Fact Checked

The Truth About Fibromyalgia: What Exactly Is Fibromyalgia?

Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disease

Is Fibromyalgia an Autoimmune Disease - (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

  • A person with fibromyalgia experiences severe musculoskeletal and multisite pain in at least four tender parts of the body. The pain continues for over three months.
  • Some tender points and trigger points include the back of the head, upper chest, above and below the waist, knees, top of shoulders, shoulder blades, inner elbows, and hips.
  • Fibromyalgia pain grips both joints(arthralgia) and muscles(myalgia) almost in the whole body.
  • The Covid pandemic has contributed to a 16% rise in Alzheimer's and dementia death, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
  • It's unknown what specifically causes fibromyalgia. However, genes, infections, old age, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, stress, and trauma are possible causes.
  • Some specialized massage techniques, stress reduction, physical exercise, medications, and trigger point therapy may help temper fibromyalgia pain and manage many symptoms.


Fibromyalgia causes prolonged widespread pain all over the body's tender and trigger points. Again, it is also associated with sleep problems, general tiredness, depression, cognitive confusion, face pain, and emotional instability. Statistics show that fibromyalgia affects about 4 million US adults (2% of the adult population).

Unfortunately, the real cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. But genetic disposition, trauma, injuries, lupus, and stress are some known risk factors. So, is fibromyalgia an autoimmune disease? Interestingly, despite fibromyalgia displaying symptoms of most autoimmune conditions, it is still not included among autoimmune disorders.

What Is An Autoimmune Disease?

 An autoimmune disease is a condition where the body erroneously produces antibodies to fight imaginary enemies or diseases. The immune system sends fighter cells (antibodies) to kick out the perceived foreign bodies thinking they are bacteria and viruses. Then, the body produces antibodies that destroy healthy cells at the site of fighting.

In essence, the body attacks itself by mistake, causing more problems. Some autoimmune disease symptoms that result include Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, vasculitis, and multiple sclerosis.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Fibromyalgia is a disorder associated with widespread pain in most muscles and joints. Other traditional names for fibromyalgia are fibrositis, rheumatism, or muscular rheumatism. Scientists aren’t sure what causes fibromyalgia. The pain may affect several body parts like the head, shoulders, knees, hips, face, waist, and jaws. Since fibromyalgia symptoms resemble other chronic pain diseases like arthritis, it takes time to diagnose the disease.

Sadly, people who suffer from severe fibromyalgia symptoms struggle to perform daily tasks leading to untold suffering. Researchers still ask the question: “Is fibromyalgia an autoimmune disease?”

Unfortunately, this condition aggravates the symptoms causing sleep problems, fatigue, headaches, disorientation, chronic pain, and stress. Also, it doesn’t have an instant cure, making the victims even more depressed as the brain senses more pain levels, and pain continues unabated.

Is Fibromyalgia An Autoimmune Disease?

The symptoms of autoimmune disease[1] and fibromyalgia are similar. Research shows a relationship between autoimmune disorders and fibromyalgia conditions. But, save for some similar symptoms, fibromyalgia is quite different. So, is fibromyalgia an autoimmune disease? For one, fibromyalgia doesn’t damage the surrounding tissues.

It doesn’t cause any inflammation. Also, fibromyalgia never produces antibodies like autoimmune disorders. Nevertheless, fibromyalgia sometimes occurs concurrently with some autoimmune diseases.

This makes the patients and experts even more confused. Indeed, before most doctors make a fibromyalgia diagnosis, they quickly start treating fibromyalgia with autoimmune disease symptoms in mind. Later, when a patient doesn’t improve, they think of fibromyalgia, when pain persists longer.

Perhaps, the lack of a clear distinction about what causes fibromyalgia in the first place makes it harder to diagnose and treat. Only more research will unravel the role autoimmunity plays in the development of fibromyalgia.

Moreover, whether there will be overwhelming evidence to classify it as an autoimmune disorder. Until then, and until doctors discover its causes, fibromyalgia will remain outside the class of autoimmune diseases.

Common Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Fibromyalgia Trigger Points
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed when you experience widespread pain or a dull ache in various tender points of the body. According to the 2016 criteria [2] for a fibromyalgia diagnosis, you have the condition if:

  • You get generalized pain in at least 4 of the 5 tender regions of the body
  • You have experienced the pain at a similar level for at least 3 months
  • There is a high widespread pain and severity index

Regardless of other diagnoses, such diagnoses of fibromyalgia are valid. You also need to be examined for other similar or related ailments even after you have been diagnosed.

Other common fibromyalgia symptoms include:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • A sleepy feeling even after sleeping for a long time
  • Joint and jaw pains (“temporomandibular joint syndrome”)
  • Headaches
  • Stiffness
  • Lack of focus or concentration
  • Widespread pain and pressure
  • Lower belly pain
  • Bladder issues
  • A continuous feeling of fatigue
  • Eye dryness
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Depression and anxiety
  • A hazy feeling, mental or cognitive imbalances called fibromyalgia fog (fibro fog or brain fog). Fibro fog has signs like restlessness, being inattentive, and memory lapses

Possible Causes Of Fibromyalgia 

It’s not known what causes fibromyalgia. It remains a matter of assumption on the possible causes of the disease. However, for lack of a particular condition that causes fibromyalgia, medics attribute this disease to several culprits. The presumed causes include:

  • Inherited genes
  • Physical and emotional trauma
  • Painful autoimmune disease symptoms like rheumatoid arthritis
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Viral infections
  • Serious injuries
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Physical and emotional abuse
  • Neuro-immune disorder or central sensitivity syndrome [3]

Treatment And Management Of Fibromyalgia 

Treatment And Management Of Fibromyalgia

Sadly, fibromyalgia has no cure. Yet, you can treat and manage fibromyalgia symptoms using different medicines, techniques, and self-care habits. It is only possible to relieve and manage fibromyalgia pain to make it bearable. While pain may end or reduce to a large extent for many victims, some patients live with fibromyalgia pain for many years.

Some interventions use a multi personnel approach with a team of doctors, rheumatologists, and therapists to manage various fibromyalgia symptoms. Others use physical exercise and massage to manage the condition and improve their life.

Here is a summary of measures to treat and manage the condition:

  • Stress management and meditation
  • Massage and yoga therapies
  • Regular strength and resistance workouts
  • Getting adequate and better-quality sleep
  • Join patient communities to share experiences on managing the conditions
  • Counseling and speech therapies to stabilize emotional and cognitive imbalances
  • Pain relievers and other prescription medications such as ibuprofen, antidepressants, sleep inducers, and anti-seizures

Final Take

In summary, fibromyalgia is a condition with a myriad of problems. Above all, the prolonged pain in most muscles and joints is sometimes excruciating and unbearable. However, many patients get the wrong diagnosis, with several being treated for possible autoimmune disease symptoms first.

By the time doctors realize they aren’t dealing with autoimmune disease symptoms, fibromyalgia escalates, causing more harm and pain. Joint pains, muscle pains, sleeplessness, depression, anxiety, and stress affect the quality of life for fibromyalgia patients. Fibromyalgia has no cure. But its management could be through medical prescriptions, exercise, and self-management methods.

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