Fibromyalgia is a chronic, long-term illness. It causes all-over muscle pain, joint pain and fatigue. The pain may come and go. There’s no known cause, although certain factors such as stress and genetics may predispose someone toward the disease. Although there isn’t a cure, medications, lifestyle changes and other therapies offer relief.
An estimated 4 million Americans (2% of the U.S. population) have fibromyalgia.
Anyone can get fibromyalgia, including children. Women are twice as likely as men to have fibromyalgia. Symptoms often appear during middle age. Up to 20% of patients who suffer from other chronic disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and sarcoidosis can also have fibromyalgia.
Medical experts don’t know why some people develop fibromyalgia. It sometimes runs in families. Certain conditions or events may bring on symptoms, such as:
Certain things can bring on fibromyalgia symptoms (a flare-up) especially those that increase the level of stress. These include:
There isn’t a test that definitively diagnoses fibromyalgia. The diagnosis of fibromyalgia is clinical based on your symptoms and physical exam. Basic blood tests are recommended to exclude other causes of fatigue such as anemia or thyroid disease. The diagnosis relies on your family and medical history combined with your symptoms.
People with fibromyalgia tend to be deeply sensitive to pain that wouldn’t bother most people. Your provider may assess the number of tender points, or areas, on your body that are highly sensitive to touch. For a diagnosis, widespread pain should be present for three months along with fatigue and other symptoms such as memory and concentration difficulties, poor sleep, symptoms of depression and irritable syndrome.
There isn’t a cure for fibromyalgia. These medications and lifestyle changes can improve symptoms:
Fibromyalgia isn’t life-threatening. Still, it can be challenging to live with chronic pain and fatigue. If fibromyalgia isn’t treated your work and daily activities are more difficult to do.
Because experts don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, you can’t really take steps to prevent it. Still, it’s always a good idea to:
Most people who have fibromyalgia can ease symptoms with medications and lifestyle changes. Sometimes symptoms go away after you take steps to reduce stress. Symptoms may return during stressful times. A small number of people experience pain or fatigue so severe that they’re unable to work.
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience severe:
If you have fibromyalgia, you may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Fibromyalgia symptoms — chronic fatigue and all-over body pain — can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being. Self-care, such as exercise, a healthy diet, improved sleep and stress relief, can help you enjoy a better quality of life. Talk to your healthcare provider about the best ways to make these changes. Your provider can also recommend medications to manage symptoms.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/01/2020.