The symptoms of fibromyalgia (it's more than just chronic pain).

The short story? Pain, pain and more pain. Pain everywhere, fatigue and then some more pain. No identified cause leaving fibromyalgia as the diagnosis.  FYI if you want some tips on management for that click here. 

One of the predominant symptoms of fibromyalgia is definitely the pain, but someone suffering with fibromyalgia knows it is about way more than just the pain.  

Here is a list of some of the symptoms that someone with fibromyalgia may be dealing with on a daily basis:

  • Pain (widespread pain that can be sharp, dull, achy, moderate to severe)

  • Tender points

  • Sensory pain (25% of Fibromyalgia patients experience pins and needles or numbness)

  • Fatigue (feeling tired a lot or all of the time)

  • Muscle tightening - spasms, cramps

  • Sensitivities; light, sound, temperature, touch, taste, pressure

  • Intolerance of the heat or cold

  • Digestive issues; constipation, nausea, excessive gas, IBS

  • Cognitive issues; trouble relaxing, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, brain fog, impaired cognition and language, memory loss

  • Balance problems

  • Sleep issues: trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, poor sleep quality (low phase four which happens to be the phase where the body does its healing), sleep apnoea…

  • Fatigue

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Increased thirst

  • TMD (temporomandibular dysfunction)

  • Weight gain

  • Decreased libido

  • Dry eyes and mouth

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Raynaud’s phenomenon (hands feel cold, numb or turn blue when exposed to temperature changes)

  • PMS and painful periods (obviously only for women sufferers)

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar episodes)

  • Also headaches including migraines

That’s a lot of symptoms!

As you can tell, and are probably already aware, there are many symptoms of fibromyalgia and quite a number of them can mimic other disorders.  This is why it’s super important that while you do research to educate yourself, you still seek the advice of a medical professional. A doctor will need to rule out a number of other potentially life threatening and progressive diseases such as MS and Rheumatoid Arthritis and also have a careful look at what is going on with your blood work.  You may be dealing with more than one condition as well so a thorough investigation is essential.

In the book ‘The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution’ by Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, he has a very short quiz to help you decide whether or not you have Fibromyalgia.  Answer the questions and see what you think:

  1. Do you have severe fatigue, along with insomnia and perhaps brain fog?

  2. Have you been checked by your doctor and no other over cause was found? (Being told you’re depressed or crazy because the doctor was clueless doesn’t count). *his words not mine*

  3. Has it lasted over three months?

(If yes to these three you like have CFS until proved otherwise)

    4) Do you also have widespread pain?

(If yes, then you also have Fibromyalgia.  In most cases, it is that simple).

In my opinion this method is slightly over simplified and could possibly label you with something that you don’t necessarily have, especially if you haven’t had a thorough examination from an invested physician.  For example, a vitamin D deficiency could have the exact same results. So could a thyroid condition and a lot of times these can be overlooked during an initial investigation. If you have been to a doctor and they’ve checked all your levels and ruled out any disease complications, including any deficiencies and a thorough thyroid investigation perhaps then you can accept the diagnosis. However, knowing the importance of checking vitamin D could be the difference between a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia or not.  Sometimes, especially if your condition is not excruciating (yet), doctors won’t pay a lot of attention. In a lot of cases they have fifteen minutes to have a few stabs in the dark at what might be causing your issues and they can easily overlook conditions that can mimic fibromyalgia. A lot of doctors don’t think to check for vitamin D deficiency and now that testing is not covered by medicare, a lot of patients don’t realise the importance of having this test. It’s a forty dollar test here in Australia and I cannot stress enough how important it is. HAVE YOUR VITAMIN D LEVELS CHECKED!

For a quick example vitamin D deficiency can include widespread pain, fatigue, bone pain, muscle pain, lower back pain, depression and sensitivity (especially to light). You can see straight away the importance of checking your vitamin D levels.  However, even if you are not in the ‘low’ category, it makes a lot of sense to make sure that if you have Fibromyalgia your vitamin D levels are optimal.

It’s important that you educate yourself so that when you go to your doctor you can ask the right questions and also have the right information to give.  If for example you’ve had recurring tonsillitis since you were a child you might not think that that is a relevant thing, however if you take into account the amount of antibiotics you had as a child you then have an important part of the puzzle.   Something that I will talk about in a further post is finding a doctor that can work with you.  You really need to be a team.  If you have a doctor who doesn’t believe you, or doesn’t believe that there is anything you can do for your condition - find a new doctor.  I’m not saying that your doctor is lying when they say there is no treatment; they are simply telling their truth.  When it comes to a black and white, clear, peer reviewed successful treatment program, currently no such thing exists. Neither does a one size fits all pill that can make all your troubles go away. So to that doctor, that is their belief. However, with a condition like fibromyalgia you need to approach it with an open mind.  Improving your quality of health in any way will improve your condition. Any form of healing is on a case by case basis, and it requires investigation and a completely holistic approach. You need a doctor that will support you in that. Considering it’s you who pays the doctor and that it’s your life on the line, spend your money where it will count.  Sometimes it’s about looking outside the box and finding health practitioners to supplement the work of your doctor, like a naturopath.

With all the overwhelming and exhausting symptoms that fibromyalgia can have, it is easy to think that you’ll never recover, you’ll never get your life back and that everything is just too hard.  I am living proof however, that you can get your life back, you can improve and you can take steps towards a healthier and happier future in spite of your condition. The trick is in educating yourself, understanding your condition and ways to improve your health and in having the right team around you.   

My next post will contain some pain management strategies so if pain is your biggest (pain), then check that out HERE.