FibromyalgiaFibromyalgia Symptoms

Let’s Talk About the Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Pain—everywhere—is the calling card of this chronic disease. Here’s what else to keep an eye out for.

    Our Pro PanelFibromyalgia Symptoms

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in fibromyalgia to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Andrea Nicol, M.D.

    Andrea L. Nicol, M.D.Comprehensive pain management physician, Assistant Professor

    University of Kansas Medical Center
    Kansas City, KS
    Shirin Peters, M.D. headshot.

    Shirin Peters, M.D.Internal Medicine Specialist, Medical Director for Bethany Medical Clinic

    Mount Sinai Beth Israel, NYU Langone Health Tisch Hospital
    New York
    Manisha Mittal, M.D.

    Manisha Mittal, M.D.Rheumatologist, rheumatology director, Graduate Medical Education

    St. Agnes Medical Center
    Fresno, CA

    Frequently Asked QuestionsFibromyalgia Symptoms

    How is fibromyalgia different than arthritis?

    Good question! While both conditions cause pain in the joints, ligaments, and soft tissues of the body, arthritis is an inflammatory and sometimes autoimmune disorder, while doctors believe that fibromyalgia is a unique pain syndrome. That said, a significant percent of people who have autoimmune conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis also go on to develop fibromyalgia.

    Do people with fibro feel pain that’s not there?

    Not exactly. But pain signals in people with fibro get messed up. Allodynia, one fibro symptom, causes people to feel very slight sensations at 1000 decibels. For instance, a piece of paper resting on your arm can feel like bone-crushing pain. In hyperalgesia, another symptom, an event like having your foot stepped on goes from uncomfortable to unbearable in people with fibro.

    There may be a biological explanation, but we know for sure is that for anyone struggling with chronic pain, the future can look bleak. We also know that people with depression are more prone to feelings of poor physical health, so in essence, it becomes a feedback loop: Fibro makes you feel hopeless, leading to depression, and depression make you feel fibro pain more acutely.

    Who is at risk for fibro?

    Fibromyalgia affects about 10 million Americans, or 2% to 4% of the population. Roughly four women are diagnosed with it for every one man, and it’s more common in middle-age people (although children, young adults, and the elderly can have it, too). While anyone can get fibro, people with a preexisting autoimmune disorder seems especially susceptible.

    Erin L. Boyle

    Erin L. Boyle


    Erin L. Boyle, the senior editor at HealthCentral from 2016-2018, is a freelance medical writer and editor.