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Fibromyalgia: What it is, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and a painful sensation to pressure at specific points (trigger points). This pain resembles that originating in the joints, but it is not a joint disease. The word fibromyalgia (FM) means pain in the muscles and fibrous tissue (ligaments and tendons).

It is a frequent disease, suffered by between 2% and 6% of the population, especially women. It can appear as the only alteration (primary fibromyalgia) or associated with other diseases (concomitant fibromyalgia).


In general terms, we can say that fibromyalgia consists of an anomaly in the perception of pain so that stimuli usually are not perceived as painful.

In addition to a number of health problems in the body like chronic body pain, fibromyalgia can cause general stiffness, especially when getting up in the morning, and a sensation of poorly defined swelling in the hands and feet. Poorly defined tingling may also be noted that affects diffusely, especially the hands.

The person who seeks the doctor’s help usually says “everything hurts”, but other times it is referred to as burning or discomfort. Pain often varies depending on the time of day, activity level, weather changes, lack of sleep, or stress.

In addition to pain, fibromyalgia causes many other symptoms: 90% of patients have tiredness, 70-80% sleep disorders, and up to 25% have anxiety or depression. Symptoms such as poor tolerance to exertion, the sensation of generalized stiffness (especially when getting up in the morning), the sensation of poorly defined inflammation in the hands and feet, tingling that diffusely affects the hands, headaches, pain in the menstruation, irritable colon, dry mouth and eyes.


The cause of this disturbance is not known, but many factors are thought to be involved. Some people develop the disease with no apparent cause and in others, it starts after identifiable processes such as a bacterial or viral infection, a car accident or in other cases it appears after another known disease limits quality of life (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, etc.).

These triggering agents do not seem to cause the disease, but rather what they probably do is awaken it in a person who already has a hidden abnormality in the regulation of their responsiveness to certain stimuli.


Fibromyalgia is recognized as a syndrome, which means that the rheumatologist identifies it when he finds alterations in a certain person that are consistent with those previously established by experts for diagnosis.

It is very important to establish a firm diagnosis because it saves a pilgrimage in search of diagnoses or treatments, it improves the anxiety caused by feeling bad without knowing why, and it allows setting realistic goals.


The disease has no definitive cure. The objective of the treatment is to improve the pain and treat the accompanying symptoms, in order to achieve a great improvement in the quality of life of these patients.

It is important to know the nature of the disease and what are the triggering factors for flare-ups, treatment of associated psychological disorders, if any (anxiety and depression) and mild daily physical exercise.

It is important to establish the best conditions for restful sleep. Have a bed that is neither excessively soft nor excessively hard, as well as a low pillow. Avoid the intake of stimulating substances and drinks, extreme temperatures and noise and lights.

Pain relievers partially reduce pain and should only be taken if your doctor tells you to. Other groups of drugs used are muscle relaxants that must be taken in short batches and some antidepressant drugs that increase serotonin levels and improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia, but all of them must be supplied under medical prescription.


Despite being benign in nature because it does not produce physical sequelae (it does not destroy the joints, it does not cause irreversible lesions or deformities) nor does it influence patient survival, the impact it causes on the quality of life of those who suffer from it varies greatly from one to another.

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