What Exactly is Fibromyalgia
What exactly is this condition called fibromyalgia? It’s actually classified as a syndrome rather than a disease. A syndrome is defined as a group of symptoms that together are characteristic of a specific disorder, disease, or the like. The word “disease” is a term which implies that all people with a given disorder have the same problem that results from the same underlying cause.
The word fibromyalgia is derived from 3 latin words:

  • “fibro” – connective tissue fibers
  • “my” – muscle
  • “algia” – pain

A Brief History:
Fibromyalgia syndrome (also known as “FMS”) isn’t a new syndrome. It was actually documented as early as the 1800s by doctors and psychiatrists. The term is new, though. Earlier names for this condition include:

  • Myalgia
  • Chronic rheumatism
  • Fibrositis
  • Fibromatosis
  • Muscular rheumatism
Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Unfortunately, the common diagnosis was thought of to be all in a patient’s head or that it was their own fault. Consequently, they received no care.
In 1987, the national organization, the American Medical Association, recognized fibromyalgia syndrome not merely as a real illness, but also as a major cause of disability.

Some Fibromyalgia Symptoms:
Its simplest definition is this – FMS is a medical condition that is characterized by chronic pain in the muscles and other soft tissue (like ligaments and tendons). Among other diseases or syndromes, FMS is the most common cause of chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain. Along with the pain are other common fibromyalgia symptoms, which include:

  • muscle pain and stiffness
  • tender points
  • chronic fatigue and sleep problems
  • inability to focus and memory issues
  • headaches
  • numbness and tingling
  • memory issues
  • sensitivity to cold
  • irritable bladder
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritable bowel symptoms
  • Stiffness
Let’s look at some of these in more detail.
Muscle Pain and Stiffness

Muscle Pain and Stiffness:
97% of patients report pain as their main symptom and complaint. And, it’s the symptom that prompts sufferers to go to see their doctor. Pain can be described as being felt all over the body and is deep, sharp, dull aching, burning or throbbing. These painful sensations range from mild to severe and are felt deep within the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joints. The discomfort from the pain can be so severe that it limits the sufferer’s ability to function at work or home and in life in general. Pain often increases with activity, stress, and cold or damp weather.

Along with muscle pain, 75% of sufferers complain of stiffness upon awakening in the morning. The duration of the stiffness varies in each patient with it lasting only a couple of minutes in some cases and hours in others. With others it seems to be present all day then worsening again in the evening.

Along with muscle pain, 75% of sufferers complain of stiffness upon awakening in the morning. The duration of the stiffness varies in each patient with it lasting only a couple of minutes in some cases and hours in others. With others it seems to be present all day then worsening again in the evening.

Tender Points:
Tender points are sensitive or tender areas around the joints (not the joints themselves) that hurt when pressing on the skin with a finger. Pushing on the tender point, however, won’t cause pain anywhere else in the body. There is no inflammation that accompanies these tender areas and the location of tender points are in predictable places in the body. An effective physician familiar with diagnosing FMS will conduct a tender point exam to determine how many of the predictable sites are tender as well as the degree or severity of the tenderness. The source of tender points is unknown.

Chronic Fatigue and Sleep Problems:
One of the potential causes of insomnia is fibromyalgia. 90% of FMS sufferers complain of insomnia. Many experience frequent awakenings throughout the night. Even though patients may not even be fully conscious of the awakenings, they’re enough to make them feel tired and unrefreshed in the morning.
Chronic Fatigue and Sleep Problems

Fatigue is a major symptom of FMS. Some feel fatigued all day long which limits their ability to get the necessary exercise their body needs or function normally.

Inability to Focus and Memory Issues:
25% of FMS sufferers complain about having great difficulty maintaining their attention on activities such as work, reading, or completing a task. They also mention being forgetful and experiencing general confusion. Some patients talk about being unable to complete the rest of a sentence or easily losing their train of thought. This disorder is referred to as “fibro fog.” Because there is no test to confirm or detect this in an individual, it can add to the sufferer’s frustration.

These symptoms can lead to increased anxiety in people because it affects their job performance and they rarely know the causes of their inability to perform. Unfortunately, some are forced to even quit their jobs due to their inability to perform job duties that they once were able to do with ease.

There are many symptoms related to fibromyalgia. This article has only scratched the surface of some of the most commonly complained about disorders. Every person is different and will experience symptoms differently, as well as experience certain ones that others don’t. It’s important to research potential treatments or seek medical advice. Don’t languish in your chronic pain and never allow a physician to tell you that it’s all in your head. Unfortunately, not all doctors are well-versed enough in FMS to be able to perform the right tests, make a good diagnosis, and prescribe the appropriate medicine. Always get a second or even third opinion if you feel your thoughts are not being heard. With added input, you’ll be sure you’re receiving the right medications to properly treat FMS. This is a real condition and symptoms can be treated successfully. Do the necessary research to find the the right solution to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia. However, more and more therapies, treatment options, and support systems are becoming available. With proper clinical trials, medications, and care, you can get back in the game of life and even resume the normal lifestyle you had before your FMS diagnosis. Visit our website’s FMS condition page for additional sources of support and information on fibromyalgia.

NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia Association
American Chronic Pain Association