7 Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Karen Lee Richards | Mar 30th 2012

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Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain illness characterized by widespread pain, general fatigue and sleep disturbances. Because much of the pain and tenderness experienced with fibromyalgia is felt in the muscles and soft tissues, FM was thought for many years to be a musculoskeletal disorder. However, new brain-imaging techniques and scientific studies are revealing that fibromyalgia is better defined as a central nervous system disorder resulting in abnormal pain processing.

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Fibromyalgia pain is widespread, chronic and can range in intensity from mild to profound. It affects different parts of the body at different times and may manifest itself as muscular aching, throbbing, burning or shooting pain. It can also produce an all-over body ache, described by patients as feeling like they have the flu all the time.

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Long term pain

In addition to suffering from a pain, a patient must have long-standing, widespread pain of at least three months duration.

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Four quadrants of pain

Pain must be present in all four quadrants of the body: pain in the left side of the body, pain in the right side of the body, pain above the waist, pain below the waist. Pain can also be reported in the spine, chest, thoracic spine or low back.

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Fatigue is often the most difficult symptom to describe to others because everyone knows what it feels like to be tired. However, the fatigue of fibromyalgia is so much more than just being tired. It is a pervasive, all-encompassing exhaustion that can interfere with even the most basic and simple daily activities.

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Sleep disorders

Research studies have shown that FM patients spend little or no time in deep, stage-four sleep. Their deep sleep is repeatedly interrupted by bursts of awake-like brain activity. Since this is the stage of sleep during which the body replenishes itself, fibromyalgia patients are not able to get restful, restorative sleep.

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Cognitive difficulties

FM patients often report a number of cognitive functioning problems including memory loss, difficulty concentrating, slurred speech, transposing letters and numbers, inability to think of the word you’re looking for and thinking one thing but saying or writing something different.

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Other conditions

Most fibromyalgia patients also report other symptoms and overlapping conditions, which may include allergies, irritable bowel, migraines, dizziness, sensitivity to cold or heat, depression, restless legs syndrome, environmental sensitivities, impaired balance, dry eyes and mouth, vision problems or problems with memory.