When you have fibromyalgia, even simple tasks – getting out of bed, chopping vegetables, buttoning a child’s coat – can be painful. Unfortunately, we still have a lot to learn about this baffling disease, which affects over 5 million Americans according to the Arthritis Foundation. Here’s a quick look at some of what we know.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is different for everyone, but in almost all cases, it’s a chronic disease that causes severe body aches, joint pain and fatigue, along with other symptoms.

Who it Affects

While fibromyalgia is most common in middle-aged to older women, men and even children can have it, too?


Fibromyalgia can mimic other conditions, making it difficult to diagnose and treat. Common symptoms include extreme body pain, tenderness and fatigue. Other symptoms may include:

• difficulty sleeping

• headaches

• noise and light sensitivity

• problems with memory and thinking, aka “fibro fog”

• restless leg syndrome

• numbness

• tingling

• morning stiffness

• irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)


Just what causes fibromyalgia remains somewhat of a mystery. While concrete causes haven’t been confirmed yet, the medical profession has a good idea of factors that may contribute to its onset. A car accident, injury, illness or other major life event that causes mental and physical stress may up the risk. A person’s genes may likely have something to do with it, too.


Fibromyalgia has no cure. The best approach is to try multiple kinds of treatments. Talking with a general practitioner, rheumatologist, physical or occupational therapist can help you understand the different treatments that are available. Though pain and fatigue may make it difficult, exercise is one of the most effective treatments. And for some people, alternative therapies such as massage and acupuncture can help ease the pain.

What to Do

See your medical practitioner if you’ve had unexplained pain paired with other mysterious symptoms, such as sleep or memory problems, for longer than three months.

For further information or questions related to exercise and health related questions, please call CHI St. Francis Health — Medical Wellness Center at 218-643-0345.

Tim Peterson, OT, is director of Rehab. Services / Medical Wellness Center at CHI St. Francis Health, Breckenridge, Minnesota.

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