Fibromyalgia is a chronic (long-term) condition causing pain and tenderness throughout the body and fatigue. It’s also called fibromyalgia syndrome (FS).

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2023

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a common illness, thought to affect nearly one in 20 people. There’s no specific test or scan and symptoms are similar to other conditions, which can make it hard to diagnose.

Fibromyalgia symptoms vary from person to person and can come and go. In some cases, symptoms can ease or go after a few months, however most cases are chronic (long-term).

Symptoms can be affected by:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Cold or damp weather
  • Physical activity

There’s no cure, but there are treatments that can help reduce symptoms and improve your quality of life – especially if your symptoms are mild.

How to tell if you have fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia pain can be felt throughout your body or localised to certain areas, usually in parts of the body you use the most. It’s often continuous but can get better or worse at certain times. It can be felt as:

  • An ache
  • A burning sensation
  • Sharp pain

Fatigue can range from feeling tired to flu-like exhaustion.

Other fibromyalgia symptoms include:

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

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Diagnosis and tests for fibromyalgia

Your GP will ask you questions about your medical history and current symptoms and examine areas of your body for tenderness.

Many fibromyalgia symptoms are non-specific, meaning they’re also associated with other diseases, for example:

Your GP may refer you for further tests to rule other conditions out, such as blood tests, urine tests and X-rays.

Once other conditions have been ruled out, a fibromyalgia diagnosis may be made if:

  • You have severe pain in three to six different areas of your body or you have milder pain in seven or more areas
  • Your symptoms have stayed at a similar level for at least three months

Causes of fibromyalgia

The exact cause is unknown, but it’s likely to involve a number of factors.

Fibromyalgia can often be triggered by some kind of trauma, such as:

  • A relationship breakdown or being in an abusive relationship
  • An injury
  • Giving birth
  • Having an operation
  • The death of a loved one
  • Viral infection

Common treatments for fibromyalgia

Although there’s no cure, there are treatments which can help you reduce at least some of the symptoms and improve your quality of life. Your doctor will probably recommend a mix of medications and other therapies depending on your symptoms. Not all treatments will work for everyone.


  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antidepressants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Painkillers
  • Sleeping tablets

Other therapies

  • Acupuncture
  • Aerobic and strengthening exercise
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy – talking therapy to help you tackle problems more positively
  • Hydrotherapy or spa sessions
  • Meditative movement such as yoga and tai chi
  • Practicing mindfulness and other relaxation techniques