Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

While fibromyalgia symptoms can be debilitating, they are not life threatening. Symptoms of fibromyalgia vary, depending on the person's stress level, physical activity, and other factors (e.g., time of day, weather conditions). Pain is the primary symptom and is found in virtually 100 percent of cases.

Fibromyalgia pain and tenderness occurs in certain areas of the body when pressure is applied. These areas, which are called tender points, include the following:

  • Back of the head
  • Elbows
  • Hips
  • Knees
  • Neck
  • Upper back
  • Upper chest

Fibromyalgia pain can be aching, burning, throbbing, and can move around the body (migratory pain). Many patients also experience muscle tightness, soreness, and spasms. People with fibromyalgia may be unable to carry out normal daily activities, even though muscle strength is not affected. The pain is often worse in the morning, improves throughout the day, and worsens at night.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition and symptoms may be constant or intermittent for years or even a lifetime.

Other common symptoms of fibromyalgia include the following:

  • Sleep disorders (e.g., restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea)
  • Gastrointestinal (e.g., abdominal pain, bloating, gas, cramps, alternating diarrhea and constipation)
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Chronic headaches (may include facial and jaw pain)
  • Heightened sensitivity to odors, loud noises, bright lights, various foods, medicines, and changes in weather
  • Painful menstrual periods (dysmenorrhea) and painful sexual intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Frequent urination, strong urge to urinate, and painful urination (dysuria)
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate, and shortness of breath
  • Sensation of swelling (edema) in the hands and feet, even though swelling is not present

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015