Fibromyalgia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Options

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain disorder affecting millions worldwide, including an estimated 10 million Americans. It is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in specific areas of the body and can also cause a range of other symptoms. Suffering from fibromyalgia can drastically affect your daily life, and getting this diagnosis is hard; it’s crucial to know what the condition entails and when it’s time to visit your healthcare provider to talk about your concerns.

What is Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic health condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness, as well as extreme fatigue. It is believed to be caused by the amplification of pain signals in the brain and spinal cord, leading to fluctuating periods of symptoms, known as flare-ups. This means fibromyalgia patients have periods with none (and mild) symptoms and periods with many (and severe symptoms). How long these flareups persist is different for each case. These flare-ups can be emotionally and physically overwhelming for those living with fibromyalgia.

Causes & Risk Factors of Fibromyalgia
Medical experts and researchers believe fibromyalgia may be caused by changes in the brain and spinal cord that occur due to repeated nerve stimulation. These changes may involve an abnormal increase in pain-signaling chemicals in the brain and the development of a heightened sensitivity to pain signals in the brain’s pain receptors. The specific factors that contribute to these changes are not fully understood but may include genetic predisposition, infections, and physical or emotional trauma. However, this isn’t the officially determined cause, because there isn’t one yet. What medical experts do know is that there are factors that increase the likelihood of fibromyalgia in people. Risk factors include:

  • Gender; women are more often diagnosed with fibromyalgia
  • Hereditary; immediate family members have already been diagnosed with fibromyalgia
  • Chronic illnesses; having osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, depression, or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Age; people older than 40 are more often diagnosed
  • Stress & trauma

Continue reading on the next page, and find out how you can recognize fibromyalgia and what you should do to get the correct diagnosis.