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Understanding Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain at specific points on the body, stiffness, and fatigue.

Outline of body showing typical tender points

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

In most cases, you will have tender points on your body. These points are very sore, especially when touched. Finding several of these points helps your healthcare provider diagnose fibromyalgia.

Along with the tender points, you may have some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Constant tiredness (fatigue), even after a full night’s sleep (non-restorative sleep)

  • A burning or throbbing pain in many parts of the body (this pain may vary during the day)

  • Stiffness or aching all over your body

  • Numbness or tingling in your arms and legs

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Bowel problems (bloating, diarrhea, constipation) Woman in chair rubbing neck

  • Headaches

  • Depression

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

There is no lab test to diagnose fibromyalgia. Instead, your healthcare provider will take your health history and examine your joints and muscles. Certain criteria are used when diagnosing fibromyalgia. Symptoms need to be present for at least 3 months. Tests may be done to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. Then, together you can design a plan to help you manage your symptoms. 

How is fibromyalgia treated?

Several medications are approved to treat fibromyalgia. Two were originally made to treat depression. They are duloxetine, and milnacipran. A third, called pregaballin, was developed to treat nerve pain. Certain medicines used to treat depression have been helpful with fibromyalgia. Other medications include pain relievers such as acetaminophen or stronger narcotics. These may be prescribed short term.

NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) including aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are used to relieve pain.

Getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and eating a healthy diet can help manage symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy (a form of psychotherapy) can be helpful for fibromyalgia. Some people find alternative treatments such as massage, chiropractic treatments, biofeedback, or acupuncture also help with symptoms.


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