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How to tell if you have Fibromyalgia?

Updated on March 21, 2013

Do you experience any of the following symptoms on a regular basis?

  • Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms or tightness, weakness in the limbs, and leg cramps
  • Moderate or severe fatigue and decreased energy
  • Insomnia or waking up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep
  • Stiffness upon waking or after staying in one position for too long
  • Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and performing simple mental tasks
  • Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation alternating with diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Tension or migraine headaches
  • Jaw and facial tenderness
  • Sensitivity to one or more of the following: odors, noise, bright lights, medications, certain foods, and cold
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Increase in urinary urgency or frequency (irritable bladder)
  • Reduced tolerance for exercise and muscle pain after exercise
  • A feeling of swelling (without actual swelling) in the hands and feet
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Dizziness

If you are experiencing many of the above list with no obvious medically diagnosed explanation for them you could be suffering from fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia, also known as fibromyalgia syndrome, fibromyositis and fibrositis, is frequently misdiagnosed in spite of being the most common arthritis related condition after osteoarthritis. Fibromyalgia causes the body to ache all over and additionally can cause chronic fatigue, restless sleep, depression, irritable bowel syndrome and painful period cramps, as well as many other symptoms. Roughly one quarter of fibromyalgia sufferers are unable to continue working.

Unfortunately it takes an average of five years for a patient suffering from fibromyalgia to be correctly diagnosed, which means five years of discomfort, (plus numerous medical tests) without finding out the real cause. Many of the common symptoms of fibromyalgia are similar to those of other conditions, leading to Doctors to misdiagnose the problem.

To eventually be correctly diagnosed the patient needs to exhibit widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum of three months and tenderness or pain in at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points when pressure is applied. (see diagram right).

"Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions. The disorder affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. and an estimated 3-6% of the world population. While it is most prevalent in women —75-90 percent of the people who have FM are women —it also occurs in men and children of all ethnic groups. The disorder is often seen in families, among siblings or mothers and their children. The diagnosis is usually made between the ages of 20 to 50 years, but the incidence rises with age so that by age 80, approximately 8% of adults meet the American College of Rheumatology classification of fibromyalgia."

(Quoted from )

People with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases are particularly likely to develop fibromyalgia.


So let's assume that after years of pain, sleepless nights, twitching limbs, a 'woolly' mind (especially in the mornings), irritable bowel syndrome, etc etc, you have finally been told by your Doctor that he believes you may have fibromyalgia.

'Great' you think, 'now I can finally get the correct treatment and start living my life normally again'.

Sorry, Wrong!

The problem with fibromyalgia is that it is very hard to treat, not least of which because the aches and pains that the body appears to be suffering from are largely caused by the malfunctions of the nervous system in the way it processes information. There are medications that may help to alleviate the symptoms to a degree, but there is no actual cure for the condition, (as of January 2010).

Medications that are showing promise include:

Pregabalin (Lyrica).This is the first medication, which has received FDA approval specifically for Fibromyalgia.

Duloxetine (Cymbalta). This was the second medication to be approved.

Milnacipran (Savella). This was the third medication to be approved.

Other FM medications are currently being developed, and may soon receive FDA approval to treat fibromyalgia.



Other Medications that can help with specific symptoms include:

Amitriptyline/Elavil. Most tested agent in FM. Helpful for Mild Pain and sleep.

Clonazepam/Klonopin, Clonapam. Useful for Anxiety, Restless leg syndrome and sleep.

Dicyclomine hydrochloride/Bentyl. Beneficial for Irritable bowel syndrome/pain.

Duloxetine hydrochloride/ Cymbalta. Good for depression, sleep and pain.

Growth Hormone (e.g., Nutropin). Helpful for Depression, fatigue, pain and quality of life.

Zonisamide/Zonegran. Useful for Neuropathic pain.

There are many more drugs that can assist in the specific symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, and I recommend this site for further examples of these drugs.

Yes, fibromyalgia can be managed to a degree, but it needs to be treated differently than a standard disease. Remember, it is a syndrome, not a disease.

Specified Tender Points

Other Beneficial Lifestyle Changes.

Sleep. Try to keep to a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at the same times each day. Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is warm, free from such distractions as noise, telephones, televisions etc. Avoid stimulants before bed such as caffeine, alcohol and sugar. Don't eat immediately prior to attempting to sleep and try relaxation exercises such as meditation to aid good quality sleep.

Other Options. Try taking up yoga or joining a fibromyalgia support group. Acupuncture can help, aromatherapy, massage and water therapy can also be beneficial. There are many other alternative treatments you might want to consider that are easily found if you research the Internet on the subject.

Long Term Prognosis

Right now there is no overall cure for fibromyalgia, but the medications that are available to control the individual symptoms are getting better and better. Specific medications to treat fibromyalgia are in development and research papers being written have increased dramatically since 1990.


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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks for that nifwlseirff, I must ask my Mum if they have tried her on Gabapentin yet, and if not I will suggest she speaks to her doctor about giving it a try.

    • nifwlseirff profile image

      Kymberly Fergusson 4 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

      I was diagnosed with fibro about 6 years ago, after years of trying to find the source of various specific and generalised pain, inflammation, fatigue and neurological 'quirks'.

      Gabapentin (Neurontin) has worked well for me, allowing me to keep working. It is a different chemical compound from pregabalin (Lyrica) -- Lyrica did nothing for me when I tried it. I think I must have tried 5 or 6 different medications, including tricyclic antidepressants (which it turns out I can't tolerate).

      Really, it's trial and error to see what medications and therapies work best - fibro patients can be quite different, one single treatment will not work for everyone. It's definitely a battle with patience to find what works!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Jewels, I totally agree :)

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 7 years ago from Australia

      Good on you. The more that get this message the better.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Jewels, great to see you here, and you make a very valid point. I covered the problems with such substances as aspartame in my hub on artificial sweeteners, found at:

      Thanks for the feedback :)

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 7 years ago from Australia

      And have you seen the link between fibromyalgia and aspartame? All that diet food is poison which half of America is now eating!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thank you akirchner. I really hope this has helped and that at least now you know what to look out for. My Mum has just been given a drug called Gabapentin to help with hers. It is essentially the same as the FDA approved drug Lyrica, but cheaper for Doctors to prescribe. So far it has really helped, but it does leave her a bit drowsy.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 7 years ago from Central Oregon

      Totally interesting as I've been trying to figure out if that is what I have! Great hub and great information. As in so many things, it would be so simple if they had but a test to say yes/no but your hub is so well written and well delineated I think I may be able to diagnose myself!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Ann, hope you do come back and read this again as it explains in some detail that fibromyalgia is no respecter of age, and can even effect children.

      Thanks for commenting and visiting, (other way round)

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 7 years ago from Virginia

      Excellent hub...I should read it when I am not so tired so I'll be bookmarking it and coming back but I had been diagnosed years ago and thought I was too young...But sickness is really no respecter of age..So like I said I'll be back and perhaps have more comments!!!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Momma Mia, I totally believe this condition is real, not least of which because my Mum is the most sane person I know, and even her doctor has told her this is what she is suffering from. I hope that a cure will be found, or at least a pill can be developed that will largely alleviate the symptoms. Things do look promising on this front, so I guess it will be a case of wait and see for now.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Momma Mia profile image

      Momma Mia 7 years ago from North Carolina

      This article is very complete!! Thanks to you and many like you that are willing to see this as the nervous system condition it really is ! Still many doctors will diagnose this and Multiple chemical sensitivities...just to add that many doctors feel this is a form of mental illness! UGHHH Thankyou Misty! there is hope no??

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks fishtiger, my Mum suffers dreadfully from it and it is so sad to see when I remember how active she used to be when we played badminton, walked all over North Wales etc.

    • fishtiger58 profile image

      fishtiger58 7 years ago from Momence, Illinois

      I have a friend with Fibro and another friend with Multiple System Atrophy ( I wrote a hub about it) and they are both in their very early 50's and it breaks my heart to see them both in such pain. Thanks for a great article.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Great info Nell, my best friend has a hyper-thyroid problem so I get where you are coming from. Thanks for the really sensible and useful feedback :)

      Hi Cojaq, I too hope this is enlightening, as so many of these symptoms are similar to other medical conditions, hence the fact fibromyalgia is so often missed by Doctors, and therefore treated as hypochondria!

    • cojaqmarketing profile image

      cojaqmarketing 7 years ago from Carmel, Indiana

      Very informative and hopefully enlightening.


    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 7 years ago from England

      Hi, misty, I read your hub with interest because i have had what the docs called myalga a few years ago. But they were wrong. A lot of what you have listed as symptoms above are typical of a low or high thyroid. from the list it seems to be more low thyroid 'hypothyroid' compared to 'hyperthyroid' I have had both very badly. In a nutshell too high, could have died, too low could have died! and when they were trying to get my very high thyroid down the tablets called Carbamazole caused the above pain in arms legs back and neck, to such an extent i could not get out of bed, I had to change the tablets, Doc did'nt know, so I demanded them to do it. he had no idea why they were reacting to me like that. so when I changed to another set, it was better but when I went to low, I had the symptoms above. I could'nt think, it was as if my brain was not connecting to my eyes or thoughts i could'nt see properly or think. Add the above and you will see the pain. my point is, whoever gets this, should always be checked for thyroidism. People have died because they have had an Operation for something and nobody knew they had a bad thyroid. it can kill. As my doc. said, go home, sit down and don't move until your thyroid is lower' always check it, and any tablet that you are taking for anything. side effects of different tablets for different things can cause this. sorry for going on a bit, but it scared the hell out of me! cheers nell

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Kimberly, thanks so much for commenting and for the thumbs up. How coincidental that you have this and I was oblivious when I wrote the hub. I am glad you approve of how I have put it across.

      Hi Pam, Great and important feedback from you, and I absolutely agree that if there is any excess of symptoms or of other unexplained symptoms, a second opinion is a vital precaution to take.

      Thanks for the feedback and the offer of information for anyone that needs more.

    • BEAUTYBABE profile image


      Hi Misty, you have brought to light some very valid points about Fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed with this for six years and because I was getting worse, and also other symptoms as well, I was seen by another Neurologist, who diagnosed MSA Multiple Systems Atrophy. This is a neurodegenerative disease which is similar to Parkinsons Disease, but with with a few other variations as well. I am writing this because I want to draw your's and any other hubbers attention , to this disease. My diagnosis was wrong, how many other people could be in the same boat? I have to asked myself, could there be others that have written in response to your hub, that have also been diagnosed incorrectly. If anyone is not getting worse, or more symptomatic then there probably is no need for concern. However, if you are more symptomatic, or have other unexplained symptoms, then I would advise you very strongly to get a second opinion. If you are found to have MSA it is better to find out now so that you can give yourself time to come to terms with it. The bad news is that it doesn't have a cure, but they tell me, they are working on it. If you are worried, I would be more than happy for anyone to contact me privately to get more information regarding MSA, and you or anyone else can go from there. Please, do not hesitate to contact me if you are worried. God Bless Misty and take care of yourself. As I said great hub love BB Pam.

    • profile image

      lyricsingray 7 years ago

      Misty, I've had it for years, just awful. You have done a fantastic job at detailing the disease and explaining it given it is so complicated to begin with. Really great job. Thumbs up from me xo Kimberly

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 7 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Lorlie, yes it most definitely is real as my Mum has been diagnosed with it and suffers dreadfully from the pain no matter how many tablets she takes. Really appreciate your input too and sorry you have suffered from the pains associated with fibromyalgia.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 7 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Hi Misty-

      I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia around 2 years ago, but it seems most of my pain was from degenerative arthritis in my hips. Thanks so much for writing this Hub-many people consider this condition a 'catch-all' for hypochondriacs. I still have some of the general pain, and it is real.