Progression and Potential Complications of Fibromyalgia


What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome that involves widespread muscle pain (myalgias) and joint pain (arthralgias). Fibromyalgia is thought to be due to central sensitization, which causes chronic pain and pain amplification due to a dysfunction in the way the brain and spinal cord process painful and non-painful signals.


The progression of fibromyalgia is often unpredictable. Most people with fibromyalgia experience periods of both flares and remissions. While entirely eliminating the symptoms of fibromyalgia may not be possible, most individuals are able to reduce symptoms with medications and lifestyle changes.

Potential complications

Fibromyalgia may lead to any of the following complications:

  • Increased hospitalizations
    People with fibromyalgia are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized than those without the condition. Individuals with fibromyalgia reportedly average ten outpatient visits per year and one hospitalization every three years.
  • Obesity and physical deconditioning
    Lack of physical activity can lead to deconditioning, which causes a rapid deterioration of the muscles, bones, and cardiovascular system. Deconditioning and lack of physical activity increases the likelihood of obesity.
  • Metabolic syndrome
    Metabolic syndrome refers to a set of comorbid health conditions that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. These conditions include high blood sugar levels, hypertension, excess body fat at the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels.
  • Marked functional impairment
    In addition to pain, fibromyalgia is frequently accompanied by additional symptoms, including fatigue, cognitive impairment/brain fog, headaches, and insomnia. These symptoms can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
  • Severe depression and anxiety
    People with fibromyalgia are approximately three times more likely to have major depression than adults without fibromyalgia. Therefore, screening for depression and anxiety is extremely important.