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The Everyday Challenges of Fibromyalgia

Understanding the symptoms can help with a diagnosis

Doctor examining Veteran's feet

If you live with fibromyalgia, you know that it's tough. It's a disorder that affects millions of people across the U.S. The cause is still unknown, but it's been linked to repetitive injuries, trauma, stress, and infections. Fibromyalgia is also a presumptive illness for Gulf War Veterans.

Tender points

Fibromyalgia's symptoms include chronic pain in muscles, bones, and areas of tenderness. These "tender points" feel sore, especially when pressure is applied. For chronic pain to be considered fibromyalgia, you must have at least 11 out of the 18 tender points. They are usually located on specific parts of the body, including your head, shoulders, neck, hips, and knees.

Getting diagnosed

There isn't a lab test that detects fibromyalgia. A doctor can diagnose you with a physical exam. People with the disorder may also experience fatigue, headaches, and sometimes depression and anxiety.

Help is available

Treatments include methods to manage pain with appropriate exercise, attention to getting proper rest, and other pain management strategies. While some medications are available to help patients with fibromyalgia, these generally are only part of the treatments with the emphasis on non-medical therapies. While no one knows what causes fibromyalgia, high stress, poor eating habits, and extra weight can make it worse. Veterans can work with their health care team to manage symptoms and choose the best treatment plan for them. As a presumptive illness, Gulf War Veterans don't have to prove an association between fibromyalgia and their military service.

Manage pain with online help

One way to better manage fibromyalgia is tracking your pain levels online. Keeping records can help pinpoint what makes pain worse. Veterans with a Premium My HealtheVet account can access the track pain feature to avoid triggers better and monitor the progress of their fibromyalgia treatment plan. The Secure Messaging (sign in required) tool also makes communicating with doctors and therapists much easier. Sign in today.

Read More

Fibromyalgia: What You Need to Know

Health Care for Gulf War Veterans

Managing Fibromyalgia (Veterans Health Library)

Fibromyalgia (MedlinePlus)


Updated July 30, 2019