Pain is the number one symptom of fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is characterized by musculoskeletal (muscles and skeleton together) pain. It more often than not comes with fatigue, sleep issues, mood issues, and memory issues. Achiness, debilitating tiredness – even when you just woke up – swelling, and trouble staying asleep also characterize fibromyalgia.
“Fibromyalgia syndrome” is typically used to denote this conglomeration of symptoms (a set of symptoms is called a syndrome). Anxiety or depression, fatigue, widespread pain, and a lowered pain threshold occur together more often than not, and they are red flags for fibromyalgia. The sleeplessness that accompanies fibromyalgia is partly because the widespread body pain keeps sufferers from sleeping.
Lesser but still prevalent fibromyalgia symptoms are: abdominal pain; mouth/nose/eye dryness; chronic headaches; cold and/or heat sensitivity; irritable bowel syndrome; other digestive system issues; incontinence; pain in the pelvis; unable to concentrate (called “fibro fog”); stiffness; numbness and/or tingling in feet, toes, hands, and fingers. This long list of symptoms don’t affect everyone with fibromyalgia, but it is typical to experience several if not all of these symptoms when suffering from fibromyalgia.
With fibromyalgia, your muscles feel like they are always overworked or pulled. Random muscles twitches aren’t uncommon, as is a burning sensation in your muscles. Part of diagnosing fibromyalgia pain is looking at eighteen accepted “tender points” on the body. When touched, those points hurt – and the paint can radiate throughout the entire muscle. If eleven of the eighteen accepted points hurt when the doctor performs an examination of a potential fibromyalgia patient, then fibromyalgia diagnosis is likely. The eighteen points are grouped in nine pairs, and those points are on the back of the neck, the elbows, the front of the neck on either side of the larynx, the hips, the lower back, the inside of each of the knees, the upper back where the back muscles connect to the shoulder blades, the shoulders between the edge of the shoulder and the bottom of the neck, and the chest on either side of the sternum a few inches below the collarbone. Some of these pains aren’t exclusive to fibromyalgia – e.g. lower back pain is a very common pain seeing as more than 1 in 4 adults in the United States have experienced back pain, and hip pain is a common pain in people with osteoarthritis – which is why the specific points are so important. In the case of the lower back, there is a pair of trigger points right at the bottom of the lower back, directly above the buttocks.
Fibromyalgia pain can be a daily thing, and you can experience fibromyalgia pain for months at a time. Research has uncovered evidence that fibromyalgia is a disease of the central nervous system – when experiencing pain, rather than the pain dissipating after you get hurt, the pain just sticks around. If hurt again in the same way, the pain compounds. This increased sensitivity to pain is called “hyperalgesia” – algesia comes from the Greek word algesis, literally meaning the sensitivity to pain. That’s why when the tender points are pressed, the pain in that point can spread throughout the entire affected muscle.
If you think you might be experiencing fibromyalgia syndrome, please consult with your doctor.