Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, and mental health. What is ailing you?

Chronic, widespread pain is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia (FM), according to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association. As we discussed in our diagnostic page, the term “widespread” is defined as pain on both sides of the body, as well as above and below the waist, considered the four quadrants of the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, the pain associated with fibromyalgia is often described as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months. FM pain has also been described as stabbing and shooting pain, with deep muscular throbbing and twitching, according to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, which coincide with neurological complaints such as numbness, tingling, and burning. The pain and stiffness is often worse in the morning, and are aggravated by things such as cold or humid weather; non-restorative sleep; physical and mental fatigue; excessive physical activity or inactivity; and anxiety and stress.

However, many patients who suffer from fibromyalgia also find common comorbid symptoms that they struggle with every day. Things like fatigue, brain fog (or “fibro fog”), and sleep issues usually make their way into an FM patient’s life, and a doctor’s goal begins in hampering these symptoms to make everyday life easier. On the surface, fibromyalgia can be often considered an “invisible disease,” but the symptoms involved are certainly real, and should be strongly maintained during treatment.

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you might find that you have a combination of the following symptoms, or none at all. Symptoms are often subtle and unique to each patient. That is why it’s important to get diagnosed and start a treatment plan with your doctor that is specific to you.

Fatigue

According to the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association, this common symptom can be one of the most incapacitating for people with fibromyalgia, as patients may feel as though they are “weighted down” and their bodies may be so drained of energy that everyday tasks pose an effort. The fatigue of FM is an all-encompassing exhaustion, alongside poor stamina, that can interfere with occupational, personal, and social activities, according to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, the fatigue people with fibromyalgia experience may be similar to another condition called chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS); many individuals with fibromyalgia also meet criteria for this illness. Other overlapping conditions for patients with this similar collection or connection include somatoform disorders (mental disorders that manifest as physical symptoms) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS, symptoms attributed to low exposures to common chemicals).

Sleep Disorders

The level of severity of sleep problems and disturbances varies from patient to patient. For some, one might have difficulty falling asleep, for others, it’s a light sleep that causes one to be frequently awoken in the middle of the night. According to the Arthritis Foundation, at the very least, most people with fibromyalgia wake up feeling tired, even after sleeping through the night.

According to the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in Stage 4 “deep sleep” of FM patients; individuals with FM are constantly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity, limiting the amount of time they spend in deep sleep. This disruption, according to the Arthritis Foundation, alters bodily functions such as the production of hormones needed to restore muscle tissue, as well as the levels of substances that control how a person perceives pain.

Restless leg syndrome is about 10 times more common in people with fibromyalgia than those without, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Sleep apnea is also present, according to the Mayo Clinic. You can learn more by going to the National Sleep Foundation’s page on the relationship between fibromyalgia and sleep.

Cognitive and Mood Issues

People with fibromyalgia may have difficulty concentrating, organizing, retaining new information, or performing simple mental tasks, according to the Arthritis Foundation. These problems are often most prominent at times of extreme fatigue or anxiety. This symptom is commonly referred to as a special type of brain fog known as "fibro fog."

Depression, as well as anxiety, is also common in some patients with fibromyalgia. Some researchers think there is a link between fibromyalgia and certain forms of depression and chronic anxiety, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

Other Common Symptoms

There are a number of other common symptoms that have been reported in patients with fibromyalgia, including:

Talk to Your Doctor

Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is still a misunderstood condition and often underdiagnosed condition, as it is sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or another similar pain condition. That's why it's important to pay close attention to all of your symptoms—even if they seem subtle or unrelated. Keeping a daily pain diary is a good idea to record your symptoms and help your doctor make a proper diagnosis. With proper treatment, you can manage your widespread pain and comorbid symptoms.

-Additional reporting by Steven Aliano

Updated on: 06/20/18
Continue Reading:
Diagnosing Fibromyalgia
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