Fibromyalgia Information - What are the Causes?


I’ve heard the term fibromyalgia a lot throughout the years. I’ve watched people I love deal with the pain. I’ve seen the condition come to light, finally, as a real ailment that wasn’t just in a person’s mind. But what do I really know about this debilitating condition? Well, I know my mom suffers from it. I know she is in pain more often than not and the slightest touch can leave her hurting for hours. I know nobody believed her condition was real for years so she suffered alone. I know the pain can gnaw at a sufferer until he or she is exhausted and depressed and on the edge of giving up. But what causes fibromyalgia? How can a person deal with fibromyalgia? And does it run in the family? Will I end up with this condition I’ve watched my mom struggle with over the years?

Fibromyalgia tender points
Fibromyalgia tender points | Source
Fibromyalgia causes a vicious cycle
Fibromyalgia causes a vicious cycle | Source

The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines fibromyalgia as “…a common syndrome in which a person has long-term, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues.” Fibro is a chronic pain disorder that affects about 5 million Americans. It is most common among women aged 20 to 50 and the cause is unknown. Some possible causes or triggers include physical or emotional trauma, an abnormal pain response, sleep disturbances, and infection or virus – although no single one has been identified. Fibromyalgia may be genetic but no specific genes have been identified. Some doctors believe hormonal or chemical imbalances in the body disrupt the way nerves signal pain. Others suggest a traumatic event or prolonged stress may increase a person’s chances of getting fibro.

Because fibromyalgia does not show up on lab tests or x-rays patients were once told the pain was psychosomatic – in their heads. But the pain is all too real. Even though tests do not show the condition blood work may be done to rule out any other possible illnesses. The painful areas of fibromyalgia are called tender points and can be found in the soft tissue on the back of the neck, shoulders, chest, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, and knees with the pain radiating out from the tender points. The pain can feel like a deep ache or a shooting, burning pain. The joints are not affected although the pain can sometimes feel like it is coming from them. Some fibromyalgia patients wake up with pain and body aches or stiffness, for some the pain improves during the day but gets worse at night, and for others the pain stays all day long. Fibro is often accompanied by fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety or depression, and specific tender points. Less common symptoms include irritable bowel syndrome, memory and concentration problems known as fibro fog, numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, palpitations, and reduced ability or tolerance to exercise due to the pain it causes, and tension or migraine headaches.

Doctors once used the tender points as the primary tool for diagnosing fibromyalgia. In order to reach a diagnosis a person had to have tenderness to the touch at 11 or more of the 18 specified tender points and widespread pain all over the body for at least 3 months. Recently, however, doctors have started diagnosing fibro using a pain index and a measure of key symptoms and severity. The symptom scale of the exam includes unrefreshing sleep, fatigue, and cognitive issues – the fibro fog. The symptoms are then rated on a scale from 0 to 3.

Once you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia there are several steps you can take to keep flare-ups to a minimum and to help you cope with the day-to-day symptoms of the condition. First you should try to identify what makes your symptoms worse and avoid those triggers as much as possible. Certain activities, cold or damp weather, poor sleep, anxiety, and stress can all make fibromyalgia worse. The goal of fibro treatment is to minimize pain, sleep disturbances, and mood disorders. Medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, may be prescribed to help ease symptoms of pain, depression, and poor sleep. Exercise can also relieve several fibromyalgia symptoms by reducing pain, improving fitness, and relieving fatigue and depression. Walking, stretching, and water aerobics are all good, low-impact exercises for the management of the symptoms. Diet can also play a role in managing fibromyalgia. Certain foods such as aspartame, MSG, caffeine, and tomatoes seem to worsen the symptoms. However, these foods may not be your specific triggers. Other foods may bother you personally and you will have to find out what works best for you. Massage may also help relieve fibro pain. Practitioners say applying moderate pressure – as in rubbing, kneading, and stroking – is much more important than technique. Acupuncture is yet another way to ease symptoms, though formal studies of this practice have produced mixed results. Acupressure works the same as acupuncture but pressure is applied to tender points rather than inserting needles. Fibro fog is the cognitive issue a sufferer of fibro usually contends with at some point that leads to poor concentration. Treatment for pain and insomnia may help but a patient can also take other steps to improve his or her focus, such as keeping notes about daily activities, keeping a sharp mind with reading and writing, and breaking up tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Stress appears to be one of the most common triggers of fibromyalgia flare-ups. Minimizing stress in your life may minimize flare-ups and symptoms. Some great methods of reducing stress are yoga, meditation or other relaxation techniques.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition but it can be treated. The good news is that fibro does not damage joints, muscles, or internal organs. The bad news is that you may have to really work to determine your best course of action for minimizing symptoms.

Do You Have or Know Someone Who Has Fibromyalgia?

See results without voting

More by this Author

Comments 19 comments

christinekv 5 years ago

Hey Lady! Great article! I rarely have time to spend on HP any more (maybe now that the days are shorter and weather is not as nice) but I get my daily notifications so every now and then, like today, had to check out the blog! Nicely done and glad to see you are still actively writing...(btw, making any $ here on HP?)



puter_dr profile image

puter_dr 5 years ago from Midwest USA

My wife has fibromyalgia, and she went to a doctor for treatment, and the doctor told her that fibro was an imaginary disease, and she needed to get her head right. We left, and requested another doctor.

The doc she sees now has an awareness of fibro, and tries to help keep her comfortable.

Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland Author

Well HI christinekv! I've missed you :) I was gone from HP for about a motivation, no time, all that stuff. Now that I'm back I'm hoping to make money. Not much to be had yet though. But Im glad to be back to writing.

Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland Author

puter_doc, thats horrible for your wife the way the original doctor treated her! Im glad she has a better doc now who listens to her and validates her problems. I hope she has more good days than she knows what to do with. Treat her to gentle hugs every day.

Stephanie Henkel profile image

Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

A friend who has fibromyalgia has suffered for years with the pain and has tried many of the coping mechanisms you mention. She too tried several doctors before finding one who treated this as a serious condition. Your article is so comprehensive, and helps me understand what she's going through so much better. Voted up, useful and interesting!

Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland Author

Thank you Miss Stephanie :) I truly feel for your friend. I'm glad she has a good doctor who understands the condition and a good friend like you to help her through.

epigramman profile image

epigramman 5 years ago

...thank you dear Ardie for this enlightenment and education - often we have to go through it ourselves or know someone in this situation (my dad for examnple, died from lung cancer; he wasn't a smoker) to have empathy or share sympathetic feelings - so this most essential hub (because most people probably have never heard of this illness - by name) is a tribute as much as a tribute to your dear mom as it is to you - the author of this hub

lake erie time ontario canada 8:55pm

Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland Author

Thanks epi! It's amazing just how much we dont know is out there until we have to deal with it. Im so sorry about your dad :( How sad that he didnt even smoke and still got lung cancer.

moonlake profile image

moonlake 5 years ago from America

I have fibromyalgia and have had it for years. It took the doctor awhile to figure out what was wrong with me but once he did he put me on an antidepressant and pain pill. The pain pill I was already taking but wasn't helping when he then added the antidepressant, in a few days I was feeling so good the pain was gone.

Years later the doctor said I had to get off the pain pills because they were bad for my heart. So I said I also want off the antidepressants. I have been fine since then. I still get pain but it comes and goes and not as bad as it was. We figure I must have went into a remission.

Fibromyalgia can be terrible I have not forgotten the days of pain.

Good hub.

Ardie profile image

Ardie 5 years ago from Neverland Author

Hello Moonlake and thanks for sharing your experience. I'm sorry it took the doctor a while to figure out what was wrong but it sounds like he found an excellent treatment for you - AND you were later able to get off the medication and still feel better - that's fantastic news :) I wonder if stress factors into your pain and the anti-depressant worked to help you control stress and therefore the pain. I will have to read more about that possibility. Either way, I'm glad you are pain free!

tlmcgaa70 profile image

tlmcgaa70 4 years ago from south dakota, usa

ardie, you say i am an awesome writer, but i have to tell you that your writing way outshines my own. this was a terrific article. for years i suffered, but from what i had no clue. tests were done and the dr told me it was as frustrating for her as it was for me because they could find nothing wrong when something obviously was. then one day i was talking to my oldest sister. she had seen a rhumetologist (sp ?) and been diagnosed with fibro. as she described her symptoms to me, everyting fell into place. however, the first dr did not hide his scorn when i mentioned it. so when i approached the 2nd dr, i told him if he did not believe in fibro, at least let me see a rhumetologist. he said he did not believe or disbelieve, he did not have enough information or experience for either. but he was more than willing to refer me. he is now my primary care physician and the best dr i ever had. i have fibro, epilepsy, IBS, carpal tunnel, asthma and a few other things. all of it combined put me on disability. the fibro saps my strength so some days i can not get out of bed. my pain is worse at night and when it is cold. 20 minutes of exercise wipes me out with muscle fatigue, but i still try to walk at least. my PT explained that fibro muscles react differently to exercise than healthy muscles. what would normally build stronger muscles now breaks them down instead. stretching exercises are awesome though. anyway, thanks for an insightful, informative hub. there is a good chance you have fibro, sleeping now, waiting for something to trigger it. since you know your mother had it, there may be a chance of avoiding it or maybe just lessening its effects. i pray you can avoid it.

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

tlmcgaa70 :( aaw sweetie!!!!! I am so so so sorry to hear you have all these painful health issues. It just isnt fair that good people get these conditions. Thankfully you were able to get the disability. My mom was lucky enough to be able to retire early because her fibro was just so painful and exhausting.

Can you believe how far the docs have come now with the fibro?! We have doctors in the family who had to apologize to my mother for scorning her and doubting her when she would ask them about it. I have always read and I do believe that we are our own best advocates when it comes to healthcare. Stay strong girl!

tlmcgaa70 profile image

tlmcgaa70 4 years ago from south dakota, usa

Ardie, you are sweet, but please do not feel sorry for me. GOD is my strength and joy. my body may be weak, but my spirit is strong. i am content. i know people can die from complications brought about by fibro, but i am not worried, i wont die before my time.

learning they were wrong about fibro was good for many dr.s they should never have been as cruel as they were about it. a doctor of all people should always understand they dont know everything there is to know about the human body and the things that can go wrong with it.

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

tlmcgaa, you are such a strong woman :) someone needs to write a Hub about you and how you cope and remain positive with all the complications. Its amazing what faith can do for a person if its placed in the right direction. Take care and know I will be seeing you around the Hub!

iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

Ardie, I understand more than you know. I am glad I found this piece you have written. Thank you for bringing your Mom's "disorder" to you readers' attention. Voted up for it's importance. :)

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Audra, yes you do understand. It isnt the same but still sad to watch a loved one deal with. Thank you for voting and for the share I saw yesterday ;)

iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

Ardie, it is truly the same in so many ways...I am thinking of you and your Mm.

Ardie profile image

Ardie 4 years ago from Neverland Author

Thanks Audra, you're such a sweetie :)

Trish 4 weeks ago

I was recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia after suffering for several years and had been misdiagnosed as having rheumatoid arthritis and herniated disk was probably the other reason why I was in and out of pain so much.

I was so desparate for pain relief that I decided to try going to a chiropractor because the Dr.s never took me seriously. It was the chiropractor who looked at my paperwork describing the symptoms that told me to gobs know to the Dr.s and have a complete blood lab done and that it sounded like a systemic type disease and he would not touch me until the labs were done and told me it could be Lupus, or Fibromyalgia also. I went back to the Dr and explained what the chiropractor said and it was then that they ran a battery of tests and sent me to a Rhuematologist Dr who turned around and did her own large battery of tests and it was then that I was finally diagnosted withFibro. / Allodynia . If it were not for the Chiropractor, I never would have been properly diagnosed. It's a shame that 3 Dr.s completely overlooked my symptoms as being Fibromyalgia. I simply knew nothing of this disease nor knew of anyone with it, so I had been suffering silently for several years not ever knowing why I was in so much pain and why I had chronic fatigue. I got rid of all the Dr.s who had blown me off and I am now trying to treat myself through experimentation that I feel makes sense to me, but would like to give it more time before I reveal the results and exactly what it is I am doing. I am stilll in the beginning stages of my own treatment and doing lots of medical research and what I am finding out may end up helping others. My biggest dream is to find better treatment than what's out there so it can help others too that suffer so badly with this. I'm going to give it one year before I reveal how I am fighting this disease. So far, the results are much better than what the Dr.s were trying. I am interested in knowing what works for others.

I'll be back in touch and thank you for your stories. There is hope and help if we all talk about what has been so misdiagnosed for so long. With hope and love to you all. Trish

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article