Return to the dictionary


Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that typically involves muscle pain and tenderness, stiffness and fatigue. The cause is unknown.

Both migraine and tension headache are common in people with fibromyalgia. It could be that people with both these issues have a pain system in their bodies that is "working overtime". There may also be genetic factors.

The American College of Rheumatology uses the following symptoms to diagnose this syndrome: pain on both sides of the body both above and below the waist in an axial distribution. There must be tenderness in specific places, 11 of the 18 that are common.

This does not mean that the muscles are actually inflamed, or that there is permanent body damage or deformity. However, it can certainly change your life. Fatigue is common, and so are sleep disorders, which add to the problem. There are other problems that are often related besides migraine and headache, such as painful menstrual periods, irritable bowel syndrome, restless leg syndrome, numbness in the extremities, sensitivity to temperature, rashes, dry eyes and mouth, and cognitive problems.

80% of people with fibromyalgia are women, and millions around the world have it. Treatment usually focuses on lifestyle changes, including reducing stress, exercise including physical therapy and stretching, getting into a regular sleep routine (also important to avoid migraine symptoms) and eating a well balanced diet.

Certain medications have been helpful, such as over the counter painkillers, non-narcotic pain relievers, low doses of antidepressants, or benzodiazepines (commonly used to reduce anxiety, or as a muscle relaxant, sedative, and sometimes an anticonvulsant).

Back to F

References: The CancerWeb Project from the Dept. of Medical Oncology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne; Migraine and Other Headaches by Drs William B Young and Stephen D Silberstein; Stedman's Medical Dictionary; article on fibromyalgia reviewed 10 Sep '04; National Fibromyalgia Association article About Fibromyalgia 2004; American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company