18th November 2010

About Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia, sometimes referred to as fibromyalgia syndrome, is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.

The name fibromyalgia comes from three Latin words:

  • Fibro: meaning fibrous tissues, such as tendons (tissue that connects muscles to bones) and ligaments (tissue that connects bones to bones);
  • My: meaning muscles;
  • Algia: meaning pain.

However, the pain of fibromyalgia does not just affect the muscles, ligaments and tendons, but is felt all over the body.

Fibromyalgia pressure points

Fibromyalgia pressure points are specific places on the body (18 specific points at 9 bilateral locations) that are exceptionally sensitive to touch in people with fibromyalgia upon an examination by a healthcare professional. In 1990, The American College of Rheumatology defined the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia, based upon two major criteria:

  1. Widespread pain that lasts for at least three months;
  2. Pain in at least eleven of the eighteen possible specified tender points throughout the body.

These tender points will hurt when pressed, but the pressure will not cause pain in any other part of the body. The amount of pressure that should be applied to determine if a pressure point is “positive” for pain is standardised at four kilograms, or just enough to turn the thumbnail white.

The widespread pain associated with fibromyalgia is defined as having pain in all four quadrants of the body (both sides of the body, above and below the waist). In addition, pain must also be present in the cervical spine, anterior chest, thoracic spine or lower back. This is the strict definition of fibromyalgia as written in the medical books. However, many doctors realise that pressure points may change from time to time and may become better or worse.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Sleep disorders;
  • Poor, unrefreshing sleep;
  • Waking up feeling tired, lethargic, and stiff;
  • Fatigue;
  • Jaw pain;
  • Muscle pain;
  • Painful menstruation for women;
  • Headaches, ranging from ordinary types of headaches to migraines;
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome, with alternating diarrhoea and constipation, sometimes accompanied by bloating, flatulence and/or nausea;
  • Cognitive disturbances, including a lack of concentration, temporary memory impairment, and mixing up words;
  • Clumsiness and dizziness;
  • Sensitivity to changes in the weather and to noise, bright lights, smoke, and other environmental factors;
  • Allergies.

How common is fibromyalgia?

It is estimated that fibromyalgia affects around 1 in 20 to 1 in 25 people in the United Kingdom. In England and Wales, this could be equivalent to 1.76 million individuals.

Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although the condition appears to affect more women than men. In most cases, fibromyalgia appears to occur between the ages of 30 and 60 years; however, it can develop in people of any age, including children and the elderly.

Fibromyalgia can be a difficult condition to diagnose because there are no specific tests and the symptoms can be similar to those of other conditions.

The outlook

There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, because the cause is unknown. However, there are a number of treatments that may ease symptoms. Treatment tends to be a combination of:

  • Medicines: such as antidepressants and painkillers;
  • Holistic therapies: such as counselling and mindfulness;
  • Lifestyle changes: such as appropriate exercise and better sleeping habits.

For most people, the symptoms of fibromyalgia are permanent, although they can vary in severity, location and duration. There are several lifestyle changes that can help to relieve your symptoms and make your condition easier to live with.

A look at Fibromyalgia through history


‘The information given in this web site is purely for information only. The Newcastle Fibromyalgia Support Group does not claim to be a Medical authority and exists for ‘support purposes’ only. We suggest that anyone reading this site seeks medical advice from his/her GP if they are concerned about their health or if they think they may have fibromyalgia’.