Fibromyalgia: Definition and What it is
Medically and clinically reviewed by Jonathan Lee, MD and Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Fibromyalgia Definition and Meaning
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness throughout the body that affects the body's muscles and soft tissue. It is often accompanied by fatigue and sleep disturbances, which can significantly impact one’s quality of life. While the exact causes of fibromyalgia remain unclear, research suggests an interplay of genetic, neurobiological, and environmental factors.
The effects of fibromyalgia on one’s life can’t be understated. It’s not just “all in your head” — the fatigue, pain, and even trouble concentrating all take a real toll.
Common symptoms of fibromyalgia often include:
Persistent, widespread pain and/or stiffness
Cognitive difficulties, often referred to as "fibro fog," causing issues with attention and concentration
Depression and anxiety
Tension headaches and migraines
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders (jaw pain)
These symptoms can vary in intensity and can be triggered or exacerbated by factors such as stress, weather changes, and physical activity.
Fibromyalgia treatments aim to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. A multifaceted treatment approach that may include medication, exercise, and physical therapy can be effective. Additionally, lifestyle changes and self-care practices such as stress management, healthy diet, and regular exercise play a crucial role.
Fibromyalgia: A Hinge Health Perspective
While lifestyle changes are often the first line of treatment for fibromyalgia, it can be understandably challenging to build an exercise routine to manage fibromyalgia if you’re fatigued and in pain all the time. A good way to handle this is with something called energy pacing. This is essentially balancing activities that require a lot of your energy — whether that’s physical energy from walking or mental energy from looking at a computer — with activities that give you energy, like stretching or doing a quiet meditation. When you implement strategies that help you conserve and build your energy, you’ll have more of it available to stay active.
And when it comes to working out, it’s best to start slow and gradually increase your level of activity. This will help you avoid what’s called post-exertional malaise, which is when you do too much at once and then “crash.” Instead, increase your activity goal in small increments. And give yourself grace — things won’t always go as planned as you navigate your symptoms and that’s okay.
How Physical Therapy Can Help With Fibromyalgia
A physical therapist (PT) can help you navigate fibromyalgia’s ups and downs. PTs can provide different ideas on how to stay active even with fatigue and educate you on fear avoidance so that you can feel good about getting back into workouts. They can also design a specific exercise program to help manage the pain, improve flexibility, strengthen the body, and increase stamina. You can see a physical therapist in person or use a program like Hinge Health to access a PT via telehealth/video visit.
How Hinge Health Can Help You
If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.
The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.
Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.
This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.
Fibromyalgia. (2020, January 6). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/fibromyalgia.htm
Couto, N., Monteiro, D., Cid, L., & Bento, T. (2022). Effect of different types of exercise in adult subjects with fibromyalgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised clinical trials. Scientific Reports, 12(1), 10391. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-14213-x
Walitt, B., Nahin, R. L., Katz, R. S., Bergman, M. J., & Wolfe, F. (2015). The Prevalence and Characteristics of Fibromyalgia in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey. PLOS ONE, 10(9), e0138024. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138024