What Is Fibromyalgia?

People with fibromyalgia have widespread pain, aches and stiffness in muscles and joints throughout the body along with unusual tiredness. There is no known cause of fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia affects an estimated 3.4% of women and 0.5% of men in the United States, or 3 million to 6 million Americans. It most commonly affects women of childbearing age or older. In fact, some estimates suggest that more than 7% of women in their 70s have fibromyalgia.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can cause pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints almost anywhere in the body, including the trunk, neck, shoulders, back and hips. People often have pain between the shoulder blades and at the bottom of the neck. Pain may be either a general soreness or a gnawing ache, and stiffness is often worst in the morning. Typically, people also complain of feeling abnormally tired, especially of waking up tired, although they have slept well. People with fibromyalgia also have tender points, which are specific spots on the body that are painful to touch.

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

After asking about your symptoms, our doctor will check for swelling, redness and impaired movement in parts of your body where you’re having pain. Our doctor will ask detailed questions about your medical history and examine you to rule out other conditions or diseases that could explain your symptoms.

Expected Duration

Many people experience pain for much longer than the minimum three months required to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. How often fibromyalgia causes disability is uncertain, but most people are able to adapt to or control symptoms and remain active.

Prevention of Fibromyalgia

There is no known way to prevent fibromyalgia.

Treatment for Fibromyalgia

To relieve the pain of fibromyalgia, our doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; a muscle relaxant; or an antidepressant. Sometimes these medicines are prescribed in combination.

Aerobic exercise, such as low-impact stepping, cycling or swimming several times each week, also is considered an essential part of treatment. Finally, improved sleep quality may improve symptoms, so it may help to avoid caffeine, exercise late in the day and fluids late in the evening.

Every person with fibromyalgia is different, so people may have significantly different treatment plans than the usual measures outlined above.

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