Fibromyalgia (fi·bro·my·al·gi·a) is a medical condition that is believed to affect the central nervous system. It causes pain all over the body, which can be experienced in one or more places throughout the body. This widespread pain can vary from person to person, may move around the body from time to time and may change in intensity on a daily or even hourly basis. People with fibromyalgia may be more sensitive to pain than people without fibromyalgia. This is called abnormal pain perception processing.

Persons with fibromyalgia (PwFM) also experience fatigue (which is different from tiredness), sleep problems, lack of concentration and memory, emotional and mental distress, and gastrointestinal problems (such as constipation or diarrhea) and have a heightened sensitivity to touch and pressure. Pain, fatigue, and sleep difficulties combined make it very challenging, often debilitating, for persons with fibromyalgia to function effectively and efficiently on a daily basis.

Fibromyalgia is a relatively common condition, affecting 2-4% of Canadians (Canada’s current population is approximately 38,125,000) equates to about 764,000 – 1,530,000 people .  In the USA, about 4 million people have fibromyalgia. Although fibromyalgia primarily affects women (80 to 90% of people with fibromyalgia are women), it is also seen in men, teenagers, and children from birth to age 12.


Although there has been, and continues to be, more quantitative than qualitative research being conducted related to fibromyalgia, As of today, the root cause(s) of fibromyalgia is not known and there is NO cure. We do, however, know that fibromyalgia is not a disease of the joints, nor is it an inflammatory or degenerative condition. Fibromyalgia will not cause permanent damage to muscles, bones or joints.

Current medical thought is that fibromyalgia is caused by a combination of physical, psychological and biological factors working together. It appears to be triggered by physical trauma like surgery, injury, infection, giving birth and/or significant psychological stress like the breakdown of a relationship, death of a loved one, abuse in childhood or even post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

There is also evidence of the following causes:

  1. Environmental factors
  2. Genetics (Family History)
  3. Depression disorders
  4. Neuro-chemical imbalances
  5. Brain abnormalities (i.e. problem with the processing of electrical signals in the brain) which results in altered pain perceptions


Before 2010, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) regarded the 1990 18-Tender Point Examination criteria as the only reliable clinical finding and diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. In 2010, a Canadian team of medical professionals rewrote the diagnostic criteria, which was adopted and implemented by the ACR. Since 2010, the ACR Diagnostic Criteria for fibromyalgia has been modified in 2011 and 2016. Click on these to find out more about the clinical diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia:

Example of Current Fibromyalgia Diagnostic Criteria Form