Fibromyalgia is a bewildering and multifaceted illness that impacts every part of your life—and your body. You’ve probably read about symptoms such as pain, fatigue and fibro fog, but the list of possible symptoms is far-reaching and body-wide.
A lot of people think some of the symptoms are so bizarre that they must be the only one who experiences it. Sound familiar? The truth is that millions of other people probably deal with it, too.
Below is “the big list” of 60+ symptoms that’ll let you know that you’re not alone. Knowing the full range of symptoms can help you track them, either to help your doctor reach a diagnosis or to help you identify triggers. It also helps to know you’re not the only person experiencing these, and whether a particular symptom may stem from fibromyalgia or something else.
Some of the “symptoms” are noted as overlapping conditions, which means they commonly occur with fibromyalgia but actually are conditions that need to be diagnosed and treated separately. Some of these aren’t generally listed in medical texts but are commonly mentioned by people with the condition.
You do NOT have to have all of these symptoms in order to be diagnosed with this condition. We can have any combination of them and to varying degrees of severity.
Your mix of symptoms may also change over time. Some people have fairly constant levels of symptoms, but many of us experience symptom flares and remissions (periods of reduced symptoms).
Unusual Pain Types
These are the pains that essentially define the condition. They’re types that are rare in other diseases and serve as the hallmarks of fibromyalgia.
- Heightened experience of pain (hyperalgesia)
- “Skin” pain, extreme sensitivity to touch or temperature (allodynia)
- Pain that ranges from mild to severe, and may move around the body
- Nerve pain and abnormal sensations called paresthesias (tingling, burning, itching, shooting, etc.), especially in the arms
Some of our symptoms involve multiple systems or are hard to classify, so here they’re listed as “general.” They’re not necessarily the most common. These include:
- Extreme reactions (“crash”), often delayed, following physical exertion or stressful events
- Other family members with fibromyalgia (genetic predisposition)
- Extreme sweating
- Allergies (as an overlapping condition)
- Especially thick mucus
- Nose bleeds
Fibromyalgia isn’t a joint disease like arthritis, but it can involve some joint-related symptoms. Most, and possibly all, cases involve symptoms of the soft tissues, including muscles and connective tissues (tendons, ligaments, and fascia.) They include:
- Morning stiffness
- Lax connective tissues, possibly leading to joint hypermobility
- Muscle twitches
- Diffuse, low-grade swelling or puffiness (NOT large amounts of inflammation)
- Fibrocystic (lumpy, tender) breasts (as an overlapping condition)
- Jaw pain, possibly from TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder, as an overlapping condition)
Often called “fibro fog,” this is one of the more pervasive and disabling set of symptoms, along with pain and fatigue/sleep problems.
Many people report that fibro fog impairs them more than anything else.
- Difficulty speaking known words, other language impairments (dysphasia)
- Directional disorientation
- Short-term memory impairment
- Trouble concentrating
- Difficulty learning new information
- Difficulty processing or retaining the information you hear
- Problems with math or understanding numbers
- Impaired reading comprehension
- Periodic inability to recognize familiar surroundings
These are neurological symptoms that are similar to pain, in that the input may be normal, but our brain’s response to them is amplified.
These are physiological responses to things in our environment and have nothing to do with us “making a big deal” out of something or “over reacting.”
- Sensitivity to fragrance, possibly multiple chemical sensitivity (as an overlapping condition)
- Sensitivity to pressure changes, temperature & humidity
- Sensitivity to light
- Sensitivity to noise
- Sensory overload
Fibromyalgia involves significant abnormalities in the brain, so it’s no surprise that we can also have some neurological symptoms, such as:
- Poor balance and coordination
- Dizziness, possible fainting
- Headaches & migraines (as an overlapping condition)
- Ringing ears (tinnitus), (as an overlapping condition)
Sleep problems are almost as central to fibromyalgia as pain. In addition to general sleep dysregulation, we can have an array of sleep disorders.
- Light and/or broken sleep pattern with unrefreshing sleep
- Insomnia (as an overlapping condition)
- Restless legs syndrome (as an overlapping condition)
- Sleep apnea (as an overlapping condition)
- Sleep starts (falling sensations, also called myoclonic jerks)
- Teeth grinding (bruxism, as an overlapping condition)
Hormones are believed to play a role in this illness, which may be why these symptoms are common in us.
- PMS or extremely painful periods (as an overlapping condition)
- Other menstrual problems
- Premature menopause
- Loss of sex drive
- Impotence (in men)
- Vulvodynia (as an overlapping condition)
Many of us have digestive problems that may be alleviated by dietary changes. However, not all of these symptoms are related to food.
- Bloating & nausea
- Abdominal cramps
- Pelvic pain
- Irritable bowel syndrome (as an overlapping condition)
- Food allergies or insensitivities, including gluten
- Frequent urination
- Irritable bladder, possibly interstitial cystitis (as an overlapping condition)
- Difficulty swallowing
The presence of emotional symptoms does not mean that fibromyalgia is a psychological condition. They may be due, at least in part, to fibromyalgia’s neurological nature, which includes neurotransmitter dysregulation. Some, such as depression, are common among people with chronic illness in general.
- Depression (as an overlapping condition)
- The tendency to cry easily
- Anxiety/panic attacks, often triggered by sensory overload or disorientation
- Free-floating anxiety (not associated with situation or object)
- Mood swings
- Unaccountable irritability
While these sound scary, we don’t have evidence suggesting that heart disease is especially common in fibromyalgia. Never assume that heart-related symptoms are “just” from your fibromyalgia, though! Be sure you discuss any new symptoms or changes with your doctor right away.
- Mitral valve prolapse (as an overlapping condition)
- Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) (as an overlapping condition)
- Pain that mimics a heart attack, frequently from costochondritis (as an overlapping condition)
Yes, fibromyalgia gets you from your hair to your toenails, quite literally! You might experience:
- Pronounced nail ridges
- Nails that curve under
- Bruising or scarring easily
- Hair loss (temporary)
- Tissue overgrowth (non-cancerous tumors called lipomas, ingrown hairs, heavy and splitting cuticles, adhesions, skin tags)