5 Common Signs of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a common, chronic pain syndrome that affects about 10 million Americans and 3-6% of people worldwide. Women are more predisposed toward it — 75-90% of cases are women — but men and children also suffer from it, and all ethnic groups are affected.

At Pinnacle Pain and Spine, double board-certified and fellowship-trained interventional pain specialist Matthew Crooks, MD, and our team are dedicated to relieving pain from a wide range of conditions, including fibromyalgia. 

Here’s what we want you to know about the common signs of this condition and what you can do about them.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a difficult disorder to pin down. Its diagnosis is still taken skeptically in some circles, with physicians who believe it’s a fad disease because it fails to show up on an X-ray, other imaging tests, or blood tests. 

But medical literature described it as early as 1824, with significant advances in 1880 when a group of symptoms was attributed to it, and in 1972, when medical researchers clearly described the widespread pain and tender points.

What we know today is that fibromyalgia is a condition in which pain and stiffness occur in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments all over the body. Current thinking is that the disease alters the way the brain processes pain signals, leading to amplified pain sensations even in the absence of a pain trigger. 

Symptoms can develop gradually or be triggered by trauma, infection, or stress.

Pain and 5 other common signs of fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is known best for its widespread pain. In fact, since it may affect the joints as well as other tissues, it was included as a form of arthritis for many years. While the pain of fibromyalgia is constant, the severity of the symptoms can change daily, or even hourly. 

In addition to the pain, other common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

The tender points that form occur in predictable places on the body. They're most often located just under the skin’s surface. It’s the tissue that surrounds the muscles and joints that causes the pain, not the joints themselves.

People who have fibromyalgia often experience two or more other chronic conditions. These include but aren’t restricted to:

Diagnosing fibromyalgia

We can’t definitively diagnose fibromyalgia. It doesn’t show up on an X-ray or other imaging test. There’s no factor that turns up in a blood test. It’s pretty much a diagnosis by eliminating any other potential cause. 

But researchers recently discovered patients suffering from fibromyalgia have abnormally low levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine in their brains, which may lead to tests down the road.

In the past, doctors would press on 18 specific “tender points” (nine on each side) of a person's body to see how many of them were painful. You had to have at least 11 painful spots to get a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

Updated guidelines, though, don’t require such an exam. Today, a doctor can diagnose fibromyalgia if you have had widespread pain for more than three months with no other underlying medical condition that could cause it.

Treating fibromyalgia

Since there’s no cure, treatment focuses on managing and reducing pain and related symptoms. We may recommend:

If you’ve been struggling with widespread pain for three months or more, and nothing’s turned up to explain it, contact us at Pinnacle Pain and Spine for an evaluation. Call our central number — 480-407-6400 — or request a visit online today. We have locations in Scottsdale, Chandler, and Fountain Hills, Arizona.

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