Do You Have Fibromyalgia Risk Factors?

And What Can You Do About Them?

More than 6-million people in the U.S. have fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), and the condition is found in all cultures around the globe. Anyone can get it, but some people are more at risk.

What are risk factors?

  • Gender:
    While both men and women can develop FMS, between 80 and 90% of people diagnosed with it are women. Experts don't know why that is, but some believe it could be tied to hormonal differences. Others suspect men are less likely to seek treatment, and therefore are not diagnosed as frequently as women.
  • Age:
    An FMS diagnosis is most common in people between 20 and 55, and women typically develop it during their childbearing years. However, older people also can develop the condition. Children can get juvenile FMS, but it's rare.
  • Genetics:
    Research shows that women closely related to a fibromyalgia sufferer are more likely to develop FMS themselves. This could indicate a genetic defect that predisposes some people from the beginning.
  • Sleep Disorders:
    Some experts say sleep disorders could be a root cause of fibromyalgia. Many sufferers have a long history of sleep problems, and people diagnosed with disorders such as sleep apnea may be at increased risk. Some doctors recommend sleep studies for their fibromyalgia patients.
  • Stress:
    People coming from stressful environments or who are particularly vulnerable to stress (either physiological or psychological) develop FMS more frequently that those impacted less by stress. Studies have suggested that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or chronic stress may play a strong role in the development of fibromyalgia. High stress levels are also known to trigger flare-ups in many people with FMS. Studies show low cortisol (stress hormone) levels and dysfunction in the HPA axis, which deals with physiological reactions to stress.
  • Scoliosis/Low Back Pain:
    In one study, about 25% of people with low back pain eventually developed FMS, and scoliosis or other postural disorders made FMS more likely. Other research confirms the link between scoliosis and FMS. Interestingly, low levels of melatonin, which can cause sleep disorders, are also believed to contribute to scoliosis.

Lowering Your Risk

You certainly can't do much to mitigate most of those risk factors. However, if you feel you're at risk you can work to effectively lower or manage stress. You may also lower your risk (and improve your life) by getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and getting proper medical treatment for pain, sleep disorders, past emotional trauma, or PTSD.


Gerwin RD.A review of myofascial pain and fibromyalgia -- factors that promote their persistence.

Lapossy E, et al.The frequency of transition of chronic low back pain to fibromyalgia.

Machida M, et al.Serum melatonin levels in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis prediction and prevention for curve progression -- a prospective study.

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