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When Your Child Has Fibromyalgia 

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain in muscles and soft tissues around the body. It's an ongoing (chronic) condition. It can affect the neck, shoulders, back, chest, hips, buttocks, arms and legs. The pain may be worse in the morning and evening. Sometimes the pain may last all day long. The pain may get worse with activity, cold or damp weather, anxiety, and stress. The condition affects about 1 in 25 to 1 in 50 people in the U.S. It's most common in middle-aged people who were assigned female at birth. But children can also have the condition, most often teen girls.

How to say it

fi-broh-mi-YAL-juh

What causes fibromyalgia?

The cause is unknown. Some researchers think there may be a link with sleep problems and stress. It may also be linked to genetic, immune, endocrine, or biochemical problems. It can be thought of as a pain regulation disorder. People with this condition may be more sensitive to pain at lower levels than others.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

Each child may feel symptoms a bit differently. Chronic pain is the most common symptom. The pain most often affects the muscles, and the points where muscles attach to bones. These are the tendons. The pain also affects ligaments. These are tissues that attach bones to bones. 

Pain may start in 1 part of the body, such as the neck and shoulders. Over time the whole body may be affected. The pain ranges from mild to severe. It may feel like burning, soreness, stiffness, aching, or gnawing pain. There may be sore spots in certain parts of the muscles. It may feel a lot like arthritis. But it’s not a condition that gets worse. And it doesn't damage muscles or bones. Other common symptoms include:

  • Medium to severe tiredness (fatigue)

  • Sleep problems at night

  • Depressed mood

  • Anxiety

  • Headaches

  • Missing a lot of school

  • Pain that affects many bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, or muscles (diffuse musculoskeletal pain)

Diagnosing fibromyalgia

There are no tests that can confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Instead, diagnosis is based on your child’s symptoms and a physical exam. Your child may need blood tests, X-rays, or other tests. These are to rule out other causes of your child’s symptoms.

Treatment for fibromyalgia

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. There's no cure for fibromyalgia, but the symptoms can be managed. Mild cases may get better with stress reduction or lifestyle changes. Treatment may include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines, to ease pain and help your child sleep

  • Other pain medicines

  • Exercise and physical therapy, to stretch muscles and improve cardiovascular fitness

  • Relaxation methods to help ease pain

  • Cognitive behavior therapy, a type of talk therapy

  • Heat treatments

  • Cold treatments once in a while

  • Massage

  • Short-term use of antidepressants at bedtime, to improve sleep and mood 

  • Finding and managing other conditions your child may have, such as chronic headaches, inflammatory bowel syndrome, or hypermobility syndrome

Talk with your child’s healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medicines.

Living with fibromyalgia

It's not known if fibromyalgia in a child continues into adulthood. The pain and lack of energy can affect your child’s quality of life and may cause depression. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if you think your child has depression. Help your child manage their symptoms by sticking to the treatment plan. This includes getting enough sleep. Encourage exercise and physical therapy. Find ways to make it fun. Work with your child’s school to make sure your child has help as needed. Your child may also qualify for special help under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 

When to call your child’s healthcare provider

Call the healthcare provider if your child has any of these:

  • Symptoms that don’t get better, or that get worse

  • New symptoms

Online Medical Reviewer: Liora C Adler MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Pat F Bass MD MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik MBA BSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2021
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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