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Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(7):1587

See related article on fibromyalgia.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a common condition that causes pain in muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons. People with fibromyalgia often feel tired and stiff. They may also have trouble sleeping and may feel depressed. The symptoms of fibromyalgia are a little different in every person who has it. Fibromyalgia isn't life-threatening, but it doesn't ever go away completely.

What causes fibromyalgia?

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. Doctors think that not sleeping well and not exercising might cause it. One idea is that certain things like stress or poor sleep may cause fibromyalgia in people who are more sensitive to pain.

How does my doctor know I have fibromyalgia?

No tests can prove you have fibromyalgia. Tests come back normal, but you still hurt. The diagnosis is likely when the symptoms you have fit the right pattern, but no other problems are found. When your doctor examines you, you'll have many “tender points” where your skin hurts even if you barely touch it. Common tender points are at the front of the knees and elbows, the hip joints and around the neck.

How is fibromyalgia treated?

You and your doctor must work together to treat your fibromyalgia. Treatment should help ease your symptoms. Your doctor may have you take medicine to help you sleep and to reduce your pain. Good nutrition and regular sleep and exercise often help. Low-impact aerobic exercise like swimming or stationary bicycling can help you feel better. You and your doctor can decide which types of exercise are best for you. Exercise might make your pain worse at first. If you do it regularly, though, it usually helps. Try not to exercise too hard. If you do too much on days that you feel good, you might end up feeling worse.

Along with medicine and exercise, some people have found help in support groups of other people who have fibromyalgia. Others prefer counseling or therapy. You and your doctor can decide what treatment will help you make your day-to-day life better.

For more information:

  • Arthritis Foundation

  • 1330 W. Peachtree St.

  • Atlanta, GA 30309

  • Telephone: 1-800-283-7800

  • Web address:

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