More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
How To Recognize the Signs of Fibromyalgia
by Carol Eustice

The symptoms of fibromyalgia can overlap with autoimmune diseases and other musculoskeletal conditions making it difficult to diagnose. The defining symptoms of fibromyalgia are often associated with other subjective and objective symptoms which occur in combination. It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects about 2 percent of the U.S. population.

In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) listed two primary criteria for the classification of fibromyalgia. The first is a history of widespread pain involving all four quadrants of the body (right side, left side, above waist, below waist) for a period of at least 3 months.

The second criteria from the ACR which points to fibromyalgia is, upon physical examination, the presence of pain in at least 11 of 18 tender points when touched or pressed with force amounting to the equivalent of 4 kg. or 9 lbs.

More recent data indicates that there may be an increased sensitivity to pain throughout the body, pain may be migratory (move around) or may exist as chronic regional pain. Most experts are said to believe fibromyalgia results from abnormal central nervous system function. Response to stress and psychobehavioral factors may also contribute to fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia primarily occurs in women of childbearing age. Children, the elderly, and men can also be affected. Besides the defining symptoms of pain and tenderness, there are many nondefining symptoms associated with fibromyalgia including:
o Fatigue, sleep disturbances, night sweats
o Memory difficulties, cognitive difficulties
o Tension or migraine headaches, temporomandibular joint syndrome, noncardiac chest pain, chronic pelvic pain, plantar or heel pain
o Fluctuations in weight, heat or cold intolerance, subjective feeling of weakness
o Ear-nose-throat complaints, multiple chemical sensitivities, wide array of allergic symptoms
o Hearing, vision, and vestibular (balance) abnormalities
o Heartburn, palpitations, irritable bowel syndrome
o Evidence on echocardiogram of mitral valve prolapse, esophageal dysmotility (muscles of esophagus not working properly), neurologic conditions causing hypotension (low blood pressure) and syncope (fainting).
o Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety occur more commonly in people who have fibromyalgia.

1. Fibromyalgia can be difficult to diagnose because its symptoms can be non-defining and mimic other diseases. Persist in getting a proper diagnosis.
2. Aerobic exercise, such as swimming and walking, improves muscle fitness and reduces muscle pain and tenderness.
3. Heat and massage may also give short-term relief.
4. Antidepressant medications may help to elevate mood, improve quality of sleep, and relax muscles (there are also some recent reports that Wellbutrin may be helpful in pain management).
5. Patients with fibromyalgia may benefit from a combination of exercise, medication, physical therapy, and relaxation.

What You Need:
o A good relationship with your rheumatologist/physician.
o A physical therapy regimen you will follow.
o A treatment program involving medication and exercise.
o Relaxation.
o Education which is ongoing - be aware of news/research related to fibromyalgia.


I would like to add here that fibromyalgia is also caused by injuries such as whiplash and other injuries to the spine. Also childbirth can bring this on as well.

I was diagnoised near the end of 2000 with fms. Following the diagnosis of fibromyaliga came the diags of raynauds phenm and myofascial pain syndrome which are sometimes part of fms.

One thing I need to stress also is that if you have post traumatic fms, make sure that this does not push the original injuries aside. Don't let fms become the diagnosis for everything that you feel.

I spent 2 years with breathing problems and chest pains that weren't too bad for the most part. All along it was related to fibromyalgia. Finally the breathing difficulties got so bad that I saw a pulmonologist. After testing with him I was referred to a cardiologist as I had went into a mild heart failure. I was immediatly hospitalized and they did the heart catherization which showed that I had no blockages that caused this. The one disc that I have in contact with my spinal cord in the Thoracic area is the suspected cause.

Please, make sure that you listen to your body as well as the drs. If your body seems to be saying something more then what the dr seems to think, demand testing.

Another thing is to make sure that you watch your medications. Sometimes it seems as though they want to put you on so many different ones. I was on up to 9 medications a day for a while until I realized that this medication was causing me to be in a fog continually.


I was quite amazed when I read your above description, momof5.

In l996 (as the Olympics were underway) I decided I was going to get at least very fit and stronger, if not thin. I started on a moderately heavy excerise programme, including sit ups, bicycling and weight lifting. I pursued this for about a month. I was watching the news at about 11:00 p.m., just sitting there by myself, under no duress at all, when suddenly I was unable to breathe. This developed into a pain in my right chest which hurt with every breath I tried to take. I ended up in Emergency that night/early morning and I think after everything that was checked I had damaged my costochondrial joint and two disks (C5/6) in my neck. I was at home in bed for 3 weeks not really knowing what was going on, weak as a kitten. I was unable to breathe properly for about two and a half years thereafter. I went to work every day in this condition and it was very difficult to carry on, but I did somehow. I used to have to stop working, get up, find a wall and crack my costochondrial joint by grabbing a corner of the wall and lunging forward until I heard a significant crack! I did not please a lot of people! Our office was mostly modular units, so there were few corners for me to grab! That part eased up finally after a lot of physiotherapy. I still do get the odd bout of it. I had a bit of a relapse about 3 years ago that was not quite as serious as the first time. I have to watch that I don't push or carry heavy things or do sustained heavy work with my upper body. I have attempted the odd exercise regime including light weights or resistance exercises, but it looks like I have to rule these out because I always end up hurting myself. A short time after all this in 96/97 it was discovered that I have rheumatoid arthritis which seems to move around a lot! It usually affects one shoulder or the other, my elbow, and now most recently it seems to have decided to make a permanent home in my right thumb area.

The above no doubt sounds a bit confusing. It is a bit confusing to me as well because although I now know for certain I have fibromyalgia and arthritis, I wasn't really made aware along the way of what was actually wrong with me which left me very confused, thinking all my aches and pains were in my head. Nothing shows up with fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis that is visible on the outside, and people either think you are lazy or faking symptoms. I am not and do not. I would give anything to feel normal again.
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