Fibromyalgia is a neuro-sensory disorder characterized by widespread muscle pain, joint stiffness and fatigue. The condition is chronic (on going) but pain comes and goes and moves about the body. The disorder is often misdiagnosed or unrecognized and is often complicated by mood and anxiety disorders. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplify painful sensations by affecting the way the brain interprets pain signals. Woman are much more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men (7x). The condition typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but can occur in people of any age, including children and the elderly. People with fibromyalgia are also more likely to experience tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but a variety of medications can help control the symptoms.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia include: wide-spread pain (described as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months. To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist), fatigue, cognitive difficulties (often referred to a “fibro fog” or “brain fog”), and other problems such as depression, abdominal pain, and headaches.

Doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, however they believe there are a variety of factors that work together in order to cause the illness. 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 a physically or emotionally stressful event. Researchers believe repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This change involves an abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain (neurotransmitters). In addition, the brain’s pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they can overreact to pain signals.

The pain and lack of sleep associated with fibromyalgia can interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job. The frustration of dealing with an often-misunderstood condition also can result in depression and health-related anxiety. Pain in every muscle and the profound exhaustion are not symptoms that people can see, but they are real and are devastating to the person living with the condition.

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.