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Fibromyalgia Symptoms

The primary symptom of Fibromyalgia is chronic, widespread pain.  This pain is on both the right and left sides of the body as well as both above and below the waist.

This pain can be in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or it can just be generalized.  It can be described as deep-aching, persistant, stabbing, throbbing, radiating, gnawing, shooting, tingling and/or burning.  It migrates throughout the body, varies in intensity and can be made worse or better with stress, weather, activity or anxiety.  Pain is also felt in at least 11 of 18 tender points (required for Fibromyalgia diagnosis).

Most symptoms of Fibromyalgia can also be caused by other conditions.  It is important to discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor and not to overlook other possible causes.

Specific Fibromyalgia symptoms may include:

    •  Cardio-Vascular System Symptoms
      • Heart Palpitations - This is typically caused by anxiety in FMS and is usually nothing to worry about but should be evaluated by a doctor.
    • Central Nervous System Symptoms
      • Chronic Headaches or Migraines - People with fibro are more likely to suffer from chronic headaches and/or migraines than the normal population.  Most all fibromyalgia fighter will experience headaches as a symptom.  As many as 60% of FMS fighters suffer constant headaches or migraines.
      • Fibrofog (Cognitive and Memory Problems) - "Affectionately" known as fibrofog, cognitive and memory problems are also common in fibromyalgia.  It can range from mild confusion or trouble concentrating to short term memory loss, forgetfulness, and difficulty communicating.
      • Impaired Memory - 46% of Fibro fighters have trouble with memory.
      • Numbness and Tingling - More than half of fibro fighters report numbness and/or tingling in the arms, legs, feet or hands.
    • Gastointestinal Symptoms
      • Nausea - Between Up to 70% of fibro fighters say they experience chronic nausea and/or diarrhea.
      • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - IBS is characterized by hypersensitivity to muscle contractions in the large intestine causing diarrhea and/or constipation, bloating, abdominal pain or cramping, nausea, flatulence, and more.  An estimated 70% of fibro fighters have IBS.
    • General Symptoms
      • Cold/Allergy Symptoms - Many fibromyalgia fighters experience chronic, non-allergic rhinitis with sneezing, runny nose, and itchy, watery eyes.
      • Dizziness - Some patients experience chronic dizziness that can last hours, days or longer.  It can cause nausea, headaches, vertigo and fainting.
      • Exercise Intolerance - Fibro fighters are known to have a hypersensitivity to exercise and can feel worst immediately afterward as opposed to the normal "soreness" experienced by others hours after exercise.
      • Fatigue - 96% of FMS fighters have moderate to severe, even debilitating fatigue that can last days, weeks, months or even years. 
      • Insomnia - As many as 86% of fibromyalgia fighters have difficulty going to sleep, staying asleep or getting restful sleep for at least 1 month.
      • Malaise - A general unwell feeling.
      • Mouth Symptoms - Irritation of the tongue and bad, metallic, or scalded taste in the mouth can be a symptom of FMS.  Fibro can also cause difficulty in swallowing.
      • Skin Symptoms - Most fibromyalgia fighters are plagued with chronically dry, itchy, molted and/or tender skin that sometimes lead to rashes and infections.  Other dermatologic complaints include hives, blotchyness, tiny bumps or blisters, eczema, and more.  FMS can cause the skin to feel electric vibrations, sensitive, stinging, cold or hot, flush (especially with sweating), crawling or prickling.
      • Sleep Disorders - A very important part of fibromyalgia, sleep disturbance is believed to be linked to the cause of FMS.  
      • Urinary Problems - Bladder spasms, burning during urination, frequent urination, frequent bladder infection, interstitial cystitis, and pungent urine can all be part of fibromyalgia.
      • Vision Problems - FMS fighters sometimes have dry, itchy or burning eyes, and/or blurred vision.
      • Weight Gain - Hormonal imbalances, fatigue, pain, and depression can all lead to weight gain.
    • Musculoskeletal Symptoms
      • Chest Pain (Costochondritis) - Inflammation in the cartilages that connects the rib cage to the breastbone.  This causes pain that can be both dull/achy and sharp and can mimic a heart attack.  Deep breathing, and coughing can aggravate it.  60-70% of fibromyalgia fighters have costochondritis.
      • Joint Pain - There is no inflammation involved in Fibromyalgia, however as many as 72% of people with fibro may have joint pain.
      • Leg Cramps - Cramping in the muscles of the legs is reported in 42% of people with fibromyalgia.
      • Morning Stiffness  - Stiffness in the morning is a common complaint with FMS.  It usually lasts around 30 minutes but can last hours or even all day.  It can affect range of motion and cause aches and pains all over the body. 
      • Muscle Cramps - Cramps in the legs and feet are common.
      • Muscle Pain - All fibromyalgia fighters have muscle pain.
      • Muscle Twitches - Tiny contractions in muscles can cause tingling or electric feeling, involuntary movements, and sleep disturbance.  Half of FMS patients experience this and/or muscle weakness.
      • Muscle Weakness - True muscle weakness differs from fatigue in that exerting all of your energy does not achieve the desired movement
    • Psychological Symptoms
      • Anxiety - Everyone feels these feelings of worry, fear, nervousness or apprehension from time to time.  Fibro fighters may experience these feelings more often and they may worsen other symptoms.
      • Depression - Researchers still do not fully understand the relationship between these two conditions.  Most patients will experience depression either as a symptom or in conjunction with fibromyalgia.
      • Irritability - Pain, fatigue, and the stresses of dealing with a chronic condition can lead to irritability.
    • Related Conditions
      • Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome - Fascia is like a web that surrounds the bones, tissues, organs, and blood vessels.  Pain of this type usually begins specific areas of the body known as Myofascial Trigger Points that develop throughout the body where the fascia comes in contact with a muscle. These trigger points are areas of extreme tenderness, and sensitivity that form in bands of muscle underneath your skin.  They differ from the tender points found in fibromyalgia is that trigger points can be felt beneath the skin causing pain and muscle twitching.   Fibromyalgia can cause myofascial trigger points to form. more..
      • Hypoglycemia - This condition can be triggered or worsened by fibromyalgia, called fibroglycemia.  As many as 40% of women with fibro and 20% of men with fibro suffer this low blood sugar condition.  It can cause sugar cravings, tremors, heart palpitations. sweat, anxiety, panic attacks, faintness, and frontal headaches.
      • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) - IBS is characterized by hypersensitivity to muscle contractions in the large intestine causing diarrhea and/or constipation, bloating, abdominal pain or cramping, nausea, flatulence, and more.  An estimated 70% of fibro fighters have IBS.
      • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndromes (MCS) - This syndrome is characterized by hypersensitivity to chemicals and/or smells.  It can also cause sensitivity to loud noises, temperature and lights.  MCS can cause a variety of symptoms such as rhinitis, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, migraines, etc.  FMS fighters are at higher risk of MCS than the normal population.  A study found that 50% of Fibro fighters experience sensitivity to odors, noise, bright lights or certain foods.
      • Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) - RLS is a neurological condition in which the patient experiences an irresitible urge to move their legs.  This condition is found in those with fibromyalgia 56% of the time according to a 1990 report.
      • Temperomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) - TMJ is a disorder of the temperomandibular joint (jaw bone).  It also attacks the muscles and cartilage throughout the face and neck causing, popping or clicking (especially when chewing), severe pain, headaches, locked jaw, and more.  It is thought that up to 90% of fibro fighters have TMJ symptoms. 
    • Reproductive/Sexual Symptoms 
      • Dysmenorrhea - Excruciating pain in your pelvis or abdomen during menstruation can be triggered or worsened by fibromyalgia.
      • Vulvodynia - Evidence suggests that Vulvar Pain Syndrome including vaginal spasms, painful intercourse, and vulvitis (irritation of the lips) may be more common in women with FMS.


Fibromyalgia: An Essential Guide for Patients and Their Families by Daniel Wallace and Janice Wallace

Arthritis and Rheumatism. Vol. 33, No. 2 (February 1990)

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