Fibromyalgia in Children
What is fibromyalgia in children?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes pain in muscles and soft tissues around the body. It's an ongoing (chronic) condition that can affect the neck, shoulders, back, chest, hips, buttocks, arms and legs. The pain may be worse in the morning and evening. Sometimes the pain may last all day long. The pain may get worse with activity, cold or damp weather, anxiety, and stress. Fibromyalgia is most commonly diagnosed in middle-aged women. But children may also have this condition. The condition affects about 1 in 100 to 1 in 50 school-aged children and teens in the U.S. Most cases start in the early teens.
What causes fibromyalgia in a child?
The cause is unknown. Researchers think there may be a link with sleep problems and stress. It may also be linked to immune, endocrine, or biochemical problems.
What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia in a child?
Each child may feel symptoms a bit differently. Chronic pain is the most common symptom. The pain most often affects the muscles and the points where muscles attach to bones. These are the tendons. The pain also affects ligaments that attach bones to bones.
Pain may start in 1 part of the body, such as the neck and shoulders. Over time the whole body may be affected. The pain ranges from mild to severe. It may feel like burning, soreness, stiffness, aching, or gnawing pain. There may be sore spots in certain parts of the muscles. It may feel similar to arthritis, but it doesn't damage muscles or bones. Other common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:
- Medium to severe tiredness (fatigue)
- Sleep problems at night
- Depressed mood
- Missing a lot of school
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can seem like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees their healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
How is fibromyalgia diagnosed in a child?
There are no tests that can confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Instead, diagnosis is based on your child’s symptoms and a physical exam. Blood tests, X-rays, or other tests may be done. These are to rule out other causes of your child’s symptoms.
How is fibromyalgia treated in a child?
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
There is no known cure for fibromyalgia, but the symptoms can be managed. Mild cases may get better with stress reduction or lifestyle changes. Treatment may include:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines, to ease pain and help your child sleep
- Other pain medicines
- Exercise and physical therapy, to stretch muscles and improve cardiovascular fitness
- Relaxation methods to help ease pain
- Heat or cold treatments
- Short-term use of antidepressants at bedtime to improve sleep and mood
Talk with your child’s healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medicines.
How can I help my child live with fibromyalgia?
It's not known if fibromyalgia in a child continues into adulthood. The pain and lack of energy can affect your child’s quality of life and may cause depression. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if you think your child has depression. Help your child manage their symptoms by sticking to the treatment plan. This includes getting enough sleep. Encourage exercise and physical therapy and find ways to make it fun. Work with your child’s school to make sure your child has help as needed. Your child may also qualify for special help under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?
If your child’s symptoms get worse or there are new symptoms, tell the healthcare provider.
Key points about fibromyalgia in children
- Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain in muscles and soft tissues all over the body.
- It's most common in middle-aged women. But children can also have the condition.
- Symptoms may also include lack of energy (fatigue), sleep problems, headaches, and other problems.
- It's not known if fibromyalgia in a child continues into adulthood.
- The pain and lack of energy can affect your child’s quality of life and cause depression.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new directions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s healthcare provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.