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Fibromyalgia - Diagnosis, Symptoms & Treatment

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

Fibromyalgia Facts

Since 2005, the chronic illness of Fibromyalgia in the United States has doubled to about 10 million Americans and an estimated 3.6 percent of the world's population. While 75 to 90% of the patients are women; it also occurs in men and children of all ethnic groups.

Fibromyalgia often occurs with other diseases, especially:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (commonly called lupus).
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (spinal arthritis).

This disorder is often seen in families among siblings or mothers and their children. Typically, the diagnosis is usually made between the ages of 20 and 50 years of age. However, the incidence rises with age, so by age 80 years of age approximately 8% of adults meet the American College of Rheumatology classification of Fibromyalgia.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Thousands of sufferers live through each day not understanding why they can barely function and many doctors do not understand this disease. Even the doctors that do understand the disease don't always know how to treat it. Physicians are not sure of the underlying cause for this disease, however, a number of studies show multiple physiological abnormalities, so there is some progress being made.

Recent study showed that genetic factors may predispose individuals to a genetic susceptibility. Fibromyalgia often occurs following a physical trauma, such as an acute illness or injury, which may trigger the development of this disease. New research has begun in the areas of brain imaging and neural surgery. Medical researchers have just begun to untangle the truth about this life altering disease

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

There are no specific tests for Fibromyalgia which make the diagnosis difficult. This is a problem for patients as sometimes they are written off as depressed, lazy, or their symptoms are just a fantasy of their mind.

The diagnosis comes from a patient’s history, symptoms, a physical examination and accurate manual tender point examination. It typically takes a patient five years to get a diagnosis.

The patient must meet the following diagnostic criteria:

  • Widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for minimum duration of three months.
  • Tenderness or pain in at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points were pressure is applied.

According to Mayo Clinic the following blood tests are often done to rule out or help diagnoses this disease.

  • Complete blood count
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • Cyclic citrullinated peptide test
  • Rheumatoid factor
  • Thyroid function tests

Diagram Courtesy of National Fibromyalgia Association


Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Fibromyalgia is it complex, chronic pain disorder that affects people physically, mentally and socially. It is a syndrome rather than a disease. A syndrome is a collection of signs, symptoms and medical problems that tend to occur together but are not related to a specific disorder.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

  • Pain: the pain widespread musculoskeletal, which without relief. It can migrate to all parts of the body and vary in intensity and it's also been described in different ways. The pain may be worse in cold or humid weather. Anxiety and stress may increase pain level.
  • Fatigue: the fatigue of Fibromyalgia is much more than just being tired after a busy day it's an all-encompassing exhaustion The symptoms include poor stamina.
  • Sleep problems: Many patients have associated sleep disorders that prevent them from getting deep, restful, restorative sleep. Obviously fatigue is a constant problem. Medical researchers have documented specific abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep.
  • Other symptoms or possible conditions: Symptoms may include irritable bowel and bladder, headaches and migraines, restless legs syndrome, impaired memory and concentration ("fibro fog" as the inability of concentrate or focus), skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes and mouth, anxiety, depression, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vision problems, Raynaud’s syndrome, a neurological symptoms and impaired coordination.

Diagram Courtesy of Every Day Health


Ways to Help Yourself

Reduce stress: Allow yourself time to rest each day and avoid or limit over exertion and emotional stress. You they have to learn to say no without feeling guilty. Patients who quit work or drop all activity tend to do worse than those who remain active. Meditation and deep breathing exercises are great to help with stress management.

Get enough sleep: Since fatigue is one of the main characteristics of the disease getting enough sleep is essential. Practice good sleep habits by going to bed about the same time and getting up at the same time each day.

Exercise regularly: Initially exercise may increase your pain. Start gradually and regularly with simple exercise often decreases symptoms. A physical therapist can help you develop a home exercise program. Good posture, stretching and relaxation exercises are also helpful.

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Pace yourself: Keep your activity and even level because if you do too much on your good days you're going to have more bad days. Moderation means not overdoing it.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat healthy foods, limit caffeine intake, do something each day that you find enjoyable and fulfilling.

What are the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia Treatment

According to Mayo Clinic treatment involves using medication and self-care, where they emphasize minimizing symptoms and improving general health. Only take medication that is prescribed by your physician.

  • Analgesics: acetaminophen (Tylenol) may ease the pain and stiffness. Ultram is a prescription pain reliever that may be taken with Tylenol. The doctor may also prescribe non– steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – such as ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin or naproxen sodium, believe and other in conjunction with other medications. Sometimes Tramadol is ordered, but narcotics are not.
  • Antidepressants: Cymbalta and Savella may help ease the pain and fatigue associated with the Fibromyalgia. Your doctor may prescribe amitriptyline or Prozac to help promote sleep.
  • Anti–seizure drugs: Medications designed to treat epilepsy may be useful to reduce certain types of pain. Gabapentin and Lyrica are the most commonly used medications in this group. Lyrica is the first drug approved by the FDA for the treatment of Fibromyalgia.

In Conclusion

Fibromyalgia patients can get very frustrating while they are trying to get a diagnosis, particularly when it takes five years in many cases. Also, there is no known cure, no real test to prove you have the disease, and the future must seem uncertain.

Studies have shown that there are things you can do to help yourself if you have Fibromyalgia, which will at least relieve some of the symptoms. There is a lot of research being done at this time so we hope to see the cure in the not-too-distant future

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on December 24, 2012:

WVBards, I will take a look at your hub as soon as I can. You may certainly provide a reference to my hub. Thank you.

Fibromyalgia Daughter from Seattle on December 24, 2012:

For more information on the specifics of Fibromyalgia, check out my Hub on Fibro and Sleep at

And if you would allow me to provide a link or a reference to your post on my site, I would be much obliged!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 15, 2012:

lindalou, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and I appreciate your comments.

Linda from Texas on October 14, 2012:

I was going to write a hub about fibro, but decided to search before doing so! I'm glad I did. Very interesting hub.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 15, 2012:

pstraubie, I guess we and many others are in this together. I appreciate your comments and you are so welcome.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on September 14, 2012:

We are in this together. I just read the comment you left on my hub. I know others will want to read what you have written. Thank you.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 14, 2012:

pstraubie, I am so sorry to hear about your daughters struggles. If you think this hub will help others, by all means add it to the series. Thank you for sharing your experience and comments. I will read your hub now.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on September 14, 2012:

My daughter suffers with this affliction as a result of the extensive chemo therapy she has had to try to fight the cancers that ravage her body. She has good days and bad days with it probably more bad than good but she fights on as she has done for nine years with the cancers. I am so glad you have so thoroughly researched and presented it.

I would like to add it to a hub in a series that I am writing about her and her son as they fight cancer if you do not mind.

Pinned and voted up. The hub I published today is:

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on September 07, 2012:

rajan jolly, I had hoped to really get out the information about this disease to those who are suffering. I appreciate the share and your comments.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on September 07, 2012:

Pamela, this an excellently written and very well presented hub. You have put a lot of information that will be useful to those who are suffering from this syndrome. I'm passing this on as well as voting it up as useful and awesome.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on August 29, 2012:

moonlake, I know there are different degrees of this disease as it certainly affects some worse than others. I am glad you are mostly symptom free now. I think stress can be a big factor in this illness. I know it is for me. When things are going well I feel so much better. I don't think doctor's for the most part really understand this disease very well. Thank you for your comments.

moonlake from America on August 29, 2012:

I have Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Can you tell up at 2:48 am I have always been night owl but it is worse. I'm off all medication. They discovered it right after I had heart attacks many years ago. At one time I could not stand to not have meds for it. Today was a bad day with it but I get very few of those kind of days now. I hope it never comes back the way it once was.

I heard a doctor on tv once say fibromyalgia will never put a person in a wheelchair I think he is very wrong. Voted uP on your hub.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on July 30, 2012:

Josh, This truly is a mysterious disease. I am glad you found my hub informative and I appreciate your comments.

Joshua Zerbini from Pennsylvania on July 30, 2012:


I am so glad I came across this article. At the college I graduated from there was woman on the staff that has this disease. I always felt bad for her, but never knew anything about this disease. And of course, I did not want to pester her with questions. I have searched the internet, but nothing has come close to your clear presentation.

Thanks for sharing and getting the word out on this mysterious disease. My heart goes out to all that have to endure this.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on May 20, 2012:

Sphinxs Sanctum, I agree with you that we need to get the word out. This can be a debilitating disease and just like so many of the auto-immune diseases the doctors treat symptoms, not the cause. Thank you so much for your comments.

Sphinxs Sanctum from Southern United States on May 19, 2012:

Pamela99- I am so happy to see that you are getting the word out about FMS! So many people are suffering with this dreaded illness, yet most people still don't know what it is. Sure, they may have heard the term "Fibromyalgia" before, or might have seen a commercial regarding medications to treat FMS, but don't really have a clue what patients are dealing with on a day to day basis. I'm seeing more & more that family members of FMS patients aren't even sure of all the symptoms their loved ones are suffering with! So the more people you educate the better for the whole FMS/ CFS community. I'll be here following in your footsteps soon!

Thank-you for your work. Well Done! :)

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 23, 2011:

Princessa, It is one of those diseases that people might even say, "You don't look sick." This is very frustrating when you are exhausted and in constant pain. I'm glad she finally got a diagnosis as fibromyalgia is not always easily diagnosed. I appreciate your comments.

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on November 23, 2011:

Great info, a friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (and I didn't know what it was). I think that the most difficult part for her was that her symptoms were not visible, and before diagnosis her family and employers found very difficult to believe that she was always in pain. At least now that she knows what she has, she can explain it better to her employers and family.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 08, 2011:

SanneL, It sounds like you have made important lifestyle changes, which also helped me. It is a huge adjustment mentally when a disease changes your life in such a major way. I hope you will go into some type of remission. Thanks for your comments.

SanneL from Sweden on November 07, 2011:

I am diagnosed with severe case of Fibromyalgia.I had it now for the past years. It's a constant battle with pain and exhaustion.

This hit me hard, since I have been a very active person in my days. All of the sudden, I can't do the things I used to love to do. However, I have found by writing, it gives me the strength to keep going, even if most of the times, its so painful to use my hands.

On my "good" days, I try to make it up, by doing some crafting, baking, going for a walk. . . only to pay for it dearly a few hours later.

By doing Mindfulness Meditation,healthy lifestyle- nearly vegetarian and keep away from stress, I hope and think that my pain will decrease one day.

I'm so grateful that by this hub you help to raise the awareness of Fibromyalgia.

Voted up!!

Thank you so much!


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 07, 2011:

UrsulaRose, It is a tough disease and I'm glad the hub was helpful. I appreciate your comments and I wish you the best health possible.

UrsulaRose on April 06, 2011:

Well-written informative hub article Pamela99 chock-full of 'facts and figures' relating to Fibromyalgia.

As a Fibromyalgic/Fibromite I am ever so grateful and thank you for helping to educate and raise the awareness of Fibromyalgia. :-)

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 22, 2011:

Aponi1, I'm sorry you suffer with this disease and glad you enjoyed the hub. Thanks so much for your comments.

Aponi1 from Midland, TX on March 22, 2011:

I've had FMS for about 12 years, and I've struggled with the pain and the medications. This is a good article. I use alternative healing methods, and it was nice to see an article that included this, a lot of them that do don't tell you where to look for it. Great job.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 24, 2011:

Micky Dee, I'm glad you found the hub helpful. I appreciate your comments.

Micky Dee on February 23, 2011:

Thanks for putting this together Pamela. I've not known much about it but know folks with it. God bless!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 14, 2011:

Ashlie, I think people have different degrees of this disease but it certainly can be miserable. Thank you so much for your comments.

AskAshlie3433 from WEST VIRGINIA on February 13, 2011:

This is such a sad thing. I feel for anyone that has to go through it. Stuff for pain just don't help enough. I have heard it is constant misery. This is very useful info. Great hub.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 10, 2011:

Howard, A disease like this is hard on the whole family. Thanks for your comment.

Mrs. Dee, I certainly appreciate your comments.

Martie, I appreciate your comments.

Blissfulwriter, The diet I find useful is primarily vegetarian but I have also read a lot about amino acids being helpful cure.

JY, Thanks so much for your comment.

Audry, I will love to know how that goes. Lyrica might be helpful for you. I hope you feel better as time goes by. Thanks for your comments.

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on February 10, 2011:

Great information Pamela - I was just diagnosed with that last fall although I'm just not sure that is the correct diagnosis....being my own doctor most of the time! He tried treating me with Cymbalta which is an antidepressant and although it did make the pain 'not be there' I really didn't like the feeling of not being myself if that makes sense.

I felt 'numb' sometimes and that was very annoying to me. Plus I always believe that the best way to stop pain is by addressing it not hiding it. And in my case, I think it is just 35+ years of typing and typing - things like that tend to eventually catch up with you! I have always wished I could type with my feet - I might give that a try and let you know how that goes!

John Young from Florence, South Carolina on February 10, 2011:

Some very good information Pam. Great article!

BlissfulWriter on February 10, 2011:

Glad to see that diet has helped with this. What kind of diet exactly? One that is low-inflammatory? High in anti-oxidants? Low-glycemic? Any insights into this?

Martie Coetser from South Africa on February 10, 2011:

Fibromyalgia sounds like a horrible condition. May it never come my way! My cousin was diagnosed with fibromyalgia three years ago, in her case it was caused by severe stress, and that was the first time I heard of this illness. Thanks for a very informative hub, Pamela. I’ve bookmarked this with the hope I will never have to use it to diagnose myself, but only to refresh my knowledge about this syndrome. See you again soon.

Deidre Shelden from Texas, USA on February 10, 2011:

You're a good writer, Pamela. Very helpful information. Voted Up and useful!

Howard S. from Dallas, Texas, and Asia on February 10, 2011:

It can be hard on a marriage. Imagine your spouse wincing in pain with every touch.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 10, 2011:

cybersupe, You are not alone as many people do not know about Fibromyalgia. Thank you so much for your comments.

cybersupe on February 10, 2011:

Good Morning Pamela,

I wasn't aware of Fibromyalgia until a couple years ago when my wife's sister was diagnosed with the affliction. Since then I was surprised to learn the fibromyalgia wasquite common. Your Hub was most interesting and informative which all of Hubs are. Thank You very much.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 10, 2011:

sueroy, I hope your mother's health will improve. At least you understand. Quite often family members don't understand when someone has a chronic illness and I guess it is because that have not had to experience anything like that themselves. I wish her all the best. I appreciate your comments very much.

Pixienot, Thank you so much for all the information you shared and you are right about not using any medication not prescribed by a doctor. The other thing I have found through the years of lupus and Fibromyalgia is seeing a rheumatologist is very important as there knowledge is specialized and your treatment will probably be a step above what a general practitioner can provide.

I think I will check out the swimming at the YMCA also as my physician has been encouraging me to do also. I will check out your site as I agree, we need to stick together. I appreciate your comments so much.

Pixienot from Clarksville, Indiana on February 09, 2011:

Dear Pamela,

I have had fibromyalgia for years. When it was finally declared a disease and not just a syndrome, I believe it was the turning point for some doctors attitude toward fibromyalgia.

Diet and exercise, as well as a positive outlook does indeed make a difference in your pain level, your tolerance level and your ability to cope with all it throws at you.

I would recommend that the exercise be done in a warm water pool. I use the YMCA. There is no after affect other than you might still be a bit tired. Okay, you will definitely be a bit tired! :) Warm water exercise eliminates a lot of pain and a lot of injuries we do to ourselves in the name of improvement.

I have several articles related. Stop on by. We fibromites need to stick together. A lot to learn and a lot to share.

My daughter pointed out your hub to me and I am so glad she did. It was not only informative, but very well written.

I voted up, useful and awesome.

Good video!

I would caution using any of the mentioned medication without the supervision of a fibromyalgia-friendly doctor.

Thank you so much for the information.

Susan Mills from Indiana on February 09, 2011:

Pamela- I'm so sorry that you've had to live with this. My mom was diagnosed a while back, and I know she was relieved to put a name to her symptoms after years of being told they were "all in her head".

I'm going to share this with her, I know she'll enjoy this hub. As always, this was extremely informative and easy to read.

I'm glad you are doing better.. poor health is one of the worst things to be burdened with! You have turned it into such a positive!!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 09, 2011:

KK Gals, I agree that frame of mind makes a huge difference with any disease. I'm glad the diet has made a difference for you and I appreciate you sharing your experience. Thanks so much.

Hanna, Thank you so much for your comments.

Katie, Fibromyalgia is a difficult disease to understand and explain. I very much appreciate your comments.

Katie McMurray from Ohio on February 09, 2011:

This is just fascinating. You've really dug in deep, explained it well as fibromyalgia is a difficult disease to clearly define. :) Katie

HealthyHanna from Utah on February 09, 2011:

You have done it again. Great summary of a complex condition. It is information all in one place.

Susan Hazelton from Northern New York on February 09, 2011:

Pamela, it is a horrible disease. I have had it for years. After taking medication for pain and beind semi-zobie like, I decided to try the diet route. It's not perfect but boy has it helped. I have also found that one of the most important things is frame of mind. You absolutely must have a positive attitude. Thanks for writing such a wonderful comprehensive article. Voted up and awesome.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 09, 2011:

Ms Dee, I'm glad to know that you are doing better and I definitely want to read your hub. I am interested in reading about the amino acids and Dr. Vickery. Thanks so much for your comments

rpalualis, I am fortunate that my symptoms are mild now compared to a few years ago. It is a disease of mystery and yet so many people have it. I appreciate your comments.

Hello, At lease there are some things you can do yourself that help lessen the symptoms. Thanks so much for your comments

Darsky, I'm sorry your friend is so ill with this disease as not everybody gets it to this degree. I hope this hub does increase the level of awareness for people. Thank you so much for your comment. Love and peace girlfriend.

Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on February 09, 2011:

Dear Pam, I have a friend that has this and she can't be touched at all. Yes this is very serious situation and she had to fight hard for her disability. I love this hub it will help other to understand this horrible illness. rate up up love & peace darski

Hello, hello, from London, UK on February 09, 2011:

Gosh, Pamela,what a terrible disease. How can anybody cope with it? Thank your very explicit hub.

rpalulis from NY on February 09, 2011:

Pamela I had never hear of fibromyalgia before, it sounds horrible and I am so sorry to hear that you and the above contributors have had to suffer through this.

I do agree that our diets do effect our overall well being considerably and so glad that you are seeing improvement since making the adjustments in your diet.

I do hope and pray that more light be shed on this syndrome and ways for prevention and cure.

Thanks for sharing.

Deidre Shelden from Texas, USA on February 09, 2011:

I have it too, but treating it as directed at, I no longer have the pain or muscle spasms. Right, it is diet plus you'll see a blend of amino acids developed specifically to treat Fibromyalgia by Dr. Vickery is a winning combination :). I have a hub on it, too, in case you'd want to look there first.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on February 09, 2011:

Pamela, It is wonderful that you've been able to treat yourself and stay healthy. I really believe the food we eat has a huge impact on disease. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia shortly after of his diagnosed with lupus and it was tough to tell what symptom was from what disease. Recently I have changed my diet to almost vegetarian and my symptoms are the best they have been in many years. Thank you so much for sharing your experience and I appreciate the comments.

Pamela N Red from Oklahoma on February 09, 2011:

Great article. I've had it for years. I was on strong medications for a few years and finally decided to take myself off as the drugs were causing side effects I didn't like.

I treat myself now with diet and exercise. I'm almost completely symptom free as long as I avoid certain foods.

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