This information describes the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of fibromyalgia (fie-bro-my-AL-juh).

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain in your muscles, ligaments (tissue that connects bone), and tendons (tissue that connects muscles to bones).  

Most people develop symptoms of fibromyalgia between the ages of 30 and 55. It is more common in women but men and children can also have this condition.

We do not know what causes fibromyalgia.



The most common symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic pain in many areas of the body. The level of pain can vary, and can be described as:

  • Aching
  • Tingling
  • Soreness
  • Throbbing
  • Tenderness
  • Stiffness
  • Burning

The pain can get worse if you:

  • Don’t sleep well.
  • Are exposed to the cold.
  • Have anxiety.
  • Have stress.

The pain can worsen over time. Early on, you may only feel discomfort in one area of your body. As time goes on, you may feel it in many areas.

Other Symptoms

Many people with fibromyalgia also have:

  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea
  • Thought and mood disturbances, such as depression or anxiety
  • Migraine headaches
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Discomfort in the abdomen and bladder
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There are no specific tests used to diagnose fibromyalgia. It is diagnosed when a person has had chronic pain in many areas of the body for at least 3 months with no joint or muscle inflammation (swelling).

Your doctor will diagnose fibromyalgia based on your symptoms and a physical exam. He or she may also order blood work or x-ray exams to rule out other possibilities.

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  • Your doctor can give you medication to treat the symptoms of fibromyalgia. This can help to decrease pain, allow you to sleep better, and improve your mood.
  • Physical therapy, such as a low-impact stretching exercise program, can help decrease your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about what exercises can help you.
  • Seeing a mental health professional, such as a counselor or psychiatrist, can help you deal with this condition. Therapy can also help if you are feeling anxious or depressed. Ask your doctor for a referral to the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Counseling Center.
  • Complementary therapies, such as t’ai chi, yoga, acupuncture, and massage, can help relieve your symptoms. To learn more about these therapies, contact the MSK Integrative Medicine Service at 646-888-0800.


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