Widespread Pain and Fatigue Common Symptoms
Widespread chronic pain is the most common symptom of fibromyalgia. However, patients typically experience multiple symptoms. Below are the most common:
- Tender points: Tenderness and pain in a number of tender points is a classic symptom. Tender points are often confused with trigger points, which are associated with myofascial pain syndrome. Trigger points are more localized, and tender points are associated with the generalized pain of fibromyalgia.
- Widespread pain: The pain associated with fibromyalgia isn't confined to tender points. It is most often widespread and significant, and may be described as shooting, aching, and burning. Your muscles may throb and twitch.
Most patients experience the worst pain in the morning. Certain factors—such as poor quality sleep, cold or humid weather, anxiety, and too much or too little activity—worsen pain. This pain limits your range of motion, which is one of the reasons fibromyalgia is often grouped with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Fatigue: People with fibromyalgia experience a crippling, intense form of fatigue. It's not fatigue in the sense where you feel tired after a long day at the office. It's such a potent type that many people feel equally as tired when they wake in the morning as they did when they went to bed the night before. For this reason, fibromyalgia is often connected to chronic fatigue syndrome. Such exhaustion tends to aggravate other symptoms, especially pain.
In addition to pain and exhaustion, many fibromyalgia sufferers report having:
- Problems sleeping: Research shows that fibromyalgia patients experience bursts of brain activity in the deep stages of sleep. These disturbances prevent patients from achieving a restful and restorative night's sleep.
- Anxiety and/or depression: Mood disturbances and depression are often associated with fibromyalgia. This could be because emotional trauma is a possible cause of the condition. Also, since the symptoms can be so painful, many fibromyalgia sufferers become socially isolated.
Pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and depression are the most common fibromyalgia symptoms. But you may also experience:
- Difficulty concentrating and remembering—sometimes referred to as the "fibro fog"
- Pain during and after exercise
- Painful menstrual periods
- Sensitivity to touch, light, and sound
- Stiffness when you wake up or when you've been in one position too long
Many conditions overlap with fibromyalgia, though researchers have yet to determine the precise correlation. These common "co-existing" conditions include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and/or constipation)
- Irritable bladder (increased urinary frequency)
- Migraine headaches
- Raynaud's Syndrome (also known as Secondary Raynaud's, this occurs when blood circulation to the surface tissue of the hands and feet is temporarily decreased, usually causing cold or numbness)
- Restless legs syndrome (a nervous system disorder that causes periodic leg and/or arm movement)
- TMJ or temporomandibular joint disorder (characterized by facial muscle pain, usually in front of the ear, temples and/or neck, caused by jaw movements)
It's important to remember that fibromyalgia is a misunderstood condition, and it is often incorrectly diagnosed as a similar disorder (such as rheumatoid arthritis). To ensure that you are correctly diagnosed, pay close attention to all your symptoms—no matter how subtle. You may find it helpful to keep a diary to record day-to-day pain severity. You'll then be better able to accurately talk about your fibromyalgia symptoms with your doctor.