Fibromyalgia is a condition in which people experience symptoms that include widespread pain and tenderness in the body, often accompanied by fatigue and problems with memory and concentration.
Fibromyalgia affects two to five per cent of the population, mainly women, although men and adolescents can also develop the condition. It tends to develop during middle adulthood.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary from mild to severe.
The most common symptoms are:
Not everyone will experience all of these symptoms. Each person with fibromyalgia will have their own unique set of symptoms.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia are variable. They can be mild, moderate or severe. Symptoms may disappear for extended periods of time, perhaps even years. Other people have pain every day, or experience variations between these two extremes.
Some people with fibromyalgia have other symptoms, such as irritable bowel syndrome, irritable or overactive bladder, headaches, and swelling, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs. Living with ongoing pain and fatigue often leads to other problems such as anxiety and depression.
No one knows what causes fibromyalgia. It’s thought that it may be the result of genetic factors (or things you’ve inherited) and something from your environment (e.g. exposure to a virus or illness).
It’s also believed that physical or emotional stress can trigger the start of fibromyalgia symptoms. However fibromyalgia may also appear without any obvious cause.
Fibromyalgia is more common in people with:
There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but treatment can help you manage your symptoms.
At times the symptoms you experience as a result of your fibromyalgia (e.g. pain, fatigue) may become more intense. This is called a flare.
Flares can be triggered or made worse by several factors including:
Triggers vary from person to person. Understanding the things that cause your fibromyalgia to flare means that you can be prepared and take steps to lessen the effect they will have on you and your life.
Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are common to many other conditions. It may take some time to establish a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, which can be very frustrating.
Your doctor will take your medical history and description of your symptoms, and do a physical examination. This may include testing how you respond to touch at specific sites across your body.
You may also have tests, including blood tests, x-rays or scans. While these tests cannot diagnose fibromyalgia, your doctor may use them to rule out other conditions.
While there’s no cure for fibromyalgia, your symptoms can be effectively managed. This starts with a correct diagnosis. A management program will then be designed to meet your specific needs.
Generally management of fibromyalgia will involve a combination of:
Combined with other strategies, medication may be used to manage your pain, reduce stress and help you sleep.
There are different types of medication that your doctor may recommend depending on your symptoms:
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This information has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Musculoskeletal Australia.