People living with fibromyalgia (FMS) can experience a broad range of symptoms, so diagnosis may be slow. FMS symptoms include widespread persistent muscle pain, disturbed sleep, fatigue and anxiety. FMS occurs more often in women than in men. Chemical levels may change in the brain of FMS patients, affecting how their brain processes pain signals and amplifying painful sensations. This nervous-system process is common to many chronic-pain states.


There are no known direct causes of FMS, but it tends to run in families. Traumatic occurrences and being overweight may be contributing factors.


FMS patients experience widespread pain, which may fluctuate, with multiple tender points. Because of the diverse symptoms, patients may have difficulty convincing doctors that their pain is real.


Diagnostic definitions for FMS are inconsistent. A doctor will diagnose FMS based on all of the relevant presenting symptoms, through a process of elimination.

Treatment & management

Gabapentin, pregabalin and some antidepressants can be effective in treating FMS, by reducing pain and improving sleep. Around half of FMS patients are overweight, which can be caused by the pain-and-inactivity cycle. But low-impact physical activities such as Tai Chi, yoga and hydrotherapy can have an anti-inflammatory effect, improve sleep and reduce muscle soreness.



The Australian Pain Management Association Ltd. (APMA) is a health promotion charity providing advocacy, information and practical support for people living with chronic (persistent) pain and their families. APMA is the consumer health organisation for all Australians who live with pain. APMA is your voice.


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