September 30, 2021
Fibromyalgia is a painful condition that can cause great distress and reduce your quality of life. Knowing what this pain feels like can help you determine whether it’s time to see a doctor for treatment.
The most common symptom of fibromyalgia is pain all over the body. The pain typically lasts for at least three months. However, many other early signs may happen, including:
- Increased sweating
- Stronger sense of smell
- Increased sensitivity to touch
- Numbness in the hands, feet, fingers, and toes
Continue reading to learn more about what fibromyalgia pain feels like. You will also learn about effective fibromyalgia treatments and how to deal with fibromyalgia pain.
What Is Fibromyalgia Pain Like?
Dr. Kavitha Moolamalla, a family medicine physician with Healthcare Associates of Texas, says, “fibromyalgia is suspected in patients with a combination of wide spread chronic pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance.”
Fibromyalgia pain is different for everyone. Most people describe the pain as all-over body pain and stiffness. The pain may feel like a constant dull ache that goes on for at least three months.
Headaches, depression, anxiety, and memory problems are other common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
What Does a Fibromyalgia Attack Feel Like?
A fibromyalgia attack is also known as a flare-up. An attack can come on suddenly and cause mild to severe pain. These attacks may cause aching, burning, throbbing, or stabbing.
“I see fibromyalgia attacks mostly in the female population, ages 30-65. Patients present with multiple tender points all over their body,” Dr. Moolamalla adds.
Many people who have these attacks report that they usually affect the lower back and legs.
What Causes Fibromyalgia Flare-Ups?
A stressful event usually causes fibromyalgia flare-ups.
“Fibromyalgia is caused by the central amplification of peripheral sensory signals – so normal sensations are perceived as painful. Triggers can include stress mood disorders and sleep disturbance,” Dr. Moolamalla explains.
Stressful events that can cause flare-ups include surgery, accidents, too much exercise, lack of sleep, or the death of a loved one.
Does Fibromyalgia Cause Inflammation?
According to Dr. Moolamalla, “fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation to joints, muscles, or other tissues.”
However, the pain caused by fibromyalgia can make it feel like this disorder is causing inflammation.
How Do Doctors Test for Fibromyalgia?
Because there is no test for fibromyalgia, a logical question is, “How can I be diagnosed with fibromyalgia?” As part of an evaluation, your physician will complete a physical exam, review your family medical history, and ask about your symptoms. Unfortunately, there are no lab or diagnostic tests that can confirm whether you have this condition.
Your doctor will ask if you have been experiencing all-over body pain for at least three months. To be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you must have pain in at least four of the following five areas:
- The left upper part of your body (including the shoulder and jaw)
- The right upper part of your body
- The left lower part of your body (including the hip or leg)
- The right lower part of your body
- The middle part of your body (including the chest, abdomen, or back)
Your doctor may ask you a lot of questions about the type of pain you are having. This can help confirm whether you have fibromyalgia or another condition.
Is There a Blood Test for Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia cannot be diagnosed with a blood test. One or more blood tests can be used to rule out other conditions that have the same symptoms as fibromyalgia. These blood tests may include complete blood count, thyroid function tests, and vitamin D testing.
Who Treats Fibromyalgia?
Many primary care doctors treat fibromyalgia. Some doctors may refer you to a rheumatologist before starting treatment. This is a doctor who specializes in arthritis and other rheumatic diseases.
If pain is causing you to suffer in other areas of your life, your primary care doctor may also recommend seeing a therapist. A therapist can treat you for depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem caused by your pain.
What Is the Treatment for Fibromyalgia?
Pain from this condition can be treated with medications and self-care techniques. Since everyone has different symptoms and pain levels, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for fibromyalgia.
Medications that can be used include over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs can also be used to reduce pain and other symptoms.
“I recommend exercising 2-3 days per week for 20-30 minutes. Including aerobic exercise, stretching, yoga, and tai-chi to improve symptoms,” Dr. Moolamalla explains.
Self-care techniques that can reduce pain include massage, yoga, and exercise. Aerobic and strength-training exercises like swimming, bicycling, pushups, and pull-ups can also reduce pain. Your doctor may instruct you to visit a physical therapist or fitness trainer who can show you how to do these exercises safely using the proper form.
What Is the Best Medication for Fibromyalgia Pain?
Doctors may use one or more medications to reduce your pain. The best medication for you is the one that can reduce your symptoms.
OTC pain relievers can reduce all-over body pain and headaches. Antidepressants may help reduce pain and fatigue, as well as depression caused by this condition. Anti-seizure drugs can also effectively reduce pain.
“Medications that may be able to help fibromyalgia include Cymbalta, Savella, and Plaquenil,” Dr. Moolamalla recommends.
Painkillers like morphine are not typically used to treat fibromyalgia. Painkillers can lead to dependence when used for longer than a few weeks and can cause pain to become worse over time.
Are There Any Natural Fibromyalgia Treatments?
Acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, and meditation are some of the many natural fibromyalgia treatments you may use to reduce pain caused by fibromyalgia. Your doctor may recommend combining these treatments with medications for better pain relief.
“I personally recommend stress management, a gluten free diet, a low sugar diet, and no processed foods,” Dr. Moolamalla says.
Stress can cause your symptoms to flare up. Therefore, managing and reducing stress may help avoid flare-ups. Exercising regularly, practicing deep breathing, or listening to relaxing music after a busy day can help manage stress. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. Avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco products, which may worsen stress and anxiety.
Can Fibromyalgia Be Cured?
There is no cure for fibromyalgia.
However Dr. Moolamalla says, “If you pay attention and stay mindful of your health, your quality of life should improve significantly.”
You can also work closely with doctors who can help you manage your condition and symptoms. This can help you live a more comfortable and pain-free lifestyle.