It took me awhile to figure out the symptoms I was experiencing were related to my fibromyalgia. It was also such a relief to find out the symptoms were something. As I spent time talking with more than 200 women with fibro, it was so incredible to find I was not alone.
Maybe, like me, you were tested for everything under the sun before someone took your symptoms seriously and gave you a diagnosis. Or maybe no one has yet taken you seriously and you’re waiting to be diagnosed.
We are all like snowflakes, unique in how often and how intensely we experience our symptoms. Some are bothered more by pain, others by fatigue. Some take minimal medications and some are on strong medications. Some are able to work, albeit less optimally. Some, like me, are unable to work 9-5.
Here are some common symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome:
Pain. Widespread musculoskeletal pain. There are 18 tender points, in pairs: inside of knees, inner elbows; near the crease, hips, base of skull, neck, lower back, inside shoulder blades, shoulders, and collar bone. I always have pain pretty much all over: arms, legs, neck, shoulders, hips, back, and occasionally my hands. Typically you need to experience 11 of the 18 tender points to be diagnosed. However, they are getting away from this method of diagnosing.
Fatigue: It is hugely different from being tired. Unlike jet lag or the flu, this complete exhaustion is always there. If you, as a healthy person, overdo things or have a long day and you’re very tired or feeling exhausted, a good night’s sleep will make you feel better. With FMS and other chronic illnesses, sleep does not refresh or make you feel better. The fatigue is always there, some days worse than others.
No waking refreshed
Muscle weakness: My arms and legs are very weak. When I go shopping I have to use a shopping cart. It’s like having a cane or walker. It hurts my arm to lift a half-gallon of water, so I use my other hand to hold the bottom. That makes it more bearable. It’s kind of like how you might feel if you really overdid exercise.
Headaches: I wake up frequently with a headache. Some people experience anywhere from a mild continuous pain to a full-blown migraine. It doesn’t help that our neck and shoulder muscles are so tight. Pillows can make a huge difference and I’m still looking for that “perfect” pillow.
Unrefreshed sleep: Normally, if you can get six to eight hours of sleep a night, you wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go. You feel energized to do what you do all day. For FMS patients, well, there’s no such thing as waking up feeling refreshed. That is a distant memory from when we were well. We adjust and do the best we can. Naps are often warranted.
Brain fog: It can be so many things and the severity varies. The inability to recall words, sluggish thinking, losing where you were in a conversation, not remembering from one moment to the next what you were going to do or say. In the same way that visibility is limited on a densely foggy day, we have difficulty with our brains on foggy days. It is completely frustrating. At times it makes you feel as if you have dementia.
Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.