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Young People and Fibromyalgia


This is part of our larger Young People and Fibromyalgia booklet. This section is aimed at young people and understanding fibromyalgia. All our publications can be found here.


What is fibromyalgia (fi-bro-my-al-gia)? Fibromyalgia is a chronic (long term) pain condition. The pain is mainly felt in your muscles and tendons. It feels like you are sore all over, as if you have run a marathon the day before or you have the flu. Your limbs ache and sometimes feel too heavy to move easily. You can also feel very tired and have difficulty sleeping at night. Your head can become muzzy making it difficult to think clearly and remember things. Symptoms can come and go over time and vary from person to person. Sometimes it feels like the pain is moving around your body from one area to another.


Main symptoms:

• widespread pain throughout the body

• disturbed sleep

• always feeling tired


Other common symptoms:

• morning stiffness

• pain when you exert yourself

• headaches

• difficulty concentrating (fibrofog)

• light-headedness

• feeling worried

• being bothered by chemicals, light, sound, smells, noise

• numbness and tingling

• irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

• irritable bladder

• cold sensitivity

• restless legs


What causes fibromyalgia?


The exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown. However, people with fibromyalgia feel a lot more pain than other people. This is because pain signals in fibromyalgia are amplified. It is as though someone has turned the switch to full volume. So the nervous system, that carries pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain, is constantly set on maximum. Pain or touch, that would not bother other people, becomes painful and troublesome to a person with fibromyalgia. It is like being as sensitive as the princess in the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea who could feel a hard pea concealed under many mattresses.


This sensitivity of the nervous system can then affect other areas of the body. It can make the bowel or bladder sensitive leading to irritable bladder or irritable bowel syndrome. It can keep the body on maximum alert, as though you are living in a cage with danger and can’t escape. This can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. It uses up a lot of energy leaving you feeling tired and anxious.


Also, the body’s natural ways of reducing pain and making us less sensitive are not working properly. These rely on chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine, which are lower than normal in people with fibromyalgia.

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