Fibromyalgia, also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia
As well as widespread pain, other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- increased sensitivity to pain
- muscle stiffness
- difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep, which can make you feel very tired (fatigue)
- problems with mental processes (known as "fibro-fog"), such as difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive condition that causes stomach pain and bloating
- feelings of frustration, worry or low mood
The symptoms of fibromyalgia are changeable – for example, they can sometimes suddenly improve or get worse.
See a GP if you think you have fibromyalgia. Treatment can ease some of the symptoms, although they're unlikely to disappear completely.
How fibromyalgia is treated
Although there's currently no cure for fibromyalgia, there are treatments to help relieve some of the symptoms and make the condition easier to live with.
Treatment tends to be a combination of:
- lifestyle changes, such as exercise programmes and relaxation techniques
- talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
- medicine, such as antidepressants
In particular, exercise has a number of important benefits for people with fibromyalgia, including helping to reduce pain.
What causes fibromyalgia?
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is unknown, but it's thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes pain messages carried around the body.
It's also suggested that some people are more likely to develop fibromyalgia because of genes inherited from their parents.
In many cases, the condition appears to be triggered by things that are physical or emotional like an injury, an infection or stress.
Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, but it's more common in women than men.
The condition typically develops between the ages of 25 and 55, but people of any age can get it, including children and older people.
It's not clear exactly how many people are affected by fibromyalgia, although research has suggested it could be a relatively common condition.
Some estimates suggest nearly 1 in 20 people may be affected by fibromyalgia to some degree.
One of the main reasons it's not clear how many people are affected is because fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose.
There's no specific test for the condition, and the symptoms can be similar to a number of other conditions.
If you have fibromyalgia, support groups can provide an important network for talking to others living with the condition.
Fibromyalgia Action UK is a charity that offers information and support to people with fibromyalgia.
If you have any questions about fibromyalgia, call the charity's helpline on 0300 999 3333.
Fibromyalgia Action UK also has a number of regional co-ordinators who can put you in touch with a support group near you.
Another organisation you may find useful is UK Fibromyalgia.
Page last reviewed: 12 October 2022
Next review due: 12 October 2025