Migraine Comorbidities: Fibromyalgia

Migraine disease is not only painful, but can put migraineurs at an increased risk of having additional illnesses. Migraine is found to be comorbid (diseases that occur at the same time, but do not cause one another) with many conditions including fibromyalgia, heart disease, stroke, and depression.

How are migraine and fibromyalgia related?

Fibromyalgia is described as a chronic pain condition that can produce all-over body pain, exhaustion, stiffness, depression, sleep disturbance and anxiety. Many people with migraine also suffer from fibromyalgia. In fact, Dr. Dawn Marcus reports that "fibromyalgia affects 17 in every 100 people with episodic migraine" and 35 out of 100 people with chronic Migraine have fibromyalgia.

What causes fibromyalgia?

Currently, the thinking on fibromyalgia seems to be that it's a neurological condition with an atypical pain reaction not found in healthy people. The exact source of fibromyalgia has not been determined; however, it may be caused (or triggered) by physical or emotional trauma or infection or virus. This atypical pain reaction produces radiating pain from areas in our bodies called tender points. Some tender points are located in the shoulders and the soft tissue in the back of the neck; other spots are found in the lower back area, hips, elbows, knees, and shins.

How is fibromyalgia diagnosed?

There are no laboratory tests used to diagnose fibromyalgia, just as there are no tests to diagnose migraine, so it can take several years and traveling to numerous doctors before an accurate diagnosis is achieved. Due to the non-specific nature of its symptoms, fibromyalgia can mimic other conditions like hypothyroidism, Lyme disease, systemic lupus erythematosus and various sleep disorders. These symptoms typically include:

  • bowel issues (irritable bowel syndrome)
  • chronic widespread pain
  • fatigue
  • memory/concentration issues
  • tension headache
  • unrefreshed sleep

How is fibromyalgia managed?

Some of the initial management strategies used to treat fibromyalgia include a regular exercise program (as tolerated), getting a good night's sleep, eating a balanced diet, stress reduction, massage, acupuncture, and dietary supplements. Other types of treatment include yoga, Tai chi and behavioral therapy. If these treatments don't seem beneficial, there are now three prescription medications FDA approved to treat fibromyalgia; Cymbalta, Lyrica, and Savella.

My experience with migraine and fibromyalgia

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2001 by my doctor who called the situation I was in, "desperate," words I'll never forget. It was such a relief to have the daily chronic pain validated. But I can also tell you that having fibromyalgia and migraine is confusing at times.

Managing fibromyalgia and migraine pain

When I have head pain, is it fibromyalgia or migraine? The times when I have ridiculously bad head pain, nausea, photophobia (sensitivity to light) and phonophobia (sensitivity to sound) there is usually no doubt that I am having a migraine attack. If this is the case, I usually take Midrin, a migraine abortive in hopes it stops the Migrainous process. Things aren't as clear when a tension-type headache (TTH) crops up or if I'm not sure my head pain is a related to migraine at all. When I suspect a TTH, I place my TENS unit on my shoulders and upper back to see if this will help reduce my pain. To manage my fibromyalgia, I try to keep my stress to a minimum, use my training in biofeedback when necessary, and attempt to get enough sleep each night.

Do you experience symptoms of fibromyalgia? Have you been diagnosed by a doctor? What things do you do to manage your fibromyalgia? I've love for you to share them with me.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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