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24 Photos That Show What Fibromyalgia Symptoms Look Like

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Although many people may experience similar symptoms, fibromyalgia looks different for everyone. Whether you’re battling largely “invisible” symptoms, such as pain or fatigue, or something more apparent, like excessive sweating or a rash, these symptoms can often manifest in a variety of ways, depending on the individual and their unique health situation.

But even though fibro symptoms can take on different forms, it is important to raise awareness of these manifestations so those with fibromyalgia can be better understood and have more productive conversations with loved ones, friends and doctors. So, we asked our Mighty community to share photos depicting one of the symptoms they experience. Let’s shed some light on how complex and multifaceted fibromyalgia can really be.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Pain

“I’m laying here hurting, I’ve cried a lot and yet I’m still alive. I hold onto life like a long lost love. I can hope for a good day and if not, I’m prepared for the usual in pain one.” – Didi M.

woman lying in bed in pain

“Nothing to see… but plenty to feel – I have excruciating nerve pain across the tops of my feet and down into the underside of my toes. It can get so bad I can’t walk.” – Gemma C.

woman standing on purple towels

“For some reason [I’m] always thinking if I lay down, maybe, just maybe, the pain will rest as well. It’s like I’m in a love/hate relationship with my bed. [At] times it helps with fatigue, other times I hate depending on it.” – Tasha S.

woman lying down in a red tshirt and head scarf

2. Sensitivity to Stimuli

“Spending the majority of my life in bed with my head under covers because the light burns.” – Shay-Leigh M.

woman lying in bed in a dark room

“I recreated this photo to show what happens at work a lot of the time. I am unable to inform every person that I suffer from fibromyalgia. We have a constant rotation of people and with so much gossip I’d rather keep my condition to myself if possible. But I have coworkers that are kind and like to praise workers for their hard work or simply say hello. But they usually do it with a pat on the shoulder or back. Getting a light pat on the back is very painful. I don’t even see them coming most of the time. For those I see every day, I have told them about my condition. But people forget. So this is something I deal with because I can’t just tell a whole factory I have lupus and fibromyalgia and I can’t wear a shirt every day that says ‘don’t touch.’ I wish I could.” – Sindy L.

black and white photo of woman wincing as someone pats her on the shoulder

3. Rashes and Hives

“Neuropathy and chronic rashes with no explainable cause.” – Jessi E.

woman's legs covered in a red rash

“This is my chest. I break out in hives and rashes, sometimes seemingly at random.” – Chauntayna M.

woman's chest covered in a red rash

“Hives from a reaction to something or other.” – Krista I.

woman with hives on her arm

4. Fatigue

“Fatigue. Feeling like you have the flu. Having to sit because you can’t walk and trying to explain to the kids why you aren’t dressed 0r moving off the couch.” – Carrie B.

woman lying down and frowning

“This was me when I was so tired I cried. The fatigue for me is more difficult than the pain. I took this picture to prove to myself that my emotions were real and that what I was experiencing was real.” – Shauna C.

woman with a ponytail crying

5. Bruising

“Nasty bruises.” – Lorie P.

woman with bruises on her leg

“I have five of these unexplained bruises on my legs at the moment. As these fade more will appear. I got a bruise on my backside from sitting on a bench once! How ridiculous is that?!” – Elizabeth E.

woman with a dark bruise on her leg

6. Brain Fog

“My textbook has been open to this very page for the last three and a half hours because I haven’t been able to fight through the pain and the accompanying brain fog. I’ll try again tomorrow.” – Nicole W.

open textbook

7. Guilt

“Invisibility is the biggest curse and blessing of fibro. To many this selfie looks like I’m doing great and feeling great. And it can fool many on Facebook into not worrying about me and believing I’m doing well because I look presentable. But ones that see me quite often see that although I did my makeup and posted this selfie, I’m in bed. I will be in bed for the rest of the day. So all in all this selfie represents the symptom of guilt because I know I feel awful and I’m acting like I’m OK. It’s like I’m betraying my disease.” – Alexis Mae G.

woman wearing makeup and lying in bed

8. Difficulty Regulating Temperature

“Always freezing!” – Heather S.

woman with a scarf wrapped around her neck and mouth

9. Painful Trigger Points

“A layout map of my trigger point shots that I have to get every four to six weeks so that I am able to get my pain to a more manageable level so that I can even move my neck.” – Jennifer E.

woman with a map of trigger points drawn on the back of her neck and shoulders

10. Insomnia

“2:30 a.m. and I can’t sleep because I’m in so much pain. Pain relief isn’t touching it…” – Jude M.

woman lying in bed awake

11. Mobility Issues

“Mobility problems: lack of coordination, loss of strength, no dexterity, etc. have led me to the use of a service dog. She helps me in so many ways and gives me my independence back.” – Bay H.

service dog sitting on a rock next to a lake

“Being unable to trust yourself to make a cup of tea.” – Ruth H.

spilled mug of tea

12. Sweating

“Night sweats. Waking up wrapped in cold, soggy towels.” – Jessie L.

black and white photo of a woman sweating while lying in bed at night

“This was getting back in my car after getting a few groceries. I hate going anywhere because I break out in a sweat doing literally anything! Including walking around a store, sitting in church and eating in a restaurant. I carry a rag with me constantly, and never wear long sleeves anymore – and I live in Iowa where we are currently below 0 wind chill.” – Hillary T. C.

woman sitting in her car sweating after getting groceries

13. Swelling

“My hands swelling up so much that I can’t use them. It’s agony. They’re like twice the size.” – Ally C.

woman's hand looking swollen

“The bottom pic is during a fibro flare in my feet and the top is the contrast pic. They swell and get sooo tight, it feels as if I’m walking through water and the pain is unbearable. Sometimes I don’t get the swelling and just get the pain and am able to strap my feet to give some relief but most of the time I can’t do anything. I’ve recently decided to start using a walking stick during a flare, because limping and trying to not put any weight on that foot is aggravating the fibro in my back and hips.” – Janelle F.

woman's swollen foot

“Swollen painful wrists. I never know from one day to the next which one will hurt more and if I’ll need my strap.” – Seána Ní R.

woman's swollen wrist with a brace around it


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: January 31, 2018
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