Fibromyalgia Causes

Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on October 1, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on October 1, 2014

The Causes of Fibromyalgia

The exact cause of fibromyalgia is somewhat of a mystery to medical science. However research has identified several factors that may be involved in causing fibromyalgia. This includes risk factors that may increase a person’s chance of developing the syndrome.



Fibromyalgia can run in families. It’s likely that there is an unidentified genetic abnormality that makes certain people more at risk for fibromyalgia. The National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) states that certain genes may regulate the way that the body regulates pain responses. Scientists speculate that people with fibromyalgia may carry one or more genes that cause them to react strongly to stimuli that another person may not perceive as painful.


For many patients, symptoms begin after emotional or physical trauma or a bout with an infectious disease. These do not likely cause fibromyalgia by themselves, but may trigger the onset in people who are already at risk for it.

Sleep Disturbances

Problems with getting enough sleep, or spending enough time in the deepest stages of sleep, are common in this disorder. However, doctors are not sure if this is a symptom or a cause of the disorder. Improper sleep patterns can affect the levels of some of the brain chemicals listed above.

Risk Factors

There are several factors that indicate an increased risk of fibromyalgia. However, their presence doesn’t mean one will certainly be diagnosed with the syndrome.


According to the NIAMS, Women are eight to nine times more likely than men to have fibromyalgia. Scientists believe female reproductive hormones may play a role in the pain disorder.


According to the NIAMS, the most common age to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia is early to middle adulthood, between 20 and 50 years old.

Family History

If you have a close family member with fibromyalgia, you are more likely to be diagnosed yourself.

Sleep Disorders

It is not known if sleep problems are a symptom or a cause of fibromyalgia. However, people who have disorders affecting sleep such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are more likely to have the pain disorder.

Other Rheumatic Diseases

Rheumatic diseases affect the joints, muscles, and bones. People who have another rheumatic disease are more likely to have fibromyalgia as well. These diseases include:

  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • osteoarthritis
  • lupus
  • ankylosing spondylitis
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