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Understanding Fibromyalgia

What is fibromyalgia?

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

Outline of body showing typical tender points
People with fibromyalgia tend to have at least 11 of the 18 tender points shown above.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Tender points. 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 health care provider diagnose fibromyalgia.

Other symptoms of 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

  • 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
    A burning or throbbing pain is often associated with fibromyalgia.

  • Headaches

  • Depression

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

There is no lab test to diagnose fibromyalgia. Instead, your health care provider will take your health history and examine your joints and muscles. 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 designed to treat depression. They are duloxetine, and milnacipran. A third, called pregaballin, was developed to treat nerve pain. Other medications include pain relievers such as acetaminophen or stronger narcotics. These may be prescribed short term.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) include aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are used to relieve pain.

Getting enough sleep, regular exercise, and eating a healthy diet can help manage symptoms. Some people find alternative treatments such as massage, chiropractic treatments, or acupuncture also help with symptoms.

© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.