What is it?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Symptoms can gradually accumulate over time or they can be triggered after a physical trauma, surgery, or period of significant psychological stress. People with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosis, or ankylosing spondylitis tend to be more likely to develop Fibromyalgia than others without these chronic conditions. Fibromyalgia affects almost 5 million people in the United States; 80% to 90% are women and is usually diagnosed in adults between the ages of 30 and 50, although symptoms can begin sooner.

Symptoms include:

Tender Points associated with Fibromyalgia

  • Widespread pain, often a dull achiness, on both sides of the body above and below the waist
  • Spots on your head, neck, chest, shoulders, elbows, hips, or knees that are tender to a firm touch; these “tender points” may move around or come and go
  • Muscle stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Headache
  • Thinking and memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Pain or cramps in the abdomen or pelvis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Irritable bladder syndrome
  • Difficulty sleeping; waking unrefreshed
  • Temporomandibular (jaw joint) pain
  • Numbness or tingling

How is it diagnosed?

There is no one test for Fibromyalgia. The diagnoses is made by eliminating other conditions with similar symptoms. Once other things have been ruled out, diagnoses is made by the presence of key symptoms including: extreme fatigue, pain in multiple “tender points” (points that are tender to touch and that move around), trouble sleeping, anxiety, and memory problems.

How is it treated?

Although there is currently no cure for Fibromyalgia, there are treatments that generally provide relief. These include:

  • Aerobic conditioning
  • Aquatic exercise/ Aquatic Physical Therapy
  • Stretching
  • Strengthening exercise
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Deep breathing
  • Recreational activities
  • Manual Physical Therapy
  • Medication (analgesics, antidepressants, anti-seizure)


PROCare Physical Therapy has seen many patients with Fibromyalgia in the aquatic physical therapy program. Aquatic therapy allows the patient opportunity for stretching, aerobic conditioning, manual therapy, and muscular strengthening in an environment that is low stress on the joints. If you are interested in learning more about PROCare Physical Therapy’s Aquatic Therapy Program, please call 414-858-1361 or email us at


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