Fibromyalgia and Coexisting Conditions

Learn how to treat related problems and gain better control of your fibro.

Medically reviewed in March 2022

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Some health conditions seem to go hand in hand with fibromyalgia—and maybe you've experienced some of them. It's not yet clear whether related problems are truly separate illnesses or symptoms of fibro. Researchers also aren't sure if fibromyalgia causes these other conditions, if the conditions cause fibromyalgia or if they are completely unrelated.

Regardless, to feel your best, you should work with your healthcare provider (HCP) to manage and treat these issues. Fortunately, there are many options for doing just that.

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Sleep Problems

For folks with fibromyalgia, falling asleep, staying asleep and sleeping deeply can be a struggle—so much so that quality slumber is more the exception than the rule. Sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea are common, as well.

If you’ve experienced sleepless nights, you likely know how much harder it is to cope with fibromyalgia pain and fatigue. Talk with your HCP about improving your sleep. It will make it easier to deal with fibromyalgia symptoms.

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Digestive Problems

If you frequently experience or have a heightened sensitivity to nausea, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating or gas, it could indicate irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This is a condition that commonly coexists with fibromyalgia. Some findings suggest that an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine related to fibromyalgia may be a culprit. Or it could be that certain fibromyalgia medications may cause gastrointestinal (GI) side effects. If you have GI troubles, have a conversation with your HCP about possible causes, as well as treatments.

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For many people, tension headaches and migraines seem to occur in tandem with fibromyalgia. It's likely that fibromyalgia pain and tension in the shoulders, upper back and neck help trigger them. These headaches can be severe and may become chronic for some people. The good news is that you may be able to treat or even prevent migraines by discovering what triggers them. You can also work with your HCP to find pain-relief measures that override muscle pain and tenderness.

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Fibromyalgia Fog

If you're having trouble concentrating or remembering newly learned information, you're not alone. This cognitive problem, often referred to as "fibro fog," is something that many people with fibromyalgia experience. It's not clear whether fatigue or a lack of sleep is to blame. It may also be that the distraction of chronic fibromyalgia pain simply makes it hard to focus and remember things.

The good news: Taking certain steps—including exercising, getting adequate sleep or trying cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—may help boost cognitive function. Among CBT’s many benefits, it can help you learn coping skills and address negative thoughts. Talk with your provider about CBT and other options for keeping your mind sharp and clear.

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Depression and Anxiety

It's no surprise that frequent pain and fatigue can mess with your mood. But for some folks, pain-induced mood swings are more than a nuisance. They can lead to depression or anxiety, which are common in people with fibromyalgia.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, intensely sad, numb, hopeless or fearful, ask your HCP what you can do about it. Sometimes antidepressant medications—often prescribed in lower doses to treat fibromyalgia pain—may also help reduce symptoms of anxiety or depression. But there are other options beyond medication available as well.

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Jaw and Face Pain

Although less common than other coexisting conditions, temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) develops in about one-quarter of fibromyalgia patients. It's not entirely clear why, but stress could be a culprit. It causes people to clench and grind their teeth and may lead to spasms in the muscles of the jaw. If you're experiencing pain in the face and jaw area, see your dentist. Reducing stress, applying hot or cold packs and wearing a mouth guard at night can help alleviate TMJ.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) the same thing as fibromyalgia? Welcome to the debate. Despite the lack of consensus, both conditions do share many of the same symptoms, including overwhelming fatigue, sleep disturbances, mood disorders and headaches. Even more confusing, some findings suggest that people with fibromyalgia also develop CFS.

But some experts believe they are separate conditions and that the one symptom that may distinguish fibromyalgia from CFS is the often-significant amount of pain. Fortunately, many of the treatments for fibromyalgia fatigue also help reduce fatigue from CFS.

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