Because the classic symptoms of fibromyalgia — widespread muscle and joint pain and fatigue– aren’t very distinctive, the condition is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood. You may not have all of the symptoms, and you may have other medical problems, too.
Since there are no lab or imaging tests for it, when you go to get a diagnosis, your doctor will ask about your symptoms to decide if you have fibromyalgia
Common Symptoms and Related Conditions
Many people with fibro — also called fibromyalgia syndrome or FMS — may have:
- Pain and tender points
- Sleep problems
- Concentration and memory problems, known as “fibro fog”
- Anxiety or depression
- Morning stiffness
- Numbness, and tingling in hands, arms, feet, and legs
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Problems with peeing
- Painful menstrual cramps
If you have fibromyalgia, one of the main symptoms is likely to be widespread pain.This may be felt throughout your body, but could be worse in particular areas, such as your back or neck.The pain is likely to be continuous, although it may be better or more severe at different times.
The pain could feel like:
- an ache
- a burning sensation
- a sharp, stabbing pain
Fibromyalgia can make you extremely sensitive to pain all over your body, and you may find that even the slightest touch is painful.If you hurt yourself – such as stubbing your toe – the pain may continue for much longer than it normally would.
You may hear the condition described in the following medical terms:
- hyperalgesia – when you’re extremely sensitive to pain
- allodynia – when you feel pain from something that shouldn’t be painful at all, such as a very light touch
You may also be sensitive to things such as smoke, certain foods and bright lights. Being exposed to something you’re sensitive to can cause your other fibromyalgia symptoms to flare up.
Fibromyalgia can make you feel stiff. The stiffness may be most severe when you’ve been in the same position for a long period of time – for example, when you first wake up in the morning.It can also cause your muscles to spasm, which is when they contract (squeeze) tightly and painfully.
Fibromyalgia can cause fatigue (extreme tiredness). This can range from a mild tired feeling to the exhaustion often experienced during a flu-like illness.Severe fatigue may come on suddenly and can drain you of all your energy. If this happens, you may feel too tired to do anything at all.
Poor sleep quality
Fibromyalgia can affect your sleep. You may often wake up tired, even when you’ve had plenty of sleep.This is because the condition can sometimes prevent you sleeping deeply enough to refresh you properly.You may hear this described as non-restorative sleep.
Cognitive problems (‘fibro-fog’)
Cognitive problems are issues related to mental processes, such as thinking and learning.
If you have fibromyalgia, you may have:
- trouble remembering and learning new things
- problems with attention and concentration
- slowed or confused speech
If fibromyalgia has caused you to experience pain and stiffness in your neck and shoulders, you may also have frequent headaches.These can vary from being mild headaches to severe migraines, and could also involve other symptoms, such as nausea (feeling sick).
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Some people with fibromyalgia also develop irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).IBS is a common digestive condition that causes pain and bloating in your stomach. It can also lead to constipation or diarrhoea.
Other symptoms that people with fibromyalgia sometimes experience include:
- dizziness and clumsiness
- feeling too hot or too cold – this is because you’re not able to regulate your body temperature properly
- restless legs syndrome (an overwhelming urge to move your legs)
- tingling, numbness, prickling or burning sensations in your hands and feet (pins and needles, also known as paraesthesia)
- in women, unusually painful periods