How Does a Person Get Fibromyalgia?

Ask a Doctor

My mom has fibromyalgia – she spent years trying to find a diagnosis until a neurologist finally figured it out six years ago. After a recent car accident, I started having sleep problems and muscle aches, and I wonder if maybe I have fibromyalgia, too? How does a person get fibromyalgia?

Doctor’s Response

When you speak to a doctor about these symptoms, make sure to let them know about your mother’s case and your car accident. Having a family history of fibromyalgia in a relative or family member, physical or emotional trauma, and having a sleep disorder are all risk factors for the condition.

While there is no known cause for fibromyalgia, recent research has revealed some new facts about the disease. One of the new discoveries is that people with fibromyalgia process pain differently. The level of chemical in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) called substance P, which transmits pain impulses to the brain, is three times higher in people with the disease than in those who do not have the condition. This likely causes someone with fibromyalgia to experience pain more intensely.

Other researchers believe fibromyalgia is caused by a lack of deep sleep. It is during stage 4 sleep that muscles recover from the prior day's activity, and the body refreshes itself. Sleep studies show that as people with fibromyalgia enter stage 4 sleep, they become more aroused and stay in a lighter form of sleep. Even though they may sleep for a long period of time, they get poor quality sleep. Also, when researchers took normal volunteers and did not allow them to enter into stage 4 sleep, they developed widespread pain symptoms similar to those of fibromyalgia patients.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors


Firestein, G.S., et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, Ninth Ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier, 2012.