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Living with fibromyalgia

Last Modified: November 22, 2021

Diseases & Disorders


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fibromyalgia affects about 4 million U.S. adults, roughly 2% of the adult population. Living with such a debilitating condition can make everyday tasks seem daunting, but proper diagnosis and treatment can make all the difference. Ken Austin, MD, PPG – Pain Management, delves into this complex disorder while offering up some solid therapies and pain management strategies for those living with the illness.

The condition

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain all over the body. It is often associated with fatigue, poor sleep, cognitive disturbances and mood issues. Those suffering from the disorder are typically more sensitive to pain than individuals without it. This phenomenon is known as abnormal pain processing. Unfortunately, fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting how your brain and spinal cord process painful and non-painful signals.

Signs and symptoms

While fibromyalgia can encompass a variety of symptoms, some of the most common can include:

  • Pain and stiffness all over the body
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Pain in the face or jaw
  • Digestive issues (pain, bloating and constipation)
Risk factors

The documented and well-known risk factors that contribute to the disorder include:

  • Age: Fibromyalgia can affect people at any age, but most get diagnosed during adulthood and are more likely to have the condition as they get older.
  • Other disorders: If you already have lupus or rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you will likely develop fibromyalgia.
  • Your sex: Sadly, women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

Other factors that could be loosely associated with the onset of the condition could include:

  • Stress, anxiety, traumatic events and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Injuries from repetitive stress on a joint (frequent knee bending)
  • Illness (viral infections)
  • Family history
  • Obesity

Doctors usually diagnose fibromyalgia by getting a patient’s medical history, conducting a physical exam, taking X-rays and blood work. Additionally, fibromyalgia is often a medical diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that a process of elimination must rule out all other causes.


Fibromyalgia is often treated and managed with a combination of over-the-counter (OTC) medications, therapies, lifestyle modifications and self-management strategies, which could include:

  • Medication (prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers)
  • Aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening exercise
  • Education classes pertaining to the condition
  • Stress management therapies (meditation, yoga and massage)
  • Proper sleep hygiene habits to improve quality of sleep
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to treat underlying depression
Improving the condition

The pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia can interfere with a person’s routine, disrupting their ability to function at home and work, often resulting in a poor quality of life. However, there is hope and many things someone can do to improve their condition. A few of those strategies could consist of the following:

  • Get physically active: Experts recommend that adults be moderately physically active for 150 minutes each week. This can include walking, swimming, or biking 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Attend physical activity programs: People concerned with how to exercise safely can participate in physical activity programs that are proven effective for reducing pain and disability related to chronic conditions and disorders.
  • Self-management education classes: Attending instructional courses could help patients feel more confident in controlling their symptoms, living well and understanding how the condition affects their daily lives.
Helpful resources

Parkview Comprehensive Pain Management offers a multimodal, multidisciplinary approach to meet each patient’s needs for those suffering from chronic pain. They can also help connect you with local and national fibromyalgia support groups.

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