Actor Morgan Freeman developed fibromyalgia after a 2008 car accident left him with nerve damage in his left hand. "Fibromyalgia is one of the most common reasons for chronic pain, affecting about 4 million Americans. It's also one of the most misunderstood," says rheumatologist Carmen Gota, MD. "The most common myth is that fibromyalgia is 'all in your head.' People who suffer from fibromyalgia are afraid that people around them don't believe that it's a real disease and are afraid they will be labeled as lazy. Education goes a long way toward helping people with fibromyalgia and their loved ones understand and deal with this debilitating illness." Here are five signs of fibromyalgia, according to doctors. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Fibromyalgia symptoms can mirror those of flu, doctors say. "The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown," says pain management specialist Robert Bolash, MD. "Genetics, trauma or an infection may play a role. Fibromyalgia sufferers say it feels like having the flu all the time."
Pain in Muscles, Joints and Tendons
The most common symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic pain. "In patients with fibromyalgia, their pain signals are turned up like you turn up the volume on a radio," says Dr. Bolash.
Fatigue and Anxiety
"People with fibromyalgia experience muscular pain and tenderness throughout their body along with other symptoms, including extreme fatigue, mood disturbances (such as anxiety and depression), headaches, and problems with sleep and memory," say Hope Ricciotti, M.D., and Hye-Chun Hur, M.D., M.P.H.
Does Fibromyalgia Run in the Family?
If fibromyalgia runs in your family, you may be genetically predisposed to getting it. "While doctors don't know what causes fibromyalgia, it does sometimes run in families, which may indicate an underlying genetic predisposition to the disease," say Dr. Riciotti and Dr. Hur.
How Can I Manage My Fibromyalgia?
If you think you have fibromyalgia, talk to your healthcare provider and share your concerns.
"If you have fibromyalgia, take control of your treatment by managing stress, exercising, managing your weight and getting involved in your community," says Dr. Gota. "It's crucial to address stressors and how you respond to stress. The American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association recommends starting with mild exercise in short intervals (such as five minutes at a time) to keep the muscles fit while not over-taxing them. A multidisciplinary approach with physical therapy, pain psychology and even sleep medicine are often needed. Lastly, live as much of a regular life as you can. People who are working, volunteering or doing something that gives them a sense of fulfillment do much better." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.