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Fibromyalgia (also known as fibromyalgia syndrome or FMS) is a chronic condition that causes pain in various parts of the body. The pain may be felt in the skin, muscles and joints. Other typical symptoms include sleep problems, exhaustion and trouble concentrating.

Although fibromyalgia has been recognized as an illness for 30 years now, people who have it are still sometimes made to feel like it’s all in their head. Part of the reason for this is that not many people are aware of fibromyalgia, and healthy people find it hard to understand. This often makes it even harder to live with the condition.

Sometimes people who have fibromyalgia are told that the pain can’t be treated. But research has shown that there are indeed treatments that can relieve the typical symptoms. And many people learn to cope better with the pain over time. They find out what activities they can handle – and when to take things easier.

It’s good to know that fibromyalgia isn’t a dangerous condition. It doesn’t affect people’s organs or life expectancy.


Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and nonpainful signals.

The main symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic (long-term) deep muscle pain in different areas of the body. The pain often feels like a pulled muscle or bad muscle ache. It can be unpredictable and vary from one day to the next – for instance, in terms of how severe it is or where in the body it occurs. This makes it difficult for people with fibromyalgia to make plans, from everyday activities such as shopping, to trips or vacations. In some people the symptoms get better for a few hours a day, and they can get things done during that time.

Further typical symptoms of fibromyalgia include poor, restless sleep, tiredness and exhaustion. Many people sometimes have difficulties thinking clearly, remembering things, finding words or concentrating. This is known as “fibro fog” or “brain fog.”


Nowadays we know that fibromyalgia has something to do with the way that pain messages are processed in the brain. People with this condition start feeling pain at lower thresholds. In other words, sensations that would feel normal in other people feel painful in those with fibromyalgia. Scientists believe that several factors are responsible for the development of fibromyalgia. It is thought to be caused by changes in the way that pain messages are processed, which are triggered by a combination of genetic factors and physical or psychological stress.

Fibromyalgia is often referred to as “soft tissue rheumatism.” This name is misleading, though, because the pain doesn’t come from soft tissue (e.g. muscles) and it isn’t a rheumatic disease. What’s more, “soft tissue rheumatism” is used as an umbrella term for a number of different diseases, and isn’t a disease of its own.

Fibromyalgia is often triggered by a stressful event, including physical stress or emotional (psychological) stress. Possible triggers for the condition include: an injury. a viral infection.

Risk factors

Sex. Women are twice as likely to have fibromyalgia as men.

Stressful or traumatic events, such as car accidents, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Repetitive injuries. ...

Illness (such as viral infections)

Family history.


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More hospitalizations. If you have fibromyalgia you are twice as likely to be hospitalized as someone without fibromyalgia.

Lower quality of life. ...

Higher rates of major depression. ...

Higher death rates from suicide and injuries. ...

Higher rates of other rheumatic conditions.


Minimize stress.

Eat a nutritious diet.

Get enough sleep.

Maintain a healthy weight.

Manage arthritis, depression or other conditions.

Stay active and exercise regularly.