Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread, unexplained pain in the muscles and joints. The condition is often associated with the presence of tender points—specific places on the body where the application of light pressure causes pain. Other fibromyalgia symptoms include fatigue, problems sleeping, depression, and anxiety. Fibromyalgia symptoms are often triggered by emotional stress, physical trauma such as a car accident, or an illness such as a viral or bacterial infection.
The causes of fibromyalgia are not well understood, but symptoms are thought to be a result of the brain and nerves misinterpreting or overreacting to normal pain signals, possibly due to an imbalance in neurotransmitter chemicals.
Fibromyalgia affects between two and five percent of all people. Women are eight or nine times more likely than men to have it, but it does occur in both sexes. It is most often diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, though children and teens can exhibit symptoms as well.
Because its symptoms are somewhat subjective and don’t have a clear known cause, fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed as another disease. Although it is becoming more widely accepted in medical circles, there are some doctors and researchers who do not consider fibromyalgia a real disease.
Written by: the Healthline Editorial Team
Published on Aug 25, 2010
Updated on Apr 18, 2013
Medically reviewed by Jennifer Monti, MD, MPH