The symptoms of fibromyalgia are dominated by pain. These are intense muscular pains that mainly affect symmetrical areas of muscle close to the spine: neck, shoulders, interscapular region (between the shoulders), shoulder blades, lower back and hips.
The pain may also affect the knees, soles of the feet, buttocks and hands, which may also appear to be swollen. Fibromyalgia patients generally mention symptoms as “hurting everywhere”.
This pain varies depending on the time of day, stress levels and physical activity, and is accompanied by stiffness in the morning. It is associated with widespread stiffness and is characterised by specific areas of pain and tenderness. How fibromyalgia patients describe their pain differs from person to person, from dull to piercing, burning, stabbing, tingling or numbness in the muscles. It may also develop from one type of pain to another and move from one area to another, or progressively spread around the body. Fibromyalgia can be distressing, to the point of impeding the patient’s ability to perform daily activities.
Fibromyalgia: Different Manifestations
This chronic pain is frequently accompanied by chronic fatigue, difficulty sleeping, memory problems, difficulty concentrating and paying attention, emotional difficulties (depression and anxiety). These symptoms can lead to patients withdrawing into themselves, resulting in professional and personal repercussions. They are also seen in patients with chronic pain with an identified cause (arthritis, back pain etc.).
In addition, sleep may or may not help. The patient wakes up still feeling tired due to “restless” sleep. Just like pain, the sleeping problems will not get better with time without treatment.
Psychological issues could appear
These are primarily anxiety and depression. Pessimism and a feeling of gloom are often associated. This also raises the question of what leads to what: does the depression come before fibromyalgia, or is it reactive, only developing following incorrect diagnoses and a number of ineffective treatments? Patients often associate their depression with the anxiety that comes with having a medical condition that they don’t understand.
The majority of patients are people who live active and dynamic lives without showing any signs of depression before the onset of the disease. Fibromyalgia and depression can be considered to be two different diseases, but they are related and often come hand in hand.
A combination of problems and different problems have been reported by patients. They help in reaching a diagnosis, but can also lead the patient having to have a number of doctor’s visits:
- Migraines and tension headaches;
- Difficulty concentrating and memory problems;
- Hypersensitivity to noise, light and smells;
- Problems with digestion, such as diarrhoea or constipation, or even alternating between the two (which can lead to an incorrect diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome);
- Urinary problems (frequent urination) or menstrual pain (dysmenorrhoea);
- Problems with thermoregulation (abnormal intolerance to cold or heat);
- Sleep problems;
- Restless leg syndrome with restlessness at night.
Source: Arthritis Research UK