Fibromyalgia Symptoms

The main fibromyalgia signs and symptoms include deep muscle pain, painful tender points, and morning stiffness. Other common symptoms of fibromyalgia include sleep problems, fatigue, and anxiety. In order to make an accurate diagnosis, your doctor will need to review your symptoms and signs of fibromyalgia.

What Are the Common Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Common symptoms of fibromyalgia -- also known as fibromyalgia syndrome or FMS -- may include:

Is Pain the Most Common Symptom of Fibromyalgia?

Yes. Widespread pain is characteristic of almost all people with fibromyalgia. In fact, pain is usually what forces a person with fibromyalgia to see his or her doctor.

Unlike the joint pain of osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia pain is felt over the entire body. The pain can be deep, sharp, dull, throbbing, or aching, and it is pain that's felt in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments around the joints. The Arthritis Foundation describes the muscle and tissue pain as tender, aching, throbbing, sore, burning, and gnawing.

For some people with fibromyalgia, the pain comes and goes. The pain also seems to travel throughout the body.

Do Painful Tender Points Accompany Fibromyalgia Pain?

Along with the deep muscle soreness and body aches, people with fibromyalgia may have painful tender points or localized areas of tenderness around their joints that hurt when pressed with a finger. It's the tissue around the muscles and joints rather than the joints themselves that hurts. These tender points are often not areas of deep pain. Instead, they are superficial, located under the surface of the skin.

The location of tender points is not random. They are in predictable places on the body. If you apply pressure to tender points on a person without fibromyalgia, he or she would just feel pressure. For a person with fibromyalgia, pressing the tender points can be extremely painful.

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Is Fatigue a Fibromyalgia Symptom?

Next to pain and tender points, fatigue is a major complaint. Fatigue in fibromyalgia refers to a lingering tiredness that is more constant and limiting than what we would usually expect. Some patients complain of being tired even when they should feel rested, such as when they've had enough sleep. Some patients report the fatigue of fibromyalgia as being similar to symptoms of flu. Some compare it to how it feels after working long hours and missing a lot of sleep.

With fibromyalgia, you may feel:

  • Fatigue on arising in the morning
  • Fatigue after mild activity such as grocery shopping or cooking dinner
  • Too fatigued to start a project such as folding clothes or ironing
  • Too fatigued to exercise
  • More fatigued after exercise
  • Too fatigued for sex
  • Too fatigued to function adequately at work

Are Sleep Disturbances a Common Symptom of Fibromyalgia?

Sleep disturbances are common in the majority of people with fibromyalgia. While people with fibromyalgia may not have difficulty falling asleep, their sleep is light and easily disturbed. Many awaken in the morning feeling exhausted and unrefreshed. These sleep disturbances may help create a constant state of fatigue.

During sleep, individuals with fibromyalgia are constantly interrupted by bursts of brain activity similar to the activity that occurs in the brain when they are awake. Tests in sleep labs done on individuals with fibromyalgia have shown that people with fibromyalgia experience interruptions in deep sleep. These interruptions limit the amount of time they spend in deep sleep. As a result, their body is unable to rejuvenate itself.

Is Morning Stiffness a Common Symptom of Fibromyalgia?

Studies show that most people diagnosed with fibromyalgia feel stiffness in the morning when they get up. The stiffness is extensive -- affecting the muscles and joints of the back, arms, and legs. It makes them feel the need to "loosen up" after getting out of bed before beginning their usual activities.

Some people with fibromyalgia report that the morning stiffness may last only a few minutes, but in general, it is usually very noticeable for more than 15 to 20 minutes each day. In some cases, though, the stiffness lasts for hours, and in others it seems to be present all day.

While most people feel stiff when they first wake up, the stiffness associated with fibromyalgia is much more than simply a minor aching. In fact, people with fibromyalgia have the same feeling of stiffness in the morning that people feel with many types of arthritis, especially rheumatoid or inflammatory arthritis.

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Is Depression a Fibromyalgia Symptom?

Depression is a key symptom for many people with fibromyalgia. Up to half of all people with fibromyalgia also have depression or an anxiety disorder when they are diagnosed with FMS.

Stress from the constant pain and fatigue can cause anxiety. Also, chronic pain can result in a person being less active and becoming more withdrawn. This, in turn, can lead to depression.

It is also possible that anxiety and depression may actually be a part of fibromyalgia, just like the pain. People diagnosed with fibromyalgia and depression report difficulty concentrating and impaired short-term memory.

 

What Causes Swelling and Tingling Hands With Fibromyalgia?

Neurological complaints -- such as numbness, tingling, and burning -- are often present with fibromyalgia. While the causes of these feelings is unclear, numbness or tingling sensations in the hands, arms, or legs are felt by many people with fibromyalgia. The feelings may be especially bothersome when they occur in the mornings along with morning stiffness on arising.

The medical term for these sensations is paresthesia. The sensations usually happen at irregular times. When they do occur, they may last a few minutes or they may be constant. While the sensations can be bothersome, they are not severely limiting.

Are Chronic Headaches a Symptom of Fibromyalgia?

Chronic headaches, such as recurrent migraine or tension-type headaches, are common in up to 40% of people with fibromyalgia. They can pose a major problem in a person's ability to cope with and self-manage FMS.

The headaches may be a result of pain in the neck and upper part of the back. They are often caused by tightness and contraction of the muscles of the neck, which results in a type of headache called tension-type headaches or muscle-contraction headaches. They may also be caused by tender points over the back of the head and neck. It is important to remember that other medical problems can cause headaches, so frequent or severe headaches should be properly diagnosed and treated by your doctor.

Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome a Symptom of Fibromyalgia?

Constipation, diarrhea, frequent abdominal pain, abdominal gas, and nausea represent symptoms frequently found in up to 65% of patients with fibromyalgia. Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) also occurs with high frequency.

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Is Urinary Frequency a Symptom of Fibromyalgia?

Feeling an urge to urinate, urinary frequency, painful urination, or incontinence can happen in people with fibromyalgia. Because these symptoms can be caused by other bladder and kidney diseases, such as an infection, check with your doctor to be sure no other problems are present.

Do Menstrual Cramps Affect Women With Fibromyalgia?

Unusually painful menstrual cramps may occur in women with fibromyalgia. These cramps, along with other symptoms, are usually present for years.

What is restless legs syndrome with fibromyalgia?

Restless legs syndrome results in discomfort in the legs, especially the areas of the legs below the knees, and the feet. It is especially bothersome at night. The feeling can be painful, but most commonly it is described as the need to move the legs to try to make them comfortable.

Restless legs syndrome often interrupts sleep as the person tries to find a comfortable position for rest. As with other symptoms, restless legs syndrome can be found alone or along with other medical problems.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 30, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Fibromyalgia."
Fibromyalgia Network: "Symptoms."
National Fibromyalgia Association: "What are the Symptoms?"
American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association: "What is Fibromyalgia?"
Arthritis Foundation: "Fibromyalgia: What are the Effects?"
McIlwain, H. and Bruce, D. The Fibromyalgia Handbook, Holt, 2007.

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