Fibromyalgia is a condition that can produce chronic pain (lasting more than 3 months) throughout your body. Learn more about the condition, its causes & symptoms, and what to do about it.

What is fibromyalgia?

Some people will develop pain conditions that are not limited to one area of the body. Fibromyalgia is a type of chronic widespread pain disorder. Patients with fibromyalgia experience pain and tenderness in multiple areas throughout their body.

What causes fibromyalgia?

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Some people will develop it after a physically or emotionally stressful or traumatic event. Some link it to a prolonged injury and others to an illness.


Why do people with fibromyalgia have this pain?

The exact reason why people with fibromyalgia have chronic pain is not fully understood. New research has shown that people with fibromyalgia transmit pain to the brain differently than people without the condition. The pain transmission system is more active and these people will experience pain from things that don’t normally cause pain. Even a hug from a loved one can cause pain in a person with fibromyalgia.


How common is fibromyalgia and who develops it?

About 3 to 6 % of Canadians will have fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia can happen in any person and age group, but it is more common in women between 30-55 years-old. It is reported in women around four times more often than in men.

What is the impact of fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia has a large impact on the person and on the entire healthcare system. People with fibromyalgia have a higher number of missed worked days and see their doctors more often than people without the condition.
People with fibromyalgia have a lower quality of life and many are unable to work. This condition can impact not only the person’s health but also have a large impact on their income potential and relationships with friends and family.


What are the most common symptoms?

People with fibromyalgia have a variety of symptoms. Each person can have slightly different symptoms but they are usually one or a combination of the following:
  • Fatigue - Many people with fibromyalgia have severe exhaustion and this can affect how quick they can think
  • Insomnia - Over 90% of people with fibromyalgia have trouble sleeping. Even if they do sleep, most don’t have sleep that restores them
  • Blues - About 1/3 of people with fibromyalgia have depression and/or anxiety. About 40-50% of people with fibromyalgia have a history of depression
  • Rigid muscles - Muscle stiffness occurs in over 75% of people with fibromyalgia.
  • Ow - Pain is the most common symptom of fibromyalgia


Do people with fibromyalgia have other conditions?

Many people with fibromyalgia will commonly have depression and other painful conditions. Some of the most common conditions that occur with fibromyalgia:
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Interstitial cystitis - Bladder pain
  • Headaches
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • “Fibro fog” - difficulty concentrating, memorizing, feeling mentally slowed down
  • Sensitive to many different chemicals

How do doctors diagnose fibromyalgia?

The diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be challenging for doctors. There is not a specific test that can be done to determine if a person has fibromyalgia. To diagnose a person with fibromyalgia the doctor will ask questions about pain and other symptoms.
In 2010 the American College of Rheumatology developed some criteria to help doctors diagnose fibromyalgia. A person must have these symptoms for at least 3 months to qualify for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.


I might have fibromyalgia, what should I do?

Any person that is experiencing the symptoms of fibromyalgia should make an appointment to talk to their doctor. A person can help their doctor by bringing in information that your doctor can use to make a diagnosis. The more information that your doctor has, the easier it will be to make a proper diagnosis of what is causing the pain and other symptoms.


Important information

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