Fibromyalgia is a complex, chronic and disabling disorder. It causes widespread pain. It also causes poor sleep and fatigue.

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown.

Conditions commonly associated with fibromyalgia include:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Chronic headache, such as tension headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • Female urethral syndrome (irritable bladder)
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Fibromyalgia is more common in women, and in people aged 20-60 years old. Physical or mental stress may also increase your chance of getting fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Symptoms and severity are different for everyone.

Fibromyalgia may cause:

  • Generalized pain and tenderness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Poor sleep
  • Reduced physical endurance
  • Problems with concentration, thought or memory

Factors that may trigger or worsen symptoms include:

  • Weather changes, especially cold, damp weather
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Overexertion
  • Medical illness
  • Surgery

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

The doctor will look for the following signs:

  • Widespread pain lasting three months or longer
  • Tenderness (on physical exam) in specific areas of the body

Your doctor may do tests to make sure your symptoms are not due to other conditions.

Fibromyalgia Treatment

The goal of treatment is to relieve or control the symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Therapy Programs

  • Physical therapy
  • Heated pool treatments
  • Alternative treatments, such as massage, acupuncture, relaxation training, trigger point therapy, biofeedback and yoga
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor may also recommend that you make lifestyle changes, such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Learning to cope with physical and mental stress
  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • Participating in a regular exercise program that includes aerobic activity, strength training, flexibility exercises, walking, biking and swimming 


Your doctor may recommend the following to help manage symptoms:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Sedatives
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Opioids



Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.