What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a common and complex chronic pain disorder that causes bodywide -- head to toe -- pain and tenderness to touch. Along with other symptoms, pain and tenderness wax and wane over time. Fibromyalgia affects people physically, cognitively, and socially. Approximately 10 million Americans (2-4%) have FM with a ratio of about eight to two, women over men. It occurs in people of all ages, including children. The literal translation of the word fibromyalgia is pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. But FM is much more than pain and presents with many other symptoms that vary from person to person. 
Dawn Marcus
The term fibromyalgia comes from the Latin root "fibro," meaning fibrous or connective tissue, and the Greek roots "myo," meaning muscles and "algos," meaning pain. So, fibromyalgia literally means a pain that affects the muscles and connective tissues. This pain is likely to be widespread, because the body is basically made up of muscles and connective tissue.
The Woman's Fibromyalgia Toolkit: Manage Your Symptoms and Take Control of Your Life

More About this Book

The Woman's Fibromyalgia Toolkit: Manage Your Symptoms and Take Control of Your Life

The Woman's Fibromyalgia Toolkit tells readers what they need to know to take control of fibromyalgia symptoms. It includes step-by-step instructions for using effective non-drug treatments,...
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Fibromyalgia is a painful medical disorder that affects your muscles, joints, and tendons. The pain may be especially bad when pressure is applied to "tender points." These may be on the back of your head, elbows, shoulders, knees, hip joints and around your neck. Fibromyalgia often causes fatigue, and makes it difficult to sleep, which makes fatigue even worse. Your doctor can diagnose fibromyalgia. 

Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects the muscles and soft tissue. It's considered the most common arthritis-related illness after osteoarthritis, and its hallmark symptoms include chronic pain in the muscles, fatigue and sleep problems. It can be difficult to diagnose because there is no single test for the ailment, which is why doctors have to rule out other conditions before diagnosing fibromyalgia.

More than 12 million Americans have fibromyalgia. Most of them are women ranging in age from 25 to 60. Women are 10 times more likely to get this disease than men.

Fibromyalgia is an arthritis-like ailment that causes intense pain everywhere—the back, neck, arms, and legs. In fact, if there are not many areas of pain involved, then it is not typical fibromyalgia.

The severity of the pain may vary from day to day. However, in most causes, the pain is relentless, with fatigue that can be as severe and limiting as the pain itself. With fibromyalgia there is also morning stiffness, poor sleep (often, the pain awakens the sufferer), anxiety and depression, difficulty concentrating, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome with abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, urinary burning and frequency, restless legs, mouth dryness, and swelling and tingling in the hands, along with the typical trigger points over the body. For most patients with fibromyalgia, the pain and fatigue interfere with their career, their family responsibilities, and all their personal relationships. The patients’ frustration is made worse by the fact that they do not look sick or injured, so most family and friends simply do not understand why there is so much limitation and pain.
Diet for a Pain-Free Life: A Revolutionary Plan to Lose Weight, Stop Pain, Sleep Better and Feel Great in 21 Days, ADA...sound nutritional advice...do-able, delicious..a godsend to pain sufferers.

More About this Book

Diet for a Pain-Free Life: A Revolutionary Plan to Lose Weight, Stop Pain, Sleep Better and Feel Great in 21 Days, ADA...sound nutritional advice...do-able, delicious..a godsend to pain sufferers.

Do you wake up each morning aching with joint or muscle pain? Have you been trying to lose stubborn belly fat for years? Do you wish you could be active without pain medications? Look no further:...
Randolph P. Martin, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Fibromyalgia is actually a common syndrome, not disease, with a cluster of signs and symptoms without an identifiable cause. Watch this video to learn more from Dr. Randy P. Martin about fibromyalgia.

Jacob Teitelbaum
Integrative Medicine

Chronic fatigue syndrome and its painful cousin fibromyalgia represent an energy crisis where the body is spending more energy than it is able to make. When this occurs, the person "blows a fuse" called the hypothalamus - a major control center in the brain which regulates sleep, hormonal function, temperature, and other critical functions. Decreased energy in the muscles also results in chronic muscle shortening and pain (think writer’s cramp or even rigor mortis).

Piedmont Heart Institute

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes aches and pain all over the body, and involves "tender points" on specific places on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs that hurt when pressure is put on them.

This information is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

Johns Hopkins Medicine
Fiibromyalgia is a common, chronic, generalized pain syndrome of unknown origin. Although pain and tenderness are its defining features, patients also complain of fatigue, sleep disturbance, non-cardiac chest pain, depression and poor concentration. 75 percent of patients also report chronic fatigue, which contributes to the disability and impairment that some patients face.
Fibromyalgia can have a severe impact on patients. Chronic pain can lead to difficulty doing routine physical tasks. One patient referred to it as "a body toothache that stays with me all the time."
An estimated 20 to 40 percent of patients with fibromyalgia experience mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. This is not surprising given the multiple symptoms and difficulty with diagnosis.
Nicholas D Suite
Nicholas D Suite on behalf of MDLIVE
Fibromyalgia is a painful and sometimes disabling syndrome whose cause is not fully known. It tends to affect more women than men, and is characterized by body aches and pain, fatigue, depression, and inability to resume normal function. For many years it was thought to be a purely psychiatric illness, related to depression. Recently there has been more thoughtful attention paid to understanding its increasing prevalence and ways to treat it. Now, the consensus in the medical field is that there are both physical and psychological components to this illness, and that it can be managed by a combination of medication, physical therapy/exercise, and psychological support. The cause of fibromyalgia remains elusive however, but various studies have looked at the possibility of chronic viral infections, prior physical or emotional trauma, and depression. Thankfully the medical community is taking this condition more seriously, and significant advances in treatment options are expected in the future, as more research is conducted.
Challenge America
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by widespread (on both sides of the body and above and below the waist) stiffness and pain lasting longer than three months. Additional symptoms may include abnormal pain, headaches,  numbness in hands and feet, sleep disturbance, fatigue and psychological distress. More Gulf War veterans have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia than non-Gulf War veterans.

Continue Learning about Fibromyalgia

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.