Definition

Fibromyalgia is a complex, chronic, and disabling disorder. It causes widespread pain and stiffness in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, along with poor sleep and fatigue.

Fibromyalgia Trigger Points

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Causes

The exact cause is unknown.

The following conditions are commonly associated with fibromyalgia:

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting fibromyalgia. Risk factors include:

  • Sex: female
  • Age: 20-60 years old
  • Physical or mental stress
  • Physical trauma (eg, accident, injury, or severe illness)

Symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • Generalized fatigue or tiredness
  • Reduced physical endurance
  • Generalized aches and pains of muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Muscle tightening or spasms
  • Pain in specific areas of the body, especially:
    • Neck
    • Shoulders
    • Chest
    • Back (upper and lower)
    • Hips and thighs
  • Insomnia or poor sleep
  • Sensations of numbness or swelling (although swelling is not actually present)
  • Chronic headaches, including migraines
  • Morning stiffness, worst on first arising

Factors that may trigger or worsen symptoms include:

  • Weather changes, especially cold, damp weather
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Overexertion
  • Medical illness
  • Surgery

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a thorough physical exam. There are no specific tests for this condition.

The doctor will look for the following signs:

  • Widespread pain lasting three months or longer
  • Tenderness (on physical exam) in at least 11 of 18 specific areas of the body

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to relieve or control the symptoms. Treatments include:

Physical and Behavioral Therapies

  • Physical therapy (gradual aerobic exercise and stretching regimen)
  • Heated pool treatments—Aquatic training in warm water (eg, strength, aerobic, and relaxation exercises) may help improve symptoms.
  • Application of heat to painful areas
  • Alternative treatments, such as massage , acupuncture , relaxation training , trigger point therapy, biofeedback
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

Lifestyle Changes

  • Eating a healthful diet
  • Learning to cope with physical and mental stress
  • Doing regular, moderate, low-impact exercise with your doctor's approval
    • Try gentle exercise that does not strain painful areas, such as:
      • Walking
      • Biking
      • Swimming, preferably in warmer water
  • Doing regular stretching exercises
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule

Medications

These medications may help to improve symptoms:

Prevention

Since the cause is unknown, there are no guidelines for preventing fibromyalgia.