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How Does a Person Get Fibromyalgia? A Doctor Explains

Imagine being so tired that you can’t function. You can’t work your day job or do household chores without needing to go back to bed after an hour or two. Now imagine that in addition to this extreme fatigue, you feel a deep, aching pain throughout your body in your bones, joints, and tissues. This is what it feels like to live with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain and tenderness throughout your body, accompanied by other symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and sleep, mood, and memory problems.

If you’ve experienced difficulty walking, extreme body fatigue, or ever-present brain fog, you’re not alone. Fibromyalgia has become highly prevalent in the United States, affecting an estimated 10 million Americans. Yet, despite how common the disease is, the exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown.

Although there is no known cause, certain triggers can increase your risk of developing fibromyalgia. Here’s what to do about it.

If you think you might be living with fibromyalgia, set up a discovery call to get answers.

Who Can Get Fibromyalgia?

Anyone can develop fibromyalgia at any time, but women between the ages of 30 and 60 years old are most likely to acquire the disease. In fact, women are nine times more likely to get fibromyalgia than men.

It’s rare for children to develop fibromyalgia, but not unheard of. Because fibromyalgia tends to run in families, genetic mutations may make children more susceptible to developing the disorder if a parent has it.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

The symptoms of fibromyalgia are unpredictable. Many symptoms can limit your ability to do everyday functions and impact your quality of life. If you live with fibromyalgia, you might experience some or all of these symptoms daily:

  • Brain fog, also known as “fibro fog”
  • A constant, flu-like ache throughout your body
  • Severe exhaustion and difficulty sleeping
  • Tingling or numbness in your hands and feet
  • Digestive issues or irregular bowel function
  • Bladder problems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Back pain
  • Chronic headaches
  • Jaw pain
  • Painful menstrual cramps
  • Weight gain
  • Low libido
  • Dry eyes and mouth

Risk Factors for Fibromyalgia

Risk factors for fibromyalgia include being female, being middle-aged, having lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, suffering from a traumatic event such as a car accident, having a family history of fibromyalgia, and being obese.

What Triggers Fibromyalgia?

As we mentioned above, the causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood. It’s common for symptoms to begin after an event, such as physical trauma, surgery, or infection. Other times, symptoms gradually accumulate with no single triggering event.

While you may not be able to prevent the onset of fibromyalgia, you can avoid flares. One of the best ways to fend off a fibromyalgia flare-up is to know what might be causing it in the first place. These causes are called triggers. It’s believed that certain triggers can affect how your central nervous system processes the pain messages that are carried around the body.

Common triggers of fibromyalgia include:

  • Hormone imbalances
  • Leaky gut
  • Chronic stress
  • Emotional trauma
  • Poor diet
  • Gluten sensitivity or food allergies
  • Poor sleep
  • Too little or too much exercise
  • Weather extremes
  • Traveling or changes in schedule
  • Changes in medication
  • Injury or illness
  • Genetics
  • Environmental toxins

Some flare-ups are unavoidable, and certain triggers are beyond your control. But you can try to identify what aggravates your fibromyalgia so you know how to better manage the symptoms.

Effects of Fibromyalgia on Your Quality of Life

It might feel like an invisible struggle if you live with fibromyalgia because you can often look happy and healthy from an outsider’s perspective. The truth is this chronic condition can have complications that severely impact your quality of life. Some ways this condition can affect your life include:

  • Being twice as likely to be hospitalized
  • Being three times more likely to have major depression
  • Increased risk of injury
  • Higher risk of developing other rheumatic conditions, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis

Managing Your Fibromyalgia

Despite your best efforts, your fibromyalgia will sometimes flare. Your initial urge might be to reach for a magic pill. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for fibromyalgia once it’s flaring. So preventing flares is your best option. There are several lifestyle changes you can make that will help mitigate the effects of fibromyalgia.


Eating a balanced and nutritious diet promotes optimal health and function of your body. Eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms, such as pain, depression, and sleep problems.


If you have fibromyalgia pain, exercising is probably the last thing you feel like doing. But experts say it’s one of the most effective strategies you can try to manage the condition. If you slowly build up physical activity over time, you will strengthen your muscles, reducing pain and discomfort. Aerobic exercises like swimming, walking, and cycling can improve your physical function and reduce pain and stiffness.


Fibromyalgia can cause sleep problems, but sleep is crucial for your health. Developing effective sleep strategies to get a full night’s rest can help to improve symptoms.

Pacing Yourself

When you feel pain-free, you might be tempted to overdo things, which trigger a flare-up. Try keeping on an even level and avoid doing anything too extreme to prevent fibromyalgia symptoms. Remember that doing too much on good days can increase your number of bad days.

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia

A definitive diagnostic test for fibromyalgia isn’t available yet. As a result, many people struggle with symptoms for months or years before being diagnosed. Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be tricky because its symptoms often mimic other conditions like lupus or multiple sclerosis. Arriving at a diagnosis is often a process of elimination. If you suspect you may have fibromyalgia, work with a medical practitioner who you trust to listen to your concerns while ruling out other conditions

Your functional medicine doctor will ask you if you’ve had pain in all four quadrants of the body for at least three months to make a diagnosis. Your doctor will also ask if you’ve had tenderness in at least 10 areas of the body, such as your neck, back, hips, arms, legs, or shoulders.

There are no quick fixes for fibromyalgia, but reducing the time it takes to diagnose you can not only improve your symptoms but return you to living a normal life.

Functional Medicine for Fibromyalgia

A functional medicine approach will address the underlying biochemical processes that drive your chronic pain and other symptoms from fibromyalgia. Functional medicine aims to tackle the root of the pain in a holistic strategy to eliminate your symptoms, which then positively impacts your overall health.

Once you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a functional medicine doctor will help you treat the pain through detoxification,  lifestyle changes, and supplementation. After you begin to experience some relief from the pain, you will be better equipped to implement other lifestyle changes, such as increasing your level of mobility.

At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we work diligently to understand the root of your symptoms to create a treatment plan that is best for you. Through customized adjustments, many fibromyalgia patients experience natural, lasting relief.

Beat fibromyalgia naturally!. We can help you.

Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout Tennessee and into Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, Abingdon, VA, Grundy, VA, Asheville, NC, Boone, NC.