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Overview of fibromyalgia

FibromyalgiaFibromyalgia is a condition that causes tiredness and widespread muscle pain. We don't know what causes fibromyalgia, but it isn't due to damage in the painful parts of your body. Rather, pain signals are sent to your brain despite there being no tissue damage. This is a bit like a fire alarm going off when there's no fire.

Fibromyalgia can have a big impact on your quality of life, and can affect you long term. The good news is that it isn't life-threatening and there are many treatments that can reduce your pain and help you get on with life.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can have many symptoms that can vary with time and be different for everyone. The main symptom is usually chronic (persistent) widespread pain in your muscles. You may also have particular tender spots known as trigger points.

Another common symptom is fatigue, which can vary from mild to severely affecting your ability to function. Other symptoms include poor sleep, problems concentrating and remembering things, headaches and irritable bowel syndrome.

Depression and anxiety can also be part of fibromyalgia.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia

Your GP will ask you about your pain and symptoms, how long you've had them, where you have them, and if you've noticed any patterns. They'll ask you where you're feeling pain and how strong it is.

Because depression and anxiety are more common in people with fibromyalgia, your doctor may ask how you're feeling and if you have any issues with your mental health.

There are no specific tests to confirm fibromyalgia but your GP will examine you to find the painful areas in your body. They may also send you for blood tests to rule out other health conditions that could explain your symptoms.

Treating fibromyalgia

The main treatment for fibromyalgia is learning ways to manage your symptoms, including physical activity, behavioural therapy, relaxation techniques and pacing yourself. See Self-care with fibromyalgia.

Some people find medications helpful.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Self-care with fibromyalgia

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2021.

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