Understanding Fibromyalgia

A common chronic pain condition, fibromyalgia is a pain processing disorder that causes widespread pain throughout the body. The disorder can result in sleep problems, emotional and mental distress, and fatigue. And unfortunately, fibromyalgia can be very difficult to understand. It’s hard to manage and treat, especially when you don’t know its cause, its underlying factors, and what’s happening inside your body. But fibromyalgia is surprisingly common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 4 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia. The National Fibromyalgia Association reports that women account for 75 to 90 percent of those who are diagnosed with the disorder, but the disease can also occur in men and children.

If you’re interested in learning more about fibromyalgia, it’s best to start with the basics.

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What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a poorly understood condition that causes pain and fatigue all over the body in your joints and muscles. It is the second most common disorder that affects the muscles and joints. It does not have a cure, but it is possible to manage your symptoms so that you can live a happy and productive life.

Symptoms and Causes

Doctors are uncertain what causes fibromyalgia, but it is believed that it is caused by signaling problems in your brain when it processes pain signals that are sent from the peripheral nerves. Fibromyalgia is more likely to occur in the following people:

  • Women
  • People who do not regularly exercise
  • People who have arthritis
  • People who suffer from depression or anxiety
  • People who have family members that experience fibromyalgia
  • People who have PTSD

People who have fibromyalgia will generally feel achy all over. The most common symptoms of the disorder include the following:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Nervousness or anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Painful joints
  • Muscle pain or burning sensation in the muscles
  • Low pain threshold

Common Treatment Options

Your doctor may prescribe you different medications for your specific symptoms, including sleep aids, pain relievers, antidepressants, and muscle relaxers. Many people who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia are also told to engage in regular exercises such as yoga or tai chi that is low-impact and of a moderate intensity. You may also benefit from seeing a counselor to help you to deal with emotional issues that you are facing because of your fibromyalgia.

Alternative Treatments

There are a variety of alternative treatments that may help you with managing your fibromyalgia symptoms. You may find that certain supplements such as St. John’s Wort and melatonin may be helpful for encouraging sleep and minimizing depression. Many people benefit from therapeutic massage and acupuncture. You should make sure that you get enough sleep each night. There is some evidence that mindfulness meditation, guided imagery and biofeedback may offer some help to people who suffer from fibromyalgia. If you maintain a healthy weight, you may also help to reduce some of the pain symptoms.

Good nutritional choices may help to relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. You should strive to eat a well-rounded diet that includes lean meats, dairy products, green vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and unsaturated fats. Eating certain foods regularly may help to reduce symptoms of fatigue, including the following:

  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Almonds
  • Tofu
  • Broccoli
  • Steel-cut oatmeal

One study dating from 2000 found that eating a vegan or vegetarian diet may help to relieve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. However, not everyone is able to follow a diet that is that restrictive. If you are unable to do so, try to choose healthy, non-processed foods instead of purchasing boxed and canned goods.


Fibromyalgia does not have a cure, and people who have it may expect to live with chronic, widespread pain for years. However, the disorder does not cause damage to your organs or make you likelier to die earlier. Fibromyalgia is also associated with higher rates of disability for people who suffer from it, but exercise and making healthy choices can minimize your likelihood of becoming disabled from it.

After you have been diagnosed, you may find that your symptoms improve when you undergo some of the treatments. Making the recommended lifestyle changes, exercising more and eating a healthy diet may also help to relieve your pain, improve your mood, decrease fatigue and help you to sleep.

Some people who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia experience significant improvement in their pain symptoms and sleep problems by making these lifestyle changes. It is important for you to keep in mind that you are at risk for developing worsened symptoms if you do not exercise, make healthy eating choices or maintain a healthy weight. With proper treatment and stress-reduction techniques, you may successfully manage your symptoms and enjoy living a long and healthy life despite your fibromyalgia.