difficulties. A symptom commonly referred to as “fibro
fog” impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate
on mental tasks.
- Other problems. Many people who have fibromyalgia also may experience depression,
headaches, and pain or cramping in the lower abdomen.
Doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, but it most likely involves
a variety of factors working together. These may include:
- Genetics. Because fibromyalgia tends to run in families, there may be certain
genetic mutations that may make you more susceptible to developing the disorder.
- Infections. Some illnesses appear to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
- Physical or emotional trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been linked