Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes the following symptoms:
- Long-lasting, widespread muscle pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons
- "Tender points" on the body — small areas on the neck, back, chest, elbows, hips, buttocks and knees — that hurt when even a little pressure is applied.
Although fibromyalgia cannot be cured, it is never fatal and doesn't cause permanent damage to the joints, muscles or internal organs.
Causes and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The causes of fibromyalgia are unknown. People with some rheumatic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis (spinal arthritis) and lupus, seem to be more likely to develop fibromyalgia. Having a parent with fibromyalgia may also raise your risk.
Talk to your primary care doctor if you experience the following:
- Widespread pain (pain that affects the left and right sides of your body, both above and below your waist) for more than three months
- Tenderness in multiple sites, or tender points
- Problems with thinking or memory (in some cases)
- Sleep problems
- Irritable bowel syndrome (in some cases)
- Headaches or migraines
- An impaired ability to do normal activities
- Painful menstrual periods
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet (in some cases)
- Morning stiffness
If your primary care doctor thinks you might have fibromyalgia, he or she may refer you to a rheumatologist for a definitive diagnosis and treatment.
Fibromyalgia Treatment at Rush
Fibromyalgia cannot be cured, so treatment focuses on relieving your chronic pain and other symptoms. Your rheumatologist will put together a team of multidisciplinary health care providers and a personalized care plan to address your specific symptoms and needs.
As part of your treatment, you may also see one or more of these specialists:
- Physical therapists, who use exercise and other therapies to help ease fibromyalgia symptoms and keep muscles and joints flexible and strong
- Pain medicine specialists to help manage your chronic pain with injections, medications or spinal cord stimulation
- Psychotherapists for cognitive-behavioral therapy, which has been shown to help people cope with the physical and emotional challenges of living with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia
Studies have shown that engaging in regular physical and mental activities is one of the most effective ways to ease fibromyalgia symptoms. Getting a full seven to eight hours of sleep every night can also help relieve symptoms. If you have insomnia, sleep apnea or another issue that is keeping you from getting a good night's sleep, your rheumatologist can refer you to a Rush sleep expert for help.
Rush Excellence in Fibromyalgia Care
- Expert diagnosis: Rheumatologists at Rush were among the group of specialists who created a new set of criteria to diagnose fibromyalgia. These criteria eable us to determine whether you have fibromyalgia or another condition, which ensures you receive treatments that will most help you.
- Holistic rehabilitation: At Rush, our physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists see you as a whole person, not just a patient with fibromyalgia. We begin by listening to you and learning about your goals, fears and challenges. Then we'll show you various exercises and use other therapies to reduce your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
- Comprehensive pain management: Pain specialists and anesthesiologists at Rush offer a range of treatments to ease your pain, fatigue and other symptoms, including acupuncture, biofeedback, massage therapy, medications and spinal cord stimulation. Different therapies work better for different patients. We will design a pain management plan that best meets your unique needs.