Understanding and Managing Fibromyalgia Shoulder Pain

What is Fibromyalgia Shoulder Pain

Fibromyalgia is a complex and often misunderstood chronic disorder characterized by widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue. Among its array of symptoms, fibromyalgia can also manifest as shoulder pain, adding to the burden experienced by those living with this condition. In this article, we’ll delve into the world of fibromyalgia shoulder pain – its causes, symptoms, management strategies, and ways to regain control over your life.

What is Fibromyalgia Shoulder Pain?

What is Fibromyalgia Shoulder Pain?

Fibromyalgia is a complex and chronic medical condition characterized primarily by widespread pain and tenderness in various parts of the body, along with other symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and cognitive difficulties (often referred to as “fibro fog”). While fibromyalgia doesn’t cause inflammation or damage to joints or tissues, it can cause significant discomfort and impact a person’s quality of life.

Fibromyalgia can affect different areas of the body, including the shoulders. Fibromyalgia shoulder pain refers to the pain and discomfort experienced in the shoulder region by individuals with fibromyalgia. This pain is often described as a deep, aching sensation and can be accompanied by feelings of stiffness or tightness.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia Shoulder Pain

Fibromyalgia shoulder pain can manifest as a part of the broader constellation of symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. While symptoms can vary from person to person, here are some common signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia, including those related to shoulder pain:

  • Widespread Pain: Individuals with fibromyalgia often experience widespread pain that affects both sides of the body and is present in multiple areas, including the shoulders, neck, back, and hips.
  • Shoulder Pain: The pain in the shoulder region is typically described as a deep, aching sensation. It may feel like a dull, constant ache or a more intense pain that comes and goes.
  • Tenderness: The shoulders may be tender to the touch, and even light pressure or touch can trigger discomfort.
  • Stiffness: Many people with fibromyalgia experience stiffness in the shoulders and other joints, particularly upon waking or after periods of inactivity.
  • Muscle Spasms: Muscle spasms and tightness can contribute to shoulder pain and discomfort.
  • Fatigue: Fatigue is a common symptom of fibromyalgia, and it can exacerbate the perception of pain. Individuals may feel tired even after sufficient rest.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Many people with fibromyalgia have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which can lead to increased pain sensitivity.
  • Cognitive Symptoms: Often referred to as “fibro fog,” cognitive symptoms include difficulty concentrating, memory issues, and problems with focus.
  • Headaches: Headaches, including tension headaches and migraines, are frequently reported by individuals with fibromyalgia.

Causes and Triggers

Causes and Triggers

The exact causes of fibromyalgia are not fully understood, and it is likely to be the result of a combination of factors. Some of the potential contributing factors to the development of fibromyalgia include:

  • Genetics: There appears to be a genetic component to fibromyalgia, as it tends to run in families. Certain genetic variations may make individuals more susceptible to the condition.
  • Abnormal Pain Processing: People with fibromyalgia often have abnormalities in the way their central nervous system processes pain signals. This can lead to an exaggerated pain response to stimuli that would not typically cause discomfort in others.
  • Neurochemical Imbalances: Imbalances in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, which are involved in pain perception and mood regulation, may play a role in fibromyalgia.
  • Physical Trauma: Physical injuries or trauma, such as accidents or surgeries, may trigger the onset of fibromyalgia symptoms in some individuals.
  • Infections: Certain infections, such as viral or bacterial infections, have been suggested as potential triggers for fibromyalgia, although the exact relationship is not well understood.
  • Stress and Trauma: High levels of chronic stress or experiencing a traumatic event, such as emotional or physical trauma, may contribute to the development or exacerbation of fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Hormonal Factors: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during menopause, could potentially influence the development of fibromyalgia or exacerbate its symptoms.

Diagnosis and Medical Evaluation

Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be challenging because there are no specific tests or imaging studies that definitively confirm the condition. Instead, diagnosis is typically based on a combination of clinical evaluation, medical history, and the presence of specific symptoms. Here’s how the diagnosis and medical evaluation process for fibromyalgia generally works:

  • Medical History: Your healthcare provider will start by taking a detailed medical history. They will ask about your symptoms, when they started, how they have progressed, and any factors that make them better or worse.
  • Physical Examination: A physical examination will be conducted to assess areas of pain, tenderness, and stiffness. During the examination, the doctor may check specific “tender points,” which are designated points on the body that are particularly sensitive in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Symptom Assessment: Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain and tenderness, often accompanied by other symptoms like fatigue, sleep disturbances, and cognitive issues. The doctor will evaluate the presence of these symptoms and their impact on your daily life.
  • Exclusion of Other Conditions: Since fibromyalgia shares symptoms with other medical conditions, your healthcare provider will perform tests to rule out other potential causes of your symptoms. Conditions such as autoimmune disorders, thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and Lyme disease, among others, need to be excluded.

Managing Fibromyalgia Shoulder Pain: Lifestyle Changes

Managing fibromyalgia shoulder pain involves a comprehensive approach that often includes a combination of lifestyle changes, medical treatments, and self-care strategies. Here are some lifestyle changes that can help alleviate fibromyalgia shoulder pain:

  • Regular Exercise: Engaging in low-impact, gentle exercises can help improve muscle strength, flexibility, and overall well-being. Activities like walking, swimming, tai chi, and gentle yoga can be beneficial. Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity to avoid overexertion.
  • Stretching: Regular stretching can help relieve muscle tension and improve flexibility. Focus on gentle stretches for the shoulders, neck, and upper back.
  • Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms, including shoulder pain. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
  • Healthy Sleep Habits: Establish a regular sleep schedule and create a comfortable sleep environment. Avoid caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime, and practice relaxation techniques to improve sleep quality.
  • Diet and Nutrition: While there is no specific fibromyalgia diet, maintaining a balanced and nutritious diet can contribute to overall well-being. Some individuals find that avoiding certain foods, such as those high in sugar and processed foods, can help manage symptoms.
  • Hydration: Staying hydrated is important for overall health and can contribute to reducing muscle stiffness and discomfort.
  • Pacing Activities: Break tasks into smaller, manageable segments to avoid overexertion. Listen to your body and rest when needed to prevent worsening of symptoms.
  • Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying heat or cold to the affected shoulder area can provide temporary relief. Experiment with both to see which works better for you.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies can be valuable additions to a comprehensive treatment plan for managing fibromyalgia shoulder pain and other symptoms. While they may not provide a cure, many individuals find relief and improved quality of life through these approaches. Here are some alternative therapies that are commonly explored by people with fibromyalgia:

  • Acupuncture: Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow. Some individuals with fibromyalgia report pain relief and improved relaxation after acupuncture sessions.
  • Massage Therapy: Massage can help relax tense muscles, improve circulation, and reduce pain. Techniques such as Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and myofascial release are often used for fibromyalgia.
  • Chiropractic Care: Chiropractic adjustments aim to realign the spine and joints, potentially relieving pain and improving mobility. Consult a qualified chiropractor who has experience working with fibromyalgia patients.
  • Yoga: Gentle yoga practices can help improve flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and promote relaxation. Look for yoga classes that are specifically designed for individuals with chronic pain conditions.
  • Tai Chi: Tai chi is a mind-body practice that involves slow, flowing movements. It can help improve balance, flexibility, and overall well-being.

Mind-Body Techniques

Mind-Body Techniques

The mind-body connection plays a crucial role in managing fibromyalgia shoulder pain. They aim to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall quality of life. Here are some common mind-body techniques that can help manage fibromyalgia symptoms, including shoulder pain:

  • Mindfulness Meditation: Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. This practice can help reduce stress and anxiety, enhance self-awareness, and improve pain perception. Mindfulness meditation can be practiced through guided sessions, meditation apps, or classes.
  • Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, can activate the body’s relaxation response, reducing stress and promoting a sense of calm.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique involves sequentially tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups to release tension and promote relaxation throughout the body.
  • Guided Imagery: Guided imagery involves creating mental images that promote relaxation and positive emotions. It can be particularly helpful for managing pain and stress.


Fibromyalgia shoulder pain can be a formidable challenge, but it’s a challenge that can be managed with the right strategies and support. By understanding the triggers, adopting a multifaceted approach to pain management, and making positive lifestyle changes, individuals can regain control over their lives and experience relief from the burden of shoulder pain.

If you’re experiencing Shoulder pain, physical therapy for shoulder pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.