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Fibromyalgia symptoms

Fibromyalgia causes a number of symptoms including muscle pain & stiffness, and tiredness

Pain & muscle stiffness

Pain, tenderness and stiffness of muscles are the most common and most prominent symptoms of fibromyalgia. These symptoms may be experienced in any part of the body but most commonly affect the neck, shoulders and back. Muscles involved may go into spasm or twitch.

Pain in the neck and shoulders may be associated with mild to severe headaches, as well as the symptoms of nausea and dizziness.

Fibromylagia muscle pain is likely to present all the time although its intensity can fluctuate from day to day, as well as during the course of the day. It is described as an aching or burning pain, and because muscles are painful on movement, muscle and joint stiffness can also be experienced.

Muscle pain and stiffness can be worse when you remain in one position for a long time – for instance, when you wake first thing in the morning. So, being more physically active can improve their symptoms, but for others, even the mildest exercise makes their fibromyalgia muscle pain worse. In addition, symptoms can become worse when you are more anxious or stressed, or with changes in weather conditions.

It is thought that the symptom of pain in those suffering from fibromyalgia arises as a result of an abnormal sensitivity to pain in the muscles and soft tissues. For many, muscles are tender to even the most gentlest of touch and if you happen to hurt yourself with a simple injury, the pain experienced is out of proportion to the severity of the injury and could linger for much longer than normal. See our page on What is Fibromyalgia? for more information.

Sleep problems, tiredness and fatigue

Most people with fibromyalgia complain of being tired easily or tired all the time, experiencing extreme tiredness (known as fatigue). These symptoms appear to have the same cause as that giving rise to pain – an abnormality of the nervous system.

Despite feeling tired, people suffering from fibromyalgia can find that they are unable to sleep well. Some may find trouble falling asleep, others find that they wake easily or seem to be awake all night. Most find that they do not wake feeling rested or refreshed.

Suffering from poor sleep contributes or worsens the symptoms of tiredness and fatigue – a classic vicious circle.

Concentration and memory

Being tired and experiencing poor sleep will not help concentration and memory. People suffering from fibromyalgia may have trouble remembering names and find that they are only able to concentrate for short periods of time. They frequently forget where they have placed items such as keys or wallets and may even have trouble learning new tasks and skills.

Again, the cause of these symptoms is likely to be the malfunctioning of the nervous system.

Digestive symptoms

People suffering from fibromyalgia can experience a whole variety of digestive symptoms. These can include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bloating in the stomach
  • Excessive wind (belching and flatulence)
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation

Symptoms may form a pattern giving rise to a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A common factor in these symptoms appears to be muscle spasm in the digestive tract, although food intolerances may also be responsible for some of these symptoms.

Other fibromyalgia symptoms

People suffering from fibromyalgia may complain of a wide range of other symptoms. These are generally less common than the ones described above and may include:

  • Being anxious, irritable, easily stressed, worrying unnecessarily, low moods or depression. These symptoms could be caused directly by the condition, or be the result of being chronically unwell.
  • Fibromylagia can give rise to the symptoms of cold hands or cold feet. This probably arises as a result of poor circulation caused by spasm of the arteries and an interruption of blood flow to the extremities of the body.
  • Tingling sensations, pins and needles, or numbness to the hands and feet may also be symptoms of fibromyalgia. These symptoms may also be described as having swollen hands or feet (without them being actually swollen). These symptoms probably arise as a result of a combination of poor circulation and inflammation of nerve tissue.
  • Restless legs syndrome is experienced by up to 20% of people suffering from fibromyalgia. This is a condition where the legs feel uncomfortable, in need of constant movement or massage.
  • Some people with fibromyalgia find that they have to go to the toilet more often to urinate. This symptom is seen in both sexes and does not seem to be related to the prostate gland, as with an enlarged prostate in men.