Everything You Should Know About Fibromyalgia in Men

Fibromyalgia has always been associated with women given how common it affects them compared to men. It is a very common medical condition in the developed world, affecting about 5 million people in the US alone. Of those affected, only about 10% are men, which is why the condition is often considered to affect women only. However, the statistics still show that men can be affected too, and it is important to look at how it affects men as well.

Some people have an increased risk of developing fibromyalgia than others. Fibromyalgia risk factors include:

  • A family history of fibromyalgia

  • A history of depression or mood disorders

  • A history of other rheumatic diseases, etc

Symptoms of fibromyalgia in men

The primary symptom of fibromyalgia is pain all over the body. The level of pain can vary from one person to person, but this is the most significant symptom. When fibromyalgia occurs in men, though, their level of pain seems to be lower than that experienced by women. In addition, the pain can only affect fewer areas of the body, and it’s rare for a man with fibromyalgia to have pain all over the body, but rather in a few places. Still, men with fibromyalgia seem to be more affected by it than women, but this is probably only due to social circumstances. 

Other accompanying symptoms may include:

  • Increased sensitivity to pain than normal

  • Chronic headaches

  • Chronic fatigue

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Restless leg syndrome

  • Memory problems

  • Problems concentrating, etc

The above-mentioned signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia in men tend to be less widespread compared to the same signs and symptoms in women. Also, these signs and symptoms tend to be milder and last for a shorter period of time, compared to the same signs and symptoms in women. 

What causes fibromyalgia in men?

There still is no known cause of fibromyalgia, either in men or women. Recent research has shown that there may be a genetic connection that may make certain people more likely to acquire the condition than others. These genetic markers involve the substance P and serotonin which are neurotransmitters. 

Substance P increases a person’s sensitivity to pain while serotonin reduces it. People at risk of fibromyalgia have been found to have higher levels of substance P and lower levels of serotonin, which makes them susceptible to pain – which is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia. 

The genetic aspects of fibromyalgia can also explain why fibromyalgia in men is less common. Women produce higher levels of estrogen which subsequently lowers their pain threshold compared to men. As a result, women are much more likely to receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia compared to men because they may experience more pain than men.

Genetics only explains what makes a person prone to fibromyalgia, but it still doesn’t explain what causes it. Other situations that have made people acquire fibromyalgia include physical trauma like a car accident and even some infections caused by viruses. Other patients have acquired fibromyalgia from emotional stress, and the exact trigger can still not be pinpointed in other patients.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosing fibromyalgia involves checking an individual’s sensitivity to pain. To do this, a physical test is done that involves applying pressure on the 18 tender points around the body. These are the areas that would produce pain even to a light touch. If a person’s pain level is higher than normal, a diagnosis may be made for fibromyalgia. 

To treat the condition, primary care involves taking painkillers and antidepressants to relieve the pain and prevent depression, which is very common among those affected. Other medications commonly recommended for the treatment of fibromyalgia in men include anti-seizure medications, Naltrexone, anti-opioid, etc. Other measures that could be taken include:

  • counseling

  • exercise

  • relaxation techniques

  • support groups

There’s still no cure for fibromyalgia, but these measures can improve a person’s quality of life. Self-care is a very important part of fibromyalgia treatment. A lifestyle change is also very important which should consist in:

  • Exercising regularly and staying physically active

  • Eating healthy

  • Getting enough sleep

  • Managing and avoiding stress as much as possible

  • Recognizing your own limits and not pushing too far

  • Asking for help when help is needed, etc.


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Written by Amelia Grant

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