Is it Perimenopause or Fibromyalgia?

Abstract: Explore the reality of fibromyalgia, a condition that predominantly affects women, revealing the truth behind its symptoms, causes, and the importance of recognition in women’s health.

Fibromyalgia, a complicated and poorly understood chronic disorder, manifests as widespread pain and sensitivity across the body. It disproportionately affects women, particularly those over the age of 40, is often triggered by traumatic situations or major stressors, and commonly fluctuates based on stress and anxiety in one’s daily life. 

Fibromyalgia’s recognition has evolved from an ‘invisible illness’ being labeled a ‘female disorder’ to a neurologic condition that also affects men, challenging the skepticism it has historically faced within the medical community. 

Despite this, a common query online remains: “Is fibromyalgia real?” The answer is unequivocally, yes! 

Fibromyalgia is, indeed, a real experience, caused by disrupted pain signal processing, hormonal imbalances, and brain inflammation, all contributing to a person’s experience of unrelenting and extreme pain and stiffness, even during periods of rest, or after minimal exertion. It affects millions of women in America and the symptoms of fibromyalgia are often similar to (and can be exacerbated by) the onset of perimenopause.

As a women’s health advocate  dedicated to helping women learn about and prioritize their health and well-being, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to talk about what we know about fibromyalgia – its realities and offering strategies to manage its symptoms. 

Keep reading to learn: 

  1. What is fibromyalgia?
  2. Is fibromyalgia a woman’s disorder?
  3. How to treat and manage fibromyalgia 
  4. Fibromyalgia and hormonal imbalances 
  5. Women’s health supplements and fibromyalgia 
Key Takeaways:
Fibromyalgia affects up to 1 in 25 people in the USA, especially women over 40.
Although there’s no known “cause” of fibromyalgia, research strongly suggests that fibromyalgia is frequently linked to genetic predispositions, environmental factors, and acquired neurological changes.
There are non-invasive, non-drug solutions to managing symptoms of fibromyalgia, including hormonal supplements and state-of-the-art prescription medical devices women can wear throughout the day to manage symptoms. 

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic medical condition, experienced as widespread pain & stiffness in the muscles and soft tissues all over the body. 

Consider the brain and spinal cord, and specifically the parts that transmit pain signals and messages, like a dial. In someone with fibromyalgia, that dial is turned way up, so that the pain receptors are extremely sensitive. Any minor pain, and even sensations not normally considered to be painful, are experienced as severe pain as a result. 

People who have fibromyalgia experience pain at a far higher level, amplified beyond a normal pain response, than those who do not have fibromyalgia. 

While the exact cause of fibromyalgia is unclear, brain inflammation and hormonal imbalances are two key factors that play a role in the development of this condition. 

For someone with fibromyalgia, a normal level of exertion or exercise can result in acute pain throughout the body, whereas someone without fibromyalgia may do the same amount of exercise and experience no pain or discomfort at all. 

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder known to cause:

  • Musculoskeletal pain throughout the body
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Poor Sleep –  with an inability to ever feel refreshed or well-rested
  • Brain fog or difficulty with concentration and memory
  • Heightened environmental (noise, light, smells) and chemical (food) sensitivity 
  • Low mood 

Risk factors for developing fibromyalgia

According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are certain factors that may increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia, including: 

AgeThose over 40 are more likely to develop fibromyalgia, however even children can develop this disorder. 
Assigned Sex at BirthYou are almost twice as likely to develop fibromyalgia if you were assigned female at birth. 
Chronic IllnessesFor instance, people with health conditions such as:OsteoarthritisDepressionAnxiety disordersIrritable bowel syndromeChronic back painLupus 
InfectionsSome people have developed fibromyalgia following an infection, especially if the infection symptoms were severe. 
StressAlthough stress levels can’t be accurately measured with a medical test, your experience of acute or chronic stress can have a serious impact on your health, and can lead to the development of conditions like fibromyalgia. 
Traumatic ExperiencesPeople who have experienced physical or emotional traumas or a serious physical injury may develop fibromyalgia.

Who is most likely to develop fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia affects approximately 4 million people in America, most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged women. It may also be as high as 5% of the global population, with 80-96% of these cases being predominantly women.

Fibromyalgia tends to run in families, and there are particular genetic factors that may contribute to the onset of the disorder. 

However, researchers also believe that there are non-genetic, environmental factors that also play a role in the person’s risk of developing fibromyalgia. 

Environmental triggers of the onset of fibromyalgia may include having another disease (or diseases) that cause pain – such as rheumatoid arthritis – or mental health struggles – such as anxiety and/or depression. 

While each of these conditions have differentiations, the commonality between them is pain. 

Fibromyalgia Spotlight: A few years ago Lady Gaga revealed that she has fibromyalgia and has since become an advocate for women who are also experiencing fibromyalgia. 

Where is fibromyalgia felt in the body?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can cause pain in the back, neck, shoulders, chest, hips, arms, legs and buttocks.

Fibromyalgia can be experienced as acute and chronic pain (meaning, severe and ongoing), or the symptoms can come and go in flare-ups, which usually coincide with periods of increased stress in one’s life, but can also be exacerbated by weather fluctuations or over-exertion. 

When is fibromyalgia the worst? 

Some people with fibromyalgia report that the pain is sometimes worse in the mornings and the evenings, though some also say that the pain lasts all day long. 

Here are some other factors that can cause fibromyalgia flare-ups:

  • High levels of stress (either in your job or your personal life)
  • Changes to your daily routine 
  • Becoming sick with another medical condition or a common illness 
  • Starting new medication
  • Changing an existing fibromyalgia treatment system 
  • Changes to diet and a lack of nutrition 
  • Not getting enough sleep 
  • Hormone changes or deficiencies in your body 

Some people with fibromyalgia also report that the pain intensifies during weather events (like rain storms, high/low temperatures, and major shifts in barometric pressure). 

There are also some people with fibromyalgia who report that the pain is worse when they experience sensory overstimulation, such as when there are very bright lights or loud noises. 

Is fibromyalgia a women’s disorder?

Unfortunately, women’s pain has often been dismissed as exaggerated, imagined, or simply stated as a “normal” part of being female in the medical profession. 

Historically, conditions that impact only or predominantly women have been under-researched and held with unnecessary suspicion, and sometimes contempt. 

Fibromyalgia in men

Fibromyalgia has been known throughout history primarily as a “woman’s diagnosis,” but this disorder can also occur in men.

In fact, some believe that men are perhaps as impacted by fibromyalgia as women are. However, the numbers are far lower in men when it comes to diagnoses. 

How to diagnose fibromyalgia 

Unfortunately, there is no single test that can diagnose fibromyalgia, which is problematic for both men and women, because it’s hard to make a definitive diagnosis on something that can’t be isolated from some other common illnesses with similar symptoms (as in the table above). 

Until around 2010, there was specific criteria that needed to be present before you could get a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Patients needed to present with 11 or more of 18 different tender points, and if the patient didn’t present with all of them, they were not considered to have fibromyalgia. 

Now, of course, medicine has advanced just enough to know that every single patient with the same condition may not experience it in exactly the same way. 

Just because someone does not present how they “should” with a certain condition does not necessarily mean they don’t have it. 

Since then, new guidelines have emerged no longer requiring a physical exam to diagnose  fibromyalgia. Widespread bilateral pain throughout the body combined with lack of sleep and brain fog can typically be given the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. 

How to treat and manage fibromyalgia 

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but there is symptom management and various preventative approaches. 

The primary objective of anyone presenting with fibromyalgia is to reduce sensitivity to pain. 

Exercise is important for every body – and yet those who have fibromyalgia often find even small amounts of exercise extremely painful, and movement is limited. The concept of graded exercise therapy (GET) has to be undertaken carefully.

Often, treatment of fibromyalgia involves a combination of antidepressants, sleep medication, and pain management medication (including cannabis related medications). 

The ultimate goal is to address pain and find ways to alter the experience of pain to reduce overall sensitivity and build resiliency – which together will allow the body to relax enough to begin to slowly make lifestyle changes (better sleep, gradual increase in physical activity, etc). 

Supplements and lifestyle changes are necessary to facilitate these changes. 

Fibromyalgia and opioids: a cautionary tale

For a long time in recent decades, the first response to complaints of chronic pain was to prescribe opioids (narcotic painkillers) for pain management. Prescription opioids may treat the symptom, but they don’t address the cause. Not to mention, opioids can come with their own risks. For example, opioids may increase sensitivity to pain in those with fibromyalgia.

According to some research, women are more likely than men to:

  • Be given prescriptions for opioid medications 
  • Become dependent on opioids 

When we talk about pain management medication, we are not referring to opioids. We prefer to find gentle, non-life-altering solutions to managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including treatments that don’t require the use of pain medications. 

A new non-invasive, non-drug treatment for fibromyalgia

Quell is an exciting new FDA-approved non-invasive, non-drug prescription medical device that can be fastened around the calf and kept on (if kept dry) day and night. 

Through minute electrical pulsations that trigger pain relief by dialing down pain sensitivity, fibromyalgia pains can be reduced or rendered less noticeable. Using an app connected to the device, you can adjust when and at what intensity these pulsations are released for moments when symptoms are at their worst.

Fibromyalgia and hormonal imbalances 

If you’ve been following Revivele for a while, you may have read this blog and thought: the risk factors for developing fibromyalgia sound a lot like the common difficulties faced by the majority of women as we age. 

You would be correct. There is a very strong correlation between fibromyalgia and hormone imbalances. 

Lack of sleep, inflammation, hormonal fluctuations, nutritional imbalances, general body aches, brain fog, mood fluctuations, insomnia, and joint or muscle pain, are also highly common in women who are experiencing perimenopause and menopause.

As such, women presenting with fibromyalgia may believe – and their healthcare provider may believe – that they are dealing with perimenopause, and a diagnosis of fibromyalgia may go overlooked. 

Is fibromyalgia different from perimenopause?

Although the symptoms can be similar, the “normal” experience of perimenopause should not include extreme full-body pain and sensitivity. 

While women experiencing perimenopause may have body aches, joint inflammation, pain and swelling, normal levels of exertion and exercise should not feel debilitating. 

If you are experiencing perimenopause and have debilitating, long-lasting pain (either in flare-ups or without relief), this is not a normal part of perimenopause and aging. Speak to your healthcare provider to start exploring a diagnosis that goes beyond perimenopause. 

Fibromyalgia vs. hormonal balance

There is no cure for fibromyalgia. There’s also no absolute guarantee that you will or won’t develop fibromyalgia in your lifetime. 

The one thing that you can know for certain is that you can start taking care of your body with hormonal and nutritional supplements at any age – and that any preventative measures are worth your while. 

In order to properly manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia, an assessment of your hormones should take place. You shouldn’t settle for medical care that doesn’t take your hormones into account, because – as women in particular – the peaks and valleys of our hormonal stability governs many aspects of our lives. 

Womens’ health supplements and fibromyalgia 

Revivele is a company created by women for women, with women’s health in mind. 

Our Essentials supplements were originally created to benefit women’s brain health and perimenopausal symptoms as we age – which means that they’re already prepped and ready to be used as a support to manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia. 

The key supplements used for managing fibromyalgia symptoms include: 

  • Coenzyme Q10  
  • Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin D
  • Melatonin 
  • Probiotics 

All of these ingredients listed above are in our Essentials line of women’s health supplements. 

COMING SOON: Fibromyalgia clinic for women

Coming soon, we are excited to report that we will soon be opening the Revivele Medical Clinic – an international virtual telemedicine program to assess and manage women’s health concerns, such as fibromyalgia. 

If you would be interested in attending or participating, send us a message on Instagram or email us at

Take your health in your hands

If you’re interested in learning more about how to maintain your health as you age, read our other blogs, which are full of helpful details, research, and woman-to-woman understanding. We’re all in this together!

To learn more about women’s health and wellness, and to understand the beneficial effects supplements can have on women’s bodies as we age, follow Dr. Kavita Desai’s women’s health & wellness company, Revivele, on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn!

You can also order Dr. Kavita Desai’s book, Lady Parts: Putting Women’s Health Back Into Women’s Hands

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