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What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by extensive musculoskeletal pain, as well as fatigue, sleep, cognitive, and mood problems. Fibromyalgia patients may be more sensitive to pain than non-fibromyalgia patients.

Causes of Fibromyalgia

The exact causes of fibromyalgia are unknown. The factors that trigger fibromyalgia include:

  • Infections
  • Genetics
  • Stressful traumatic physical or emotional events, such as a car accident
  • Repetitive injuries
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases
  • Central nervous system (CNS) problems

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Widespread pain 
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Jaw pain and stiffness
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Headaches
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Pelvic and urinary problems
  • Sensitivity to cold or heat
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a physical examination will be performed. The main 0indicator of a fibromyalgia diagnosis is 3 months of widespread pain throughout your body in at least 4 of the following 5 regions:

  • The left arm, shoulder, and jaw  
  • The right arm shoulder and jaw  
  • The left hip, buttock, and leg  
  • The right hip, buttock, and leg  
  • The chest, abdomen, back, and neck    

To rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, your doctor may order tests such as a complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, cyclic citrullinated peptide test, and antinuclear antibody test.

Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Medication and self-care practices are used to treat fibromyalgia. The focus is on reducing symptoms and improving overall health. Although no single treatment is effective for all symptoms, a combination of treatment options can have a cumulative effect. Treatment includes:


Your doctor will recommend over-the-counter medications to reduce pain and improve sleep. Common medications include:

  • Pain-Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium may be helpful. Opioid drugs are not advised since they can cause serious adverse effects and addiction.
  • Antidepressants: Milnacipran (Savella) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) may help to reduce pain and exhaustion associated with fibromyalgia. These medications may also help to improve sleep quality and neurotransmitter balance.
  • Anti-Seizure Drugs:  Epilepsy medications such as pregabalin and gabapentin are frequently effective in reducing fibromyalgia symptoms.


A range of therapy can help you manage the effects of fibromyalgia on your body and life. Examples include:

  • Physical Therapy: Your doctor may recommend special exercises with a physical therapist such as water-based exercises to improve your strength, flexibility, and stamina. 
  • Occupational Therapy: An occupational therapist can help you overcome fibromyalgia symptoms and promote your participation in daily activities.
  • Counseling: Speaking with a counselor can help you gain confidence in your abilities and learn strategies to handle stressful situations.
  • Behavior Modification Therapy: This is a type of psychotherapy that helps you reduce pain-inducing behaviors, stress, and anxiety while developing effective coping mechanisms and positive, mindful behaviors. 


Fibromyalgia can be prevented by:

  • Stress-management techniques, such as deep-breathing exercises or meditation.
  • Getting good-quality sleep
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
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