Understanding Fibromyalgia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

fibro fi

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by widespread pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties, often referred to as “fibro fog.” At Evolution Medical Care, we understand the complexities of fibromyalgia and are committed to offering modern, science-based treatments like Acupuncture that can provide relief and improve your quality of life.

What is Fibromyalgia?

Imagine your body as a well-tuned orchestra, where each instrument represents a different system or function. Normally, they all play in harmony, creating a beautiful symphony of activities that we call daily life. But what happens when one instrument—or in this case, a system in your body—starts to play off-key? The entire orchestra is affected, and the music becomes inharmonious. This is akin to what happens in fibromyalgia. It’s as if the pain signals in your body have gone haywire, creating a clattering of symptoms that disrupt your life.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that primarily affects the muscles and soft tissues. It is often associated with other conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraines, and mood disorders. While the exact cause is still unknown, it is believed to involve a variety of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors.

Key Features of Fibromyalgia

  • Widespread Pain: Pain is often described as a constant dull ache that lasts for at least three months.
  • Fatigue: People with fibromyalgia often wake up feeling tired, even after sleeping for long periods.
  • Cognitive Difficulties: Known as “fibro fog,” this involves difficulties in focusing, paying attention, and remembering.

Causes of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a complex condition with no single identifiable cause, but rather a web of interconnected factors that contribute to its onset and progression. Genetic predispositions, environmental triggers, and hormonal imbalances are just a few of the pieces in this intricate puzzle. In this section, we’ll delve into the various factors that can contribute to Fibromyalgia, shedding light on this often misunderstood condition.

Family discussing the genetic factors of Fibromyalgia with practitioner

Genetic Factors

  • Family History: Research has shown that fibromyalgia often runs in families, suggesting that there may be certain genetic mutations that make individuals more susceptible to developing the condition. If you have a family member with fibromyalgia, your risk of developing the condition may be higher.
  • Genetic Markers: While no specific genes have been definitively linked to fibromyalgia, certain genetic markers are being studied for their potential role in the onset and progression of the condition. These markers could influence how the body processes pain or responds to stress, both of which are key factors in fibromyalgia.

Environmental Triggers

  • Physical or Emotional Trauma: Events like car accidents, surgeries, or significant emotional stress can act as triggers for fibromyalgia. The body’s response to trauma can lead to heightened sensitivity to pain, which is a hallmark of this condition.
  • Infections: Certain viral or bacterial infections, such as Epstein-Barr virus or Lyme disease, have been known to trigger or exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms. The body’s inflammatory response to infection can contribute to the chronic pain and fatigue associated with fibromyalgia.

Hormonal Imbalances

  • Serotonin Levels: Levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, sleep, and pain, have been found to be low in people with fibromyalgia. This could explain some of the common symptoms like depression, sleep disturbances, and heightened pain sensitivity.
  • Cortisol Levels: Stress can lead to elevated levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” which can exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms. Managing stress through techniques like mindfulness and relaxation can help regulate cortisol levels and potentially improve symptoms.

Neurological Factors

  • Pain Perception: One of the most intriguing aspects of fibromyalgia is the role of the nervous system in pain perception. Research suggests that people with fibromyalgia have abnormalities in the way their brain processes pain signals, leading to increased sensitivity to pain.
  • Neurotransmitter Imbalance: Imbalances in neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine can also play a role in fibromyalgia. These neurotransmitters are involved in regulating mood and pain perception and imbalances can lead to a range of symptoms including depression, anxiety and increased pain sensitivity.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Muscle Pain

  • Constant Dull Ache: The most defining symptom of fibromyalgia is a constant dull ache that affects various parts of the body. This pain is often widespread, affecting both sides of the body and above and below the waist. The intensity can vary, sometimes becoming more severe in response to factors like stress or weather changes.
  • Tender Points: Fibromyalgia is also characterised by specific tender points on the body that are exceptionally sensitive to pressure. These points are often located around the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms and legs. Even a slight touch can trigger pain.


  • Persistent Tiredness: People with fibromyalgia often experience a persistent feeling of tiredness that doesn’t improve with rest. This fatigue can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities and responsibilities, making even simple tasks seem daunting.
  • Sleep Disturbances: The fatigue is often compounded by sleep disturbances. Many people with fibromyalgia have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and the sleep they do get is often not restorative. This lack of quality sleep exacerbates the fatigue and can worsen other symptoms.

Cognitive Difficulties

  • Memory Problems: Commonly referred to as “fibro fog,” cognitive difficulties are a frequent symptom of fibromyalgia. Memory problems can range from forgetfulness to more severe issues like losing track of dates or struggling to remember familiar names.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Alongside memory problems, many people with fibromyalgia experience difficulty concentrating. This can manifest as an inability to focus on tasks, easily becoming distracted, or struggling with decision-making.
Lady experiencing cognitive difficulties or fibro fog as symptoms of her fibromyalgia

Other Symptoms

Headaches and Migraines

Many people with fibromyalgia experience frequent headaches or migraines, which can further impair their quality of life. These headaches can be severe and are often accompanied by sensitivity to light or sound.

Depression and Anxiety

Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are commonly associated with fibromyalgia. Chronic pain and fatigue can take a toll on mental health, leading to feelings of hopelessness or excessive worry.

Digestive Problems

Digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are also common among people with fibromyalgia. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating, and either diarrhea or constipation.

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia

Navigating the range of fibromyalgia symptoms can be overwhelming and diagnosis is a crucial step in finding the right treatment path to regain control of your life.
When it comes to diagnosing fibromyalgia, it often involves a multi-faceted approach that includes a thorough medical history, physical examinations and additional tests to rule out other conditions.

Medical History

A thorough medical history is crucial for diagnosing fibromyalgia. Your healthcare provider will ask about the duration and types of symptoms you’ve been experiencing, any triggering events like trauma or infection and any family history of fibromyalgia or similar conditions.

Physical Examination

During the physical examination, the healthcare provider will check specific tender points on your body. These are areas that are particularly sensitive to pressure and are often located around the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs.

General Health Assessment

A general examination to assess your overall health may also be conducted. This can include checking your reflexes, muscle strength, and range of motion.

Additional Tests

  • Blood Tests: While there is no definitive blood test for fibromyalgia, blood tests may be conducted to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
  • Imaging: Imaging tests like X-rays or MRIs may also be used to rule out other conditions. However, these tests are generally not used to diagnose fibromyalgia but to eliminate the possibility of other underlying issues.

Treatment Options


  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can offer temporary relief from the muscle pain associated with fibromyalgia. However, these are not long-term solutions and should be used cautiously due to potential side effects like gastrointestinal issues.
  • Antidepressants: Medications like duloxetine (Cymbalta) are often prescribed to help ease both pain and fatigue. These medications work by balancing neurotransmitters in the brain, which can improve mood and may help manage pain.
  • Antiseizure Drugs: Gabapentin and pregabalin (Lyrica) are sometimes used for symptom relief. These medications were originally developed for epilepsy but have been found to be effective in reducing fibromyalgia pain for some people

Physical Therapy

  • Exercise Programs: A tailored exercise program can significantly improve symptoms over time. Activities like swimming, walking, and cycling are often recommended as they are less stressful on the joints.
  • Stretching and Strengthening: Specific stretching and strengthening exercises can help in muscle relaxation and pain relief. These exercises aim to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles that support your joints, thereby reducing pain.

Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia

Acupuncture has been practiced for thousands of years and its role in modern medicine is increasingly being recognised. Scientific research shows that Acupuncture is particularly effective for the treatment of pain in fibromyalgia.

Acupuncture as a natural treatment for relief from fibromyalgia symptoms

How Acupuncture Helps

Acupuncture goes beyond mere symptom relief, targeting the root causes by stimulating the nervous system, balancing biochemical changes, and regulating hormones.

Nervous System Stimulation

  • Modulating Pain Perception: One of the primary ways Acupuncture helps in fibromyalgia treatment is by stimulating the nervous system. This can modulate the perception of pain, making it less intense and more manageable. The insertion of fine needles at specific points sends signals to the brain, which can alter the way it processes pain signals.
  • Enhancing Neurotransmitter Activity: Acupuncture can also influence the activity of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are involved in mood regulation and pain perception. This can be particularly beneficial for managing the cognitive difficulties and mood disorders often associated with fibromyalgia.
  • Biochemical Changes: Acupuncture helps in the release of endorphins, which are often referred to as the body’s natural painkillers. These biochemical substances can significantly reduce the sensation of pain, providing relief from the constant dull ache that characterises fibromyalgia.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Certain biochemical substances that have anti-inflammatory effects are also released during Acupuncture. This can help in reducing inflammation, which is a key factor in the chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia.

Hormonal Balance

  • Regulating Hormone Levels: Hormonal imbalances are often implicated in fibromyalgia, particularly in relation to stress hormones like cortisol. Acupuncture may help in regulating these imbalances, thereby improving symptoms like fatigue, sleep disturbances, and heightened pain sensitivity.
  • Improving Sleep Quality: By regulating hormones like melatonin, which is crucial for sleep regulation, Acupuncture can also improve the quality of sleep. Better sleep can, in turn, improve other symptoms like fatigue and cognitive difficulties.

Take Control of Your Fibromyalgia Journey

Fibromyalgia is a complex and often misunderstood condition that can significantly impact your quality of life. However, understanding its multifaceted nature—its symptoms, causes, and treatment options—is the first step toward regaining control.

At Evolution Medical Care, we are committed to offering you a holistic, science-based approach to managing fibromyalgia. From natural practices like Acupuncture, Cupping Therapy and Electro-Acupuncture, to Herbal and Mineral supplements, we tailor our treatments to meet your individual needs, aiming to improve not just your symptoms but your overall well-being.

Ready to Take the Next Step? We’re Here to Help

Don’t let fibromyalgia hold you back from living your life to the fullest. If you’re tired of the constant pain, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties, it’s time to take action. Click to book an online appointment, or call us at (02) 4709 6727 to discuss how we can help in your situation!