Fibromyalgia is a syndrome of unknown causes that results in lasting, sometimes debilitating, muscle pain and fatigue. Fibromyalgia is also known as fibrositis or fibromyositis.
General Description of Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Pain. The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is pain. The pain can be in one place or all over the body. The exact locations of the pain are called tender points. Fibromyalgia pain is often described as:
- Tender point pain that occurs in local areas, usually in the neck and shoulders. The pain then spreads out from these areas. The pain actually starts at the muscles. The joints are not affected, although many patients feel that the pain is arising from their joints. There are no lumps or nodes associated with these pain points, and no signs of inflammation (swelling). People who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia feel pain in at least 11 of 18 specific tender points. The skin feels more sensitive to the touch.
- Widespread stiffness, burning, and aching pain. The pain also "radiates," or spreads, to nearby areas. Most patients report feeling some pain all the time, but the intensity of the pain may increase or decrease. Many describe it as "exhausting." The pain can vary depending on the time of day, changes in the weather, physical activity or prolonged inactivity, and the presence of stressful situations. The pain is often more intense after sleep is disturbed.
Review Date: 12/27/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.