What Is Fibromyalgia Syndrome?
A syndrome is a set of symptoms. Therefore when they exist together, they imply the presence of a specific disease or a greater chance of developing the disease. As a result of fibromyalgia syndrome, the following symptoms commonly occur together:
- Anxiety or depression
- Decreased pain threshold or tender points
- Incapacitating fatigue
- Widespread pain
Are Women More Likely to Get Fibromyalgia Than Men?
That question still needs more research, but here’s what we do know: More than 12 million Americans have fibromyalgia. Most of them are women between ages 25 and 60. Based on studies done so far, women appear to be 10 times more likely to get this disease than men.
What Are Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
Fibromyalgia causes you to ache all over. You may have symptoms of crippling fatigue — even on arising. Specific tender points on the body may be painful to touch. You may experience disturbances in deep-level or restful sleep, and mood disturbances or depression.
Your muscles may feel like they have been overworked or pulled. They’ll feel that way even without exercise or another cause. Sometimes, your muscles twitch, burn, or have deep stabbing pain.
As a result, some patients with fibromyalgia have pain and achiness around the joints in the neck, shoulder, back, and hips. As a result, this makes it difficult for them to sleep or exercise. Furthermore, other fibromyalgia symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chronic headaches
- Dryness in mouth, nose, and eyes
- Hypersensitivity to cold and/or heat
- Inability to concentrate (called “fibro fog”)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Numbness or tingling in the fingers and feet
Improving Symptoms. A better understanding of fibromyalgia and the mechanisms involved in chronic pain are enabling researchers to find effective treatments for it. Some of the most promising lines of research in this area include the following:
- Increasing exercise. Although fibromyalgia is often associated with fatigue that makes exercise difficult, regular exercise has been shown to be one of the most beneficial treatments for the condition. Researchers are trying to determine whether increasing lifestyle physical activity (that is, adding more exercise such as walking up stairs instead of taking the elevator) throughout the day produces similar benefits to exercise for fibromyalgia, improving symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and tenderness. Scientists are also examining the potential mechanisms by which lifestyle physical activity might influence symptoms. Other research supported by the NIAMS is examining the effectiveness of a simplified form of Tai Chi on pain and other measures such as sleep quality, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.
- Improving sleep. Researchers supported by the NIAMS are investigating ways to improve sleep for people with fibromyalgia whose sleep problems persist despite treatment with medications. One team has observed that fibromyalgia patients with persistent sleep problems share characteristics with people who have sleep-disordered breathing—a group of disorders, the most common of which is the obstructive sleep apnea, characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. These researchers are studying whether continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP, a therapy administered by a machine that increases air pressure in the throat to hold it open during sleep) might improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Other groups of researchers are examining the link between sleep disturbance and chronic pain in fibromyalgia and are studying whether behavioral therapy for insomnia might improve fibromyalgia symptoms.
Consequently, where Can People Find More Information About Fibromyalgia?
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)
National Institutes of Health
If you need more information about available resources in your language or another language, please visit our website or contact the NIAMS Information Clearinghouse at NIAMSinfo@mail.nih.gov.