By Wyatt Myers | Medically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD
Anyone with fibromyalgia is familiar with the chronic pain and fatigue that often accompany this disorder — which affects about 5 million Americans, primarily women.
But feelings of pain and exhaustion aren’t the only symptoms of fibromyalgia. Other signs that aren’t necessarily visible to others can affect the sufferer and make the condition even harder for those around them to understand.
Here are some of the lesser-known signs of fibromyalgia that may be experienced:
# 1 Allodynia
You might not give a second thought to rubbing a loved one’s shoulders or patting a friend on the back. But for someone with allodynia, being the recipient of these simple gestures can result in excruciating pain. Allodynia is a heightened sensitivity to touch, which results in pain from things that normally would not cause discomfort.
“This increased skin sensitivity and pain from touch is hypothesized to occur for a number of reasons,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, medical director of Fibromyalgia & Fatigue Centers. “Over one-third of people with fibromyalgia develop a small fiber neuropathy caused from the chronic pain. In addition, the chronic pain causes amplification of pain signals in the brain itself, as well as changes in three key neurotransmitters related to pain.” Dr. Teitelbaum says medications known as NMDA receptor antagonists — memantine (Namenda) is one — can help.
Allodynia is also related to a lack of restorative sleep, so standard treatments for fibromyalgia — such as physical therapy, exercise, stress relief techniques, and practicing good sleep hygiene — can also help ease allodynia.
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