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What Causes Fibromyalgia?

Updated: Nov 26, 2022

Fibromyalgia is a complex condition, with risk factors and possible causes as varied as its symptoms. And, if you're like most people living with fibromyalgia, you've probably asked yourself more than once, "what caused my fibromyalgia?". But, unfortunately, there's not a single answer to that question.

In fact, scientists still aren't sure what causes fibromyalgia – though they have some theories and there's emerging research indicating that specific theories seem more valid than others. This post will explore some of those possible causes.

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What causes Fibromyalgia?

Hormonal disruptions, such as menopause, are considered factors in developing fibromyalgia later in life. Being diagnosed with fibromyalgia when you're middle-aged is statistically higher than in any other age group.

Fibromyalgia is much more common in women, and women experience wide-ranging hormonal changes during menopause. So one thought is that some women who have fibromyalgia may also have low human growth hormone levels, causing muscle pain.


There may also be a genetic tendency toward developing fibromyalgia, meaning it may run in families. Some genes may cause a more intense reaction to certain stimuli than others, causing one person to perceive pain while the next person would not.


Many medical professionals now believe that stress or some muscle trauma (minor damage) may initially trigger the vicious cycle of pain and extreme fatigue that sufferers are all too familiar with experiencing.

Other theories indicate that fibromyalgia may result from various factors, including emotional or physical stress, low serotonin levels, and sleep disorders.

There is also speculation that a person's inability to produce natural pain blockers (endorphins) or elevated levels of a chemical termed substance P may also cause.


The body releases the substance P in response to stressors. It triggers hormonal responses, including a heightened pain response to stimulate us to move away from danger.

Like many of our "fight or flight" hormones, substance P would have been critical to our evolutionary survival. However, today our stresses are more often triggered by emotional factors than physical life-and-death situations.

Therefore, it is thought that persistently elevated substance P levels will cause a corresponding heightened and prolonged pain response.


Some people develop fibromyalgia after experiencing trauma to the brain or spinal cord from events like car accidents or falls. These traumatic events can also cause emotional trauma, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

➤Mental health conditions are a symptom, not a cause

Anxiety and depression also have strong links to fibromyalgia but are no longer considered causes of the condition. However, chronic pain suffered during severe fibromyalgia episodes may lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.


Some people report suffering from a viral illness, such as influenza, Ross River virus, pneumonia, and Epstein-Barr virus, before the onset of fibromyalgia symptoms or have experienced a flare-up of symptoms.


Risk factors for fibromyalgia are as varied as the causes. For example, some women who suffer from lupus, arthritis, or similar autoimmune disease may develop other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, but most people develop the disorder without experiencing another condition.

The bottom line is that there seems to be no single reason that a person develops fibromyalgia. That's why it's so difficult for doctors to diagnose.

If you suspect you have fibromyalgia, keep a daily journal to record your pain, where you feel the pain, and the intensity each day. In addition, record any other possible fibromyalgia symptoms such as fatigue, poor sleep, stiffness, digestive upset, and headaches.

If you can identify any triggers that make these symptoms feel worse, or "flare-up," such as stress, poor sleep quality, injury, illness, or strenuous activity, record this in your journal.

Having a journal recording how you have been feeling can make it easier to discuss with a medical practitioner the reasons for your concern.

Try also to recall any changes or life events that preempted your development of symptoms that may be related to fibromyalgia, such as menopause, a stressful event, illness, or injury.

More scientific research and a better understanding among healthcare providers about fibromyalgia's causes and risk factors lead to more effective treatments and methods of managing this devastating disorder.

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