The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary from one person to another. However, there is one symptom that is prevalent in all fibromyalgia sufferers: widespread pain.
What Does Fibromyalgia Pain Feel Like?
Fibromyalgia pain is characterized as a continuous dull ache that starts in the muscle, but it can also feel like a burning sensation or a sharp and stabbing pain on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.1
Previous guidelines on fibromyalgia call for identifying pain in the tender points. Known as fibromyalgia "pressure points" or "pain points," these are 18 areas in the body that can bring on additional pain when firm pressure is applied on them. Fibromyalgia pain points can be found on your:2
Neck (front and back)
Upper and lower back
Back of the head
Previous guidelines stated that to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the pain should be felt in at least 11 of these 18 pressure points.
However, fibromyalgia symptoms can flare up (meaning they may come and go) — for example, a person may experience pain in only eight pressure points one day, but in 11 points the next. For this reason, the guidelines were modified to help better diagnose this illness.
Today, instead of identifying pain only in these pressure points, physicians will also look for widespread pain that lasts for at least three months, as well as the presence of other symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
Fatigue and waking up exhausted
Disrupted or irregular sleep patterns
Muscle stiffness and spasms
Numbness in the hands and feet
Sensitivity to cold and heat
Restless leg syndrome or RLS, which is an uncomfortable, creepy-crawly feeling in your legs that often disturbs your sleep
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
"Fibro fog" (or brain fog), a condition that impairs your ability to focus on mental tasks. Some common signs of fibro fog include difficulty with finding a word, short-term memory loss, and disorientation that lasts for 30 to 60 seconds
Depression and anxiety
Fibromyalgia symptoms in men and women are generally similar, although women may have a host of other symptoms. One example is having painful menstrual periods.
Female Fibromyalgia Patients May Experience Other Symptoms
Women diagnosed with fibromyalgia may also have endometriosis, a condition caused by tissue growing in other parts of the pelvis. They may feel pain during sexual intercourse as well.3 There are also some unusual, less common symptoms that may come with fibromyalgia, such as:4
- Allodynia. A heightened sensitivity to touch. Simply rubbing an affected person's shoulder or patting him or her on the back can cause intense pain.
- Paresthesia. An unexplained tingling and numbness that's often related to anxiety or nervousness over the disorder. Paresthesia is accompanied by rapid, deep breathing, and may lead to acroparesthesia, a tingling in the hands and feet caused by lack of carbon dioxide.
- Lipomas. These lumps, which can appear in various parts of the body, are actually fatty benign tumors, and may cause you more discomfort.
- Sensitivity to fragrance, light, and even sounds.
- Excessive sweating and a feverish feeling.