Fibromyalgia has been described as a constellation of symptoms affecting various body parts and functions. From muscle pain to sleep disturbances and anxiety, here are a few of the most prevalent symptoms.
Widespread musculoskeletal pain is the most common symptom of fibromyalgia. It generally occurs at multiple sites throughout the body, although it may start in one region, such as the neck and shoulders, and later occur at other locations over a period of time.
Fibromyalgia pain has been described in a variety of ways, such as burning, aching, stiffness or soreness. It often varies according to the time of day, activity level, weather, sleep patterns and stress. Many people with fibromyalgia say that some degree of pain is always present, although the pain can come and go. For some people the pain may be quite severe.
The tender areas or points associated with fibromyalgia are similar in location to the tender areas present in other common types of muscle and bone pain, such as tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis). Other muscles and soft tissue areas can be painful as well. People often are not aware of the presence of many of these tender points until a doctor performs a tender point evaluation.
Fatigue and Sleep Disturbances
Most people with fibromyalgia have fatigue, decreased endurance or the kind of exhaustion felt with the flu or lack of sleep. Sometimes the fatigue is severe and it can be a much greater problem than the pain.
The problems with sleep vary from person to person. Some people have difficulty falling asleep; others sleep lightly and wake up frequently during the night. Most people with fibromyalgia wake up feeling tired, even after sleeping through the night. The tiredness can range from listlessness to exhaustion, and can vary from one day to the next. Research has shown that a disruption of a phase of sleep called “deep” sleep alters many crucial body functions, such as the production of hormones needed to restore muscle tissue, as well the levels of substances that control how a person perceives pain.
Restless leg syndrome is about 10 times more common in people with fibromyalgia than those without, which might be one reason people with fibromyalgia often report difficulty sleeping.
The fatigue and other symptoms people with fibromyalgia experience may be similar to another condition called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Because of this, many individuals with fibromyalgia also meet criteria for this illness. Other overlapping “labels” for people with this same collection of symptoms include somatoform disorders and multiple chemical sensitivity.
Mood and Concentration Problems
Feeling sad or being down is common, and some people with fibromyalgia have depression. People with fibromyalgia also may feel anxious. Some researchers think there is a link between fibromyalgia and certain forms of depression and chronic anxiety. However, any person with a chronic illness – not just fibromyalgia – may feel depressed at times while struggling with their pain and fatigue.
People with fibromyalgia may have difficulty concentrating or performing simple mental tasks. These problems tend to come and go, and are often most prominent at times of extreme fatigue or anxiety.
Headaches, especially tension headaches and migraines, are common in people with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia may also be associated with pain of the jaw muscles and face (called temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ syndrome) or myofascial (skeletal muscle) pain in just one region of the body. These are sometimes considered forms of regional, localized or incomplete fibromyalgia.
Abdominal pain, bloating and alternating constipation and diarrhea (called irritable bowel syndrome or spastic colon) also are common. Bladder spasms and irritability may cause frequent urination or the urge to urinate. Chronic pelvic pain can also be experienced. Additional problems that may be associated with fibromyalgia include dizziness, restless legs, endometriosis and numbness or tingling of the hands and feet.
If you think you have fibromyalgia, talk to your doctor.