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Fibromyalgia (fye-bro-my-AL-jah) is a syndrome characterized by long-lasting widespread pain and tenderness at specific points on the body. The term "fibromyalgia" means pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Although not defining characteristics, sleep disturbances and fatigue are also integral symptoms of fibromyalgia.
This condition is referred to as a syndrome because it's a set of signs and symptoms that occur together with no known cause or identifiable reason. Although considered an arthritis-related condition, fibromyalgia is not truly a form of arthritis because it does not cause inflammation or damage to the joints, muscles or other tissues. It is, however, considered a rheumatic condition because it impairs the joints and/or soft tissues and causes chronic pain.
Fibromyalgia is an especially confusing and often misunderstood condition. Because its symptoms are quite common and laboratory tests results generally are normal, people with fibromyalgia were once told that their condition was "all in their head." However, medical studies have proven that fibromyalgia does indeed exist, and it is estimated to affect about two percent of the U.S. population today. Although fibromyalgia has no cure, it isn't a progressive disease, meaning that it will not get worse over time and it's never fatal. With a treatment plan that integrates several modalities that include exercise, rest, stress relief, coping skills and medications, people with fibromyalgia can live happy, productive lives.