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Fibromyalgia

Key Points about Fibromyalgia

  • Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain in muscles and soft tissues all over the body.
  • It is most common in middle-aged women. But children can also have the condition.
  • Symptoms may also include lack of energy (fatigue), sleep problems, headaches and other problems.
  • It is not known if fibromyalgia in a child continues into adulthood.
  • The pain and lack of energy can affect your child’s quality of life and cause depression.

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain in muscles and soft tissues around the body. It is an ongoing (chronic) condition. It can affect the neck, shoulders, back, chest, hips, buttocks, arms and legs. The pain may be worse in the morning and evening. Sometimes, the pain may last all day long. The pain may get worse with activity, cold or damp weather, anxiety and stress. The condition affects about 1 in 25 to 1 in 50 people in the U.S. It is most common in middle-aged women. But children can also have the condition.

What causes or triggers fibromyalgia?

The cause is unknown. Researchers think there may be a link with sleep problems and stress. It may also be linked to immune, endocrine or biochemical problems.

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Each child may feel symptoms a bit differently. Chronic pain is the most common symptom. The pain most often affects the muscles and the points where muscles attach to bones. These are the tendons. The pain also affects ligaments which attach bones to bones.

Pain may start in one part of the body, such as the neck and shoulders. Over time the whole body may be affected. The pain ranges from mild to severe. It may feel like burning, soreness, stiffness, aching or gnawing pain. There may be sore spots in certain parts of the muscles. It may feel similar to arthritis, but it’s not a condition that gets worse. And it doesn't damage muscles or bones. Other common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Medium to severe tiredness (fatigue)
  • Sleep problems at night
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Missing a lot of school

The symptoms of fibromyalgia can seem like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

There are no tests that can confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Instead, diagnosis is based on your child’s symptoms and a physical exam. Blood tests, X-rays or other tests may be done. These are to rule out other causes of your child’s symptoms.

What is the treatment for fibromyalgia?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but the symptoms can be managed. Mild cases may get better with stress reduction or lifestyle changes. Treatment may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines, to ease pain and help your child sleep
  • Other pain medicines
  • Exercise and physical therapy, to stretch muscles and improve cardiovascular fitness
  • Relaxation methods to help ease pain
  • Heat treatments
  • Cold treatments once in a while
  • Massage
  • Short-term use of antidepressants at bedtime, to heal improve sleep and mood

Talk with your child’s health care providers about the risks, benefits and possible side effects of all medicines.

How should I help my child live with fibromyalgia?

It is not known if fibromyalgia in a child continues into adulthood. The pain and lack of energy can affect your child’s quality of life and may cause depression. Talk with your child’s health care provider if you think your child has depression. Help your child manage his or her symptoms by sticking to the treatment plan. This includes getting enough sleep. Encourage exercise and physical therapy, and find ways to make it fun. Work with your child’s school to make sure your child has help as needed. Your child may also qualify for special help under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

When should I call my child’s health care provider?

If your child’s symptoms get worse or there are new symptoms, tell the health care provider.

Children's Team

Children's Team

Providers

Matthew Oetgen

Matthew Oetgen

Division Chief, Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine
Departments

Departments

Pediatric Pain Medicine

The Children's National Pediatric Pain Medicine Program is one of only a few in the country focused exclusively on managing pain for infants, children and teens. When children are unable to express their pain in words, our pediatric specialists have the unique insight to help.

Rheumatology

The Division of Rheumatology aims to improve the health and quality of life for children with rheumatic diseases and musculoskeletal disorders through comprehensive, patient-focused care, including testing, treatment, and patient and family education programs.

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