Fibromyalgia is described as a chronic pain condition but there is a whole lot more to it than that. Fibromyalgia affects multiple systems in the body including the central nervous system and the autonomic nervous system. Therefore, someone with fibromyalgia can have a wide variety of symptoms. Some fibromyalgia symptoms seem so bizarre it can make you feel like you have lost your mind.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia vary from one person to another. Both the severity and presence of fibromyalgia symptoms are unpredictable. Symptoms come and go. There will be times when your symptoms get worse and other times when your symptoms are mild. Also, your particular mix of symptoms may change over time.
Furthermore, your fibromyalgia symptoms may intensify with fatigue, tension, inactivity, changes in the weather, cold or drafty conditions, overexertion, hormonal fluctuations, stress, depression, or other emotional factors.
The Most Common Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Below is a list of the most common fibromyalgia symptoms. Clicking on the link will take you to an article where you can read more about that particular symptom.
You can have any combination of the following symptoms:
- Chronic Pain – Widespread pain is the most prominent symptom. The pain moves around and can be described as aching, burning, throbbing, shooting, tingling, or stabbing. Factors such as weather changes, stress, exercise, or menstrual cycles may cause the pain to increase.
- Fatigue – Some people may experience only mild fatigue, in others it is debilitating. This fatigue is not improved by sleep, which itself is not normal or restful.
- Sleep Disorders – People with fibromyalgia who suffer from fatigue, generally have increased brain arousal at the time when the deepest sleep cycle should be occurring. This prevents the body from getting the restorative benefits of sleep.
- Difficulty Thinking – Fibro fog and brain fog are terms commonly used for the cognitive difficulties that can occur with fibromyalgia. These include confusion, lapses in memory, word mix-ups and difficulty concentrating.
- Chronic headaches – Recurrent migraine or tension-type headaches are seen in about 70% of fibromyalgia patients. Some think, myofascial trigger points in the neck and shoulder muscles may be the primary cause of these chronic headaches.
- Dizziness and Balance Problems – Dizziness, light-headedness, or impaired coordination are quite common in fibromyalgia. Nearly 70 percent of people with fibromyalgia experience dizziness.
- Digestive Problems – Problems effecting the stomach, colon and intestines are reported in 70% of people with fibromyalgia. Several studies have demonstrated an elevated comorbidity of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) among patients with fibromyalgia. Symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas and bloating, nausea, heartburn, acid reflux, constipation and diarrhea are reported.
- Anxiety – It is quite common to feel anxious when you have fibromyalgia. Feelings of fear or anxiety are the normal physiological response to stressful situations, and dealing with chronic pain is a very stressful situation.
- Depression – Depression commonly coexists in chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia. Pain worsens symptoms of depression, and the depression worsens feelings of pain. It becomes a vicious cycle.
- Skin Problems – It is estimated that 70 to 80 percent of people with fibromyalgia have some sort of skin-related symptoms. Some common complaints include dry skin, itching and burning skin, rashes, mottled skin and bruising.
- Skin Pain – Painful skin is called Allodynia. It is a fairly rare type of pain and is usually felt as a burning sensation. Allodynia is only associated with a handful of conditions which include fibromyalgia, complex regional pain syndrome, neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia (shingles) and migraine.
- Restless Legs Syndrome – A neurologic disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs and/or an irresistible urge to move your legs, usually at night, disrupting sleep.
- Heightened Sensitivities – People with fibromyalgia often report an increased sensitivity to odors, noise, bright lights and/or certain foods.
- Temperature Sensitivity – You may be hot one minute and cold the next. Profuse sweating, night sweats, intolerance to cold: muscles contract in response to exposure to cold – cold weather, cold drafts, ice packs etc. Extreme sensitivity to seasonal changes.
- Irritable Bladder/Frequent Urination – Incontinence (bladder leakage), bladder spasms, and interstitial cystitis (bladder pain) are common for someone with fibromyalgia.
- Pelvic discomfort – May be experienced as pelvic pain, painful menstrual periods, or painful sexual intercourse.
- Muscle Spasms – May feel like tight knots or charlie horse or lumps. Muscles contract but do not release properly. Muscles apparently may contract without receiving stimulus from the brain.
- Temporomandibular disorders (TMD) – TMD causes tremendous jaw-related face and head pain. It involves the two joints that attach the lower jaw to the skull. These two joints open and close the mouth, and are located directly in front of your ears.
- Vision problems – The effects of fibromyalgia on the eyes include difficulty focusing on nearby objects, blurred vision and/or double vision. Eyes may be very dry at times and water at other times. Fibromyalgia causes light sensitivity, some people with fibromyalgia may have trouble driving at night and some must wear dark glasses anytime they go outdoors.
- Hearing Problems – Fibromyalgia is frequently associated with ear-related symptoms such as a feeling of ear fullness, earache, and tinnitus (ringing in the ear). Low-frequency hearing loss appears to be common after a prolonged history of fibromyalgia. Any many of us are hypersensitive to sounds.
- Allergies – Severe nasal and other allergies and patients may also have a deep sinus infection.
- Heart related symptoms – Rapid, fluttery, irregular heartbeat. Mitral valve prolapse (heart murmur) a congenital abnormality in the mitral valve allows it to flop. Costochondritis, a condition which causes pain around the breast bone and ribcage.
- Twitching – Can be muscular – may experience eye twitch or a facial twitch.
- Weight change – Usually weight gain. May “feel” swollen even if inflammation and swelling are not actually present. Weight gain may also be due to various medications used to treat fibro.
- Hair Loss – Hair may come out in great “gobs” when combed or brushed. May notice hair coming out when it is being washed as well.
Coping with Fibromyalgia Symptoms
The key to coping with the unpredictable nature of fibromyalgia is understanding how the condition affects you personally.
Because fibromyalgia symptoms may change day to day and hour to hour, it can be helpful to keep track of the everyday things that have an impact on your pain. Over time you may be able to see certain patterns of daily activities or situations that you can change to help you better manage and reduce your symptoms.