27 Real Symptoms of Fibromyalgia That Aren’t Just In Your Head

By: Lily James

Fibromyalgia is a widespread chronic pain syndrome that occurs mostly
in women 20 to 50 years old. The National Institute of Arthritis and
Musculoskeletal Diseases estimates that five million people in the U.S.
suffer from fibromyalgia. Even though it’s so wide-spread, the cause of
fibromyalgia is still unclear, and fibromyalgia symptoms can be just as
varied and complex.

A fibromyalgia symptoms list

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed as a syndrome–a collection of signs,
symptoms, and medical problems–not just by one marker. The three
fibromyalgia symptoms that point most directly to a diagnosis are:

  • Widespread pain on both sides of the body, and above and below the waist
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive difficulties

However, fibromyalgia is a complex chronic pain syndrome that affects
every aspect of a person’s life. This post will go over all of these
fibromyalgia symptoms in more detail, as well as specific fibromyalgia
symptoms in women. A full fibromyalgia symptoms list varies from patient
to patient, but it could include any of the following 27 fibromyalgia

  • Widespread muscle soreness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tenderness
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Rebound pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Excessive gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Painful bladder syndrome
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Pins and needles sensations
  • Increased overall sensitivity to cold and touch
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to concentrate, or “fibro fog”
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Nervous energy
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Increased stress response
  • Sleep disorders
  • Joint stiffness
  • Menstrual pain or changes
  • Increased chance of other health conditions

Knowing these symptoms and if they affect you can help when it comes
to diagnosis. It takes years for the average person to be diagnosed.
This is because the symptoms of fibromyalgia overlap with many other
disorders. The following video gives a bit more information about this
pain syndrome.

Pain symptoms

Pain is one of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia, and it’s a
required component of any diagnosis. But, as EverydayHealth explains:

“Fibromyalgia symptoms may
fluctuate in intensity, and may improve or worsen over time. Factors
such as stress, changes in weather, too much or too little exercise, and
too much or too little rest can affect the severity of your symptoms.”

That means that an activity that caused you pain one day might be
fine the next, and vice versa. Even so, here’s how fibromyalgia pain
symptoms can affect your life.

1. Widespread muscle soreness

The symptom that fibromyalgia is known for is most certainly chronic
pain throughout the body. Specifically, the pain has to occur on both
sides of your body as well as above and below the waist to be diagnosed
as fibromyalgia. The pain can travel to every other part of your body
and the intensity of the pain can vary. Fibromyalgia also has the
tendency to wax and wane, so pain can vary on any given day and even
during the same day.

The National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association reports that the following could all affect pain levels:

  • Cold/humid weather
  • Non-restorative sleep
  • Physical and mental fatigue
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

Most patients describe the pain as a stiffness or aching starting in
specific areas. Fibromyalgia tends to begin in the neck and shoulders
area and spread out to the rest of the body from there. It is also
common for pain to feel like it is coming from the joints even though
inflammation or swelling is not present. Tender points are also common
and generally produce a sharp pain when pressure is applied.

In order to be diagnosed as a chronic condition, this pain must be
present for at least three months and be unresolved or recurring.

2. Muscle spasms

Muscle spasms may be a painful fibro symptom, or they may simply be
an irritation as the muscle clenches and unclenches on its own. This can
interfere with sleep and daily activity.

3. Headaches or migraines

Headaches are a common symptom of fibromyalgia. Some patients even
experience extreme migraine pain. The intense pressure or throbbing from
these migraines can extend further down the body into the neck,
shoulders, and upper back. These headaches are often triggered by
environmental factors such as:

  • Bright lights
  • Loud sounds
  • Powerful smells

These headaches can last for days and may be severe enough to disturb sleep.

4. Rebound pain

When fibromyalgia patients are pain-free, their first instinct may be
to jump up and get things done. They may clean their house, meet
friends for lunch, then go for a hike in the afternoon with their kids.
While these are all wonderful things, the result of this increased
activity can be even worse pain later that night or the next day.

5. Tenderness

Doctors diagnose fibromyalgia by 18 tender points on the body. These
are symmetrical points located both above and below the waist.
Fibromyalgia sufferers may experience increased tenderness in these
areas when a flare-up is imminent, or they may feel these tender points
nearly all of the time.

Gastrointestinal fibromyalgia symptoms

Many fibromyalgia patients also suffer from gastrointestinal issues.

6. Irritable bowel syndrome

Fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome are closely linked, as pain
and stiffness are frequent problems in both conditions. It is quite
common for someone to have both of these disorders at the same time. IBS
is another chronic pain condition that can lead to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Bloating

7. Nausea

Pain can be so severe as to make a fibromyalgia patient sick to their
stomach. This may cause a change in diet that could lead to other

8. Constipation

Some of those with IBS experience constipation as their primary manifestation of this syndrome.

9. Excessive gas

Excessive gas can either be a symptom of IBS, or it may occur as a result of dietary changes due to nausea or other causes.

10. Diarrhea

For those fibromyalgia patients who also experience IBS, if they do
not suffer from constipation or excessive gas, they may find that their
primary symptom of fibromyalgia is diarrhea.

11. Painful bladder syndrome 

Mayo Clinic reports that fibro often coexists with other conditions, such as interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome.

Sensory fibromyalgia symptoms

One of the strangest effects of fibromyalgia is its distortions of a
patient’s sensitivity to pain, cold, touch, or even sensory inputs like

12. Increased sensitivity to pain

Those people with chronic pain conditions experience changes in their
brain that make their body more sensitive to pain over time. This is a
common fibromyalgia symptom.

13. Pins and needles

Any involvement of the nerves may cause a tingling sensation in hands
and feet, often referred to as feeling like “pins and needles.”
SpineHealth notes that:

“Approximately of fibromyalgia patients report ‘poor circulation’ or numbness and tingling which is not in a radicular pattern and typically involves arms and hands. However, a physical examination reveals normal muscle strength and sensory testing, with no inflammatory or arthritic features.”

14. Increased overall sensitivity

In addition to increases in sensitivity to pain (which merits its own
focus), many fibromyalgia patients also reportincreased sensitivity to:

  • Touch
  • Odors
  • Loud noises
  • Bright lights
  • Medications
  • Certain foods

Fibromyalgia patients are so sensitive at times over their whole body
that even the slightest touch can cause them to flinch in surprise or
pain. Nerve endings are hyper-aware and sensitive to even the slightest
stimulation from seams and tags in clothing.

But, because of an increased sensitivity to cold, fibromyalgia
patients may find themselves reaching for a sweater on the sunniest

Cognitive fibromyalgia symptoms

Fibromyalgia diagnosis tends to focus more on the physical symptoms,
like pain and fatigue. This makes sense, as these are the easiest
indicators to identify and measure. However, there are a number of
mental and cognitive fibromyalgia symptoms that occur from this disorder
that can also have a large impact on quality of life.

15. Forgetfulness

Fibromyalgia patients may find themselves forgetting everyday things
from where they put their keys to what they were supposed to get at the
store. Memory loss and decrease of verbal fluency are particularly
severe fibromyalgia symptoms. While memory loss is common as a person
ages, a study on cognitive function in fibromyalgia patients showed that
those with fibromyalgia had the cognitive ability and recall of someone
20 years their senior.

16. Inability to concentrate, or “fibro fog” 

The most common mental fibromyalgia symptom is what is known as fibro
fog or brain fog. This includes many different cognitive difficulties,
such as:

  • Becoming easily confused
  • Lacking motivation
  • Feeling “hazy” or “blurry”
  • Difficulty focusing for extended periods of time
  • Being unable to focus or pay attention

This fibro fog is usually caused by overstimulation, high stress,
lack of sleep, and some medications. This fog can feel like you are
taking cold medicine. For many patient’s, it’s one of the most
frustrating fibro symptoms on a day-to-day basis.

17. Problems with balance and coordination 

Many with fibromyalgia also report having trouble balancing upright,
or maintaining basic coordination. This could be due to fatigue
certainly, but is also a separate symptom of this syndrome.

18. Fatigue

Between the lack of sleep that is often a symptom of fibromyalgia and
the amount of effort even the smallest task takes during a flare-up,
fibro patients can be deeply fatigued. Many who have fibromyalgia
experience sleep disturbances. The constant pain itself can be
exhausting. Those who suffer from fibro tend to report that they have
trouble obtaining restful sleep and feel tired when they wake up.
Exhaustion is so synonymous with fibro that some experts believe that
without sleep disruption and chronic fatigue, it cannot be considered a
true case of fibro.

Fibro sufferers have a way to describe this. They call themselves
“spoonies,” comparing the amount of energy they have each day in terms
of the number of spoons they have. If a fibromyalgia patient has ten
spoons for a day and they use eight getting ready for work, they know
they have to make adjustments to rest of their day.

Mood disorders related to fibromyalgia

If you have fibromyalgia, you’re also more likely to experience mood disorders.

19. Depression

As with all chronic pain patients, fibro sufferers have an increased
chance of developing depression as a direct result of their condition.
Research has shown that those diagnosed with fibro are three times as
likely to have depression compared to those without it. Depression is
one of the most important symptoms to determine early as it can be
difficult to self-identify. It can also lead to other negative effects
that can exacerbate other fibro symptoms, such as:

  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Persistent sadness or anxiety

In more advanced cases, it can lead to a sense of worthlessness and
thoughts about death. This can be exacerbated by their inability to
regularly attend therapy. In addition, when depression is comorbid with a
chronic pain condition, the condition will generally not improve unless
the depression is also treated.

20. Nervous energy

When fibromyalgia patients feel good, they may be almost frenetic in
their desire to do things. Whether playing with their kids or simply
getting household chores done without pain, this can result in rebound
pain later on.

21. Anxiety

Waiting for the next painful flare-up can result in a constant
low-level hum of anxiety. In some patients, this anxiety may begin to
grow into a fear of leaving the house, just in case a flare-up should
begin. This can also manifest as a panic attack if fibro symptoms
flare-up suddenly far away from home.

22. Emotional sensitivity

As anyone might expect, having any chronic pain condition may cause
the person suffering to feel irritable and short-tempered. However, for
fibro patients it’s more than that.

Many patients have reported that their emotional reactions are much
stronger and they have less control over how they express them.
Irritability is one of the most common manifestations of this and this
sensitivity can greatly increase with a lack of sleep. This sensitivity
is true for negative and positive emotions alike.

Mood swings can also have a big impact on the everyday life of fibro
sufferers. Many people diagnosed with fibromyalgia can go from happy to
angry in a minute or less. Very often the sudden changes in mood are
inexplicable, which is why it can have such a devastating effect on
professional and persona life.

23. Increased stress

The stress of painful fibromyalgia flare-ups can cause sufferers to
experience post-traumatic stress disorder type symptoms such as an
inability to relax and hypervigilance. This high level of constant
stress can lead to other health issues.

Other fibromyalgia symptoms

There are other fibromyalgia symptoms that are related to, but don’t
directly fit in any of the other categories. Those include the

24. Sleep disorders

Chronic pain patients often experience sleep disorders, and fibro
patients are no different. Pain may make it difficult to get comfortable
enough to fall asleep, and the slightest movement may result in pain
that jolts them awake.

OnHealth reports that:

“Normally, there are several
levels of sleep and getting enough of the deeper levels of sleep may be
even more important than the total hours of sleep. Patients with
fibromyalgia lack the deep, restorative level of sleep, called non-rapid
eye movement (NREM) sleep. Consequently, patients with fibromyalgia
often awaken in the morning without feeling fully rested, even though
they seem to have had an adequate number of hours of sleep time.”

25. Joint stiffness

Especially in the morning, joint stiffness can be a common symptom of
fibro. But it’s a double-edged sword: the more a patient moves the less
stiff they will be, but pain often makes movement very difficult.

26. Menstrual pain or changes

Women may experience more pain during their menstrual cycle,
including cramping and low back pain. They may also experience irregular
menstrual cycles or changes in their cycle in duration and heaviness.
Healthline reports that:

“In a report by the National Fibro
Association, women with the condition have more painful periods than
usual. Sometimes the pain fluctuates with their menstrual cycle. Most
women with fibromyalgia are also between the ages of 40 to 55 years old.
Research suggests that fibromyalgia symptoms may feel worse in women
who are post-menopausal or are experiencing menopause.”

27. Increased chance of other health conditions

While not a direct symptom of fibromyalgia symptoms can greatly
affect a person’s ability to participate in their normal routines and
activities. If these include a regular exercise routine that is no
longer regular or as vigorous, a fibro sufferer may find themselves with
a higher body-mass index. This can lead to other health issues, such as
diabetes and cardiovascular disease.Mesothelioma Law Firm

MedicineNet also reports that: “Fibromyalgia can occur by itself, but
people with certain other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis,
lupus, and other types of arthritis, may be more likely to have it.”

Restless leg syndrome and vision problems are also related to fibromyalgia.


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