Fibromyalgia is a long-term (chronic) condition.
- pain in the muscles and bones (musculoskeletal pain)
- areas of tenderness
- general fatigue
- sleep and cognitive disturbances
This condition can be hard to understand, even for healthcare providers. Its symptoms mimic those of other conditions, and there aren’t any real tests to confirm the diagnosis. As a result, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed.
Fibromyalgia causes what’s now referred to as “regions of pain.” Some of these regions overlap with what was previously referred to as areas of tenderness called “trigger points” or “tender points.” However, some of these previously noted areas of tenderness have been excluded. The pain in these regions feels like a consistent dull ache. Your healthcare provider will consider a diagnosis of fibromyalgia if you’ve experienced musculoskeletal pain.
This process of diagnosis focuses on the areas of musculoskeletal pain and severity of pain as opposed to an emphasis on pain duration, which was the previously the focal criteria for a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- trouble sleeping
- sleeping for long periods of time without feeling rested (nonrestorative sleep)
Fibromyalgia Trigger Points
In the past, people were diagnosed with fibromyalgia if they had widespread pain and tenderness in at least 11 out of 18 specific trigger points around their body. Healthcare providers would check to see how many of these points were painful by pressing firmly on them.
Common trigger points included the:
- back of the head
- tops of the shoulders
- upper chest
- outer elbows
Healthcare providers and researchers don’t know what causes fibromyalgia.
According to the latest research, the cause appears to be a multiple-hit theory that involves genetic disposition (hereditary characteristics) complemented by a trigger, or a set of triggers, such as infection, trauma, and stress.
Currently, there isn’t a cure for fibromyalgia.
Instead, treatment focuses on reducing symptoms and improving quality of life with:
- self-care strategies
- lifestyle changes
Medications can relieve pain and help you sleep better. Physical and occupational therapy improve your strength and reduce stress on your body. Exercise and stress-reduction techniques can help you feel better, both mentally and physically.