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19 Metaphors That Explain What Fibromyalgia Pain Feels Like

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If someone has never experienced fibromyalgia firsthand, it can be difficult for them to understand what it’s really like to live with the condition. Simply saying you’re “in pain” often isn’t enough to convey the full reality of what you’re going through. Although just about everyone has felt physical pain at some point, it can manifest in different parts of your body, in different degrees of severity and in different forms (dull, sharp, throbbing, etc.). What pain is like for someone with fibromyalgia is likely very different than the everyday aches, pains and minor injuries the average, healthy person is familiar with.

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Sometimes, one of the most effective ways to communicate how you feel is through metaphors. We asked our Mighty community which metaphors they use to describe their fibro pain, in the hopes of helping others better understand what it’s like to live with this condition. These responses are so creative – but if the feelings described are ones you know all too well, just remember that you’re not alone. Your pain is real, and there are so many others out there who get it.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

  1. You know how your body feels after that first intense workout? When it’s excruciating to move and all your muscles are painful to the touch? Imagine having that pain for the rest of your life. Never going away. Combined with such severe joint pain, they feel like glass rubbing together when you move. Then when someone touches you, it feels like you’ve been electrocuted, and this sharp jolt of pain runs to your spine.” – Deanna B.
  2. My bones are on fire and there are millions of fire ants, holding poison ivy, running around and poking me with little needles.” – Jenna S.
  3. Sometimes you feel like you’ve been thrown off a tall building, then hit by a Mac truck. Sometimes you feel like you’re wearing a lead suit at the bottom of the ocean. And other times you feel like your whole body is on fire. There is no peace.” – Angela H.
  4. Like being swarmed by bugs and occasionally being bit by them.” – Krystina K.F.
  5. My limb pain feels like they are wet washcloths being twisted and wrung dry. They also feel like I have 10-pound weights hanging from each of them.” – Sarah N.
  6. Hot stabbing knives in the soles of my feet, my forearms literally on fire (I’m always surprised to look at them and they aren’t) and my shoulder being stabbed by a pick ax in the socket.” – Kirsten M.T.
  7. The constant pain you have is like every cell in your entire body in pinching you.” – Ellinor B.
  8. Sometimes like my blood has turned to lead and is still surging through my body – heavy and clunky, getting blocked and building pressure, then pumping on again.” – Em L.
  9. For sensitive skin I use sunburn because nothing relieves it, my skin feels tight and everything itches. For muscle aches I go to a car crash. It feels like my body has been hit and thrown about. It feels like everything is bruised even when nothing shows.” – Amber B.
  10. Sometimes I feel like I have been quickly dipped in boiling water. ‘Blanched.’” – Jade R.
  11. Imagine each wrinkle of clothing is razors in your skin, and you’ve just been burned from the inside and beat up by a herd of elephants at the same time. Somedays it’s all over, others it’s in certain areas, you never know.” – Danielle M.
  12. “[It’s like] zorbing inside a metal ball.” – Pooja P. 
  13. For the normal everyday pain I usually describe it as feeling like when Dorothy got swept up by the tornado but without the bed for a softer landing, and when my hips are killing me I describe it as feeling like I’ve just finished riding a horse for 12 hours… but not a regular horse, but more like a Clydesdale horse.” – Christina M.P. 
  14. You try to get up, but you feel a burning weight all over your body pressing you flat… like a giant griddle press and you’re the hashbrowns.” – Elizabeth P.
  15. It’s like having your body forced through a tiny keyhole day in day out but you rarely even get to leave the house.” – Bethany C.
  16. Like I’m a voodoo doll and someone twists my ankles, pokes needles in me, hangs me upside down, crushes my chest… You get the point.” – Katrina R.
  17. Most days it feels comparable to the muscle aching and fatigue associated with flu. Some days I also have added pains on top of the flu-like aches, that I can only describe as feeling like I have been impaled on a spike through various parts of my body. When my back is bad it feels like a giant has grabbed hold of my spine and is squeezing, hard. During flares I generally feel like I have been hit by a train, and my legs and arms filled with heavy rocks.” – Liselle F.
  18. Knives in my joints, or a hedgehog aggressively rolling down my skin (pricked by a hundred needles!).” – Nae W.
  19. I call it ‘the dead spider.’ After 8:30 p.m. (medicine time) if I’m not in bed and on my heating pad – it’s like someone smacked me with a shoe and I’m the spider curling up on itself.” – Jessica M.


Fibromyalgia, a chronic illness with three main symptoms — widespread pain, chronic fatigue and cognitive trouble. Fibromyalgia is a complicated illness that’s not well understood. In the past, it was mischaracterized as a mental health disorder. Even today, some doctors wave off fibro symptoms as being “all in your head.” This isn’t the case. Read The Mighty’s comprehensive guide to fibromyalgia here. Click here to join our fibro community and connect with people who get it.

Originally published: March 14, 2018
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