General Description of Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Pain. The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is pain, both pain experienced in certain precise locations called tender points and more widespread, generalized pain. The pain of fibromyalgia is often is described as follows:
Tender point pain occurs in local sites (tender points), usually in the neck and shoulders, and then radiates out. It occurs specifically in areas where the muscles attach to bone or ligaments. (The joints themselves are not affected, however, so they are not deformed nor do they deteriorate as they may in arthritic conditions.) There are no lumps or nodes associated with these points and no signs of inflammation (swelling, redness, heat).
The experience of widespread pain is similar to that of Arthritis and has been described as stiffness, burning, radiating, and aching. Most patients report feeling some pain all the time, and many describe it as "exhausting." The pain can vary, depending on the time of day, weather changes, physical activity, and the presence of stressful situations. The pain is often more intense after disturbed sleep.
Fatigue and Sleep Disturbances. Another major complaint is fatigue, which some patients report as being more debilitating than the pain. Sleep disturbances, particularly restless legs syndrome, are also very common. Fatigue and sleep disturbances are, in fact, almost universal in patients with fibromyalgia, and if these symptoms are not present, then some experts believe that physicians should seek a diagnosis other than fibromyalgia.
Other Symptoms. Other symptoms that occur more often than average in fibromyalgia patients are the following:
Up to a third of patients experience depression, and disturbances in mood and concentration are very common.
Tension or migraine headaches.
Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.
Gastrointestinal problems, including irritable bowel syndrome with gas and alternating diarrhea and constipation.
Urinary frequency caused by bladder spasms.
Painful menstrual periods in women.
Symptoms in Children. Although symptoms are similar in children, some experts suggest that they often have no set number of pain tender points. In one study, children had an average of 9.7 tender point locations compared to the minimum of 11 in adults. In general, children with fibromyalgia most often experience sleep disorders and diffuse pain, and less frequently headache, general fatigue, and morning stiffness.