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Adrienne Dellwo

Leg Pains With Fibromyalgia: Possible Causes

By October 7, 2009

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Fibromyalgia can cause pain anywhere and everywhere, and to any degree. That makes it really difficult to identify other sources of pain -- we tend to just write them off as fibromyalgia. I've done it more than once, but fortunately my doctor always asks where I'm hurting and she's been able to hone in on problems I didn't realize I had.

A recent comment from a reader really caught my eye because it described something I at first attributed to fibro and later learned was something else entirely:

"When I get stressed at work or I am having problems with employees, I get unbearable pains down both my legs. It feels like shin splints. This last for several days at a time. I find it hard to walk. I'm almost dragging my feet. When I get home I lay on the couch in a fetal position and rock in pain." -Karen

When I described this type of pain to my rheumatologist, she did some poking around on my legs and told me I had something called iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome. It's typically a runner's injury (yeah, I know -- I tried not to laugh!), but I have to wonder if those lax connective tissues we have could contribute to it. Of course, I can't say that is what Karen has, but it's certainly something to ask the doctor about. The good news is, some simple stretching exercises can really help.

ITB Syndrome

The iliotibial band runs down the outside of the thigh, from the hip to the knee. However, when it's aggravated and ITB syndrome develops, it can hurt clear down into the arch of your foot. When I talked to my doctor about it, the pain was severe and really interfering with my sleep (which was bad enough already, thank you!) After a couple days of doing the right stretches, however, it started feeling a lot better.

Here are links that can help you get started with ITB stretches:

Other than the stretches, I've had good luck with capsaicin on my calves (be cautious -- it can burn) and with alternating heat and ice right at the hip. I may start getting acupuncture for it as well, at my doctor's recommendation.

Other Possibilities

Something else that could cause that shin-splint pain, and that's common with fibromyalgia, is myofascial pain syndrome. Triggerpoints.net has a great illustration of how trigger points at the hip (the x's) cause radiating pain (the red areas) down the outside of the leg: Lateral Leg Pain. (That site is a must for anyone with MPS.)

Is it possible for fibromyalgia to mimic the pain of shin splints/ITB syndrome/myofascial pain syndrome? Sure. When it comes to pain, fibromyalgia is a jack-of-all-trades. But it's worth looking into other possibilities, because those other causes of pain are usually a lot easier to treat.

Have you had pain that sounds similar to ITB syndrome? What has helped? How debilitating has it gotten? Help us all learn by sharing your comments below!

Learn more or join the conversation!


Photo © Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images

October 7, 2009 at 10:59 pm
(1) Valerie says:


Oh My Yes!,, I have just started getting leg pains in both my legs since 2 months ago, it feels like a bad tooth ache wrapped around my bones from my hips to my toes, it might be Myofascial but not sure yet, it gets so bad it hurts to walk on them.
Exersise hurts me before it helps me, wish I could do more in that area of my life, they use to have the pool at the school open but I don’t think they are doing that anymore:(.. I love water too.
The only thing that has helped some is my pain medicen and keeping warm, I have tried rubbing them but no help there eather. I might give your stretches a try, Thank You!!

October 8, 2009 at 7:52 am
(2) MyFibroHelp says:

It truly is amazing how the iliotibial band can cause so many problems. In order to fully take care of an iliotibial problem, many factors should be considered. The sacroiliac joints of the pelvis and the lumbar spine should be in their optimal position. If they are out of line, stress can be placed on the iliotibial band. Also, the feet should be evaluated for proper alignment. If they are malaligned in any way, once again, stress can be placed on the iliotibial band. Of course the soft tissue itself should also be considered and worked on with trigger point therapy. The site that was given in the article is excellent if you can nagivate around it.

If your iliotibial problem returns after taking care of one of the factors above, you may need to check out the other two to make sure they aren’t contributing to the problem. IF you have or can find a good chiropractor who truly understands the iliotibial band and what is involved, you may be able to get all three of these factors evaluated by one doctor.

The top four products on this page:
are excellent products for working out your own trigger points, if you wanted to begin there.

Good luck to you in all you do!

August 1, 2011 at 2:16 am
(3) malmaxmin says:

30-7-2011 Simple treatment of ileotibial band syndrome. –really it is a combination of default mysitis/myalgia of the lateral thigh muscle plus ilieatibial pain
use standard elimination diet treatment especially in morning and early afternoon . therefore eliminate all egg, red meat, canned fish, wheat etc. and most if not all dairy. use only green pears and apples etc.
if you have not encountered the elimination or exclusion diet refer to diet which also excludes artificail preservatives eg “failsafe ” but the full exclusion diet should be used in AM .
if you still have trouble contact me at bravenewlogic@yahoo.com.au.
sometimes the thigh pain is also medial and sometimes pain in calf or back or even knee.
please let me know how you respond


October 9, 2009 at 3:37 pm
(4) Kim says:

I’ve experienced profound relief from these leg pains (which I’ve had for approx. 8 years) with increased potassium and decrease of wheat.
Also, Tonic Water (quinine water) seems to have helped a lot with all body aches & reducing chronic fevers.
Good luck & good health to all of you!

October 9, 2009 at 7:25 pm
(5) weeroo says:

Here is one I have never heard of, or my doctors. I have a radiating pain, like a muscle spasm almost that goes ACROSS my thigh, from inside to outside. There is no muscle that does that!

October 9, 2009 at 7:53 pm
(6) Ann says:

Having been diagnosed with both fibro and myofacial pain syndrome, that link is amazing.

Thank you!!

October 10, 2009 at 12:04 am
(7) Tracy says:

Okay, this may sound crazy, but I had intense lower half body muscle aches for years, mostly in the thighs (quads), but also hamstrings & glutes. Stretching helped a bit, plus that yoga position where you lay flat on your back with your legs vertical resting against the wall was good, too. But nothing really worked until I got on an elimination diet and cut out wheat & dairy and a few other things that caused me to have very bad IBD symptoms. Turns out my leg aches were a direct result of straining to go to the bathroom on a daily basis for years on end, and once I cleared up my diet issues those particular pains went away. I realize this will not fix the other more serious stuff, but I thought I’d throw it out there b/c the ensuing muscle relief was significant.

October 14, 2009 at 3:28 pm
(8) Karen says:

I have never had leg pain with my CFS, until a few months ago. The pain is mostly in my knees. It is a burning pain that just effects the knees. Then my legs get the sensation that they just need to be streched over and over again. So I lie in bed trying to stretchh out my legs. After a while all the pain goes away, and it might be a week or so until I get the pain again. I also get pain at the top of my shoulders, like someone is taking their hands and pressing down into me.

October 15, 2009 at 5:45 pm
(9) Anna Q-S says:

Wow! I am going to have to research this further, but it seems to fit what I have been experiencing for a few years, with my FMS/MFP.
I get a “charlie horse” cramp type pain on my shins or outer aspect of calves – NOT the typical back of calves. It happens at nite and is not relieved by standing up on cold floor & stretching it out. And I cannot use capsaicin or NSAIDs. Any computer research under “leg pain” or “Leg cramps” . . . shin cramps,etc doesn’t cover this.
In fact, I’ve tried many ways to fix this painful awakening: food, supplement for any possible electrolyte
or mineral deficiency; stretching & self-massage; position change; hyper- and hypo-extending my foot – all to no avail. It is such a deep, penetrating crampy pain, I’d rate it a 10/10 pain scale, that I am often left just beating my legs up/down on the mattress!
I am looking forward to trying the above mentioned treatments & to checking it out more online. Will report back later! ~ annasan

October 20, 2009 at 1:04 pm
(10) Banda says:

When I was 26, I started having sharp shooting pains from my inner thighs, down the back of my legs all the way to the arches of my feet, that would knock me to the floor, or make me jump out of my chair. The pain was sparked from the slightest touch to my skin, walking on/sitting on hard surfaces, cold weather, sitting/standing too long, and pretty much blinking wrong (or so it feels). I was diagnosed with Neuralgia and shortly after, I began having Fibro symptoms as well. I try to make sure I have a well-balanced diet with fiber so that no strain is put on my body. I’ve always had digestive problems. I have to be extra super careful when exercising or stretching.

November 19, 2009 at 9:48 pm
(11) perpetualspiral says:

I finallly finished reading this article, and I want to thank you. In the past year I have developed leg pain such as you have described here, mostly in the upper leg. It could be ITB or MPS – I have the latter in my back already, and I did find the trigger/tender point in my hip. I’ve added the ITB stretches to my regular stretch list! I hope it helps. Sometimes the leg pain is much worse than my back pain, because it isn’t relieved by laying down in any position. The only thing that has helped it so far is sitting it a hot bath – but of course I can’t live my life in the tub LOL. Thanks again, Adrienne :)

October 16, 2010 at 1:21 am
(12) carol moran says:

I too was diagnosed with fibro. and have recently started
getting pain down my left leg that hurts worse than the
most painful toothache.Before I got this it pain was just
in my hip and shoulder the doctor said it was bursitis and
treated me with a cortizone shot it did work but every few
months I have to get another shot. I am going to try the stretching hoping it will work.If anyone has any other ideas
please write back. thanks Carol

August 1, 2011 at 2:20 am
(13) malmaxmin says:

30-7-2011 Simple treatment of ileotibial band syndrome. –really it is a combination of default mysitis/myalgia of the lateral thigh muscle plus ilieatibial pain
use standard elimination diet treatment especially in morning and early afternoon . therefore eliminate all egg, red meat, canned fish, wheat, dairy etc. and most if not all dairy. use only green pears and apples etc.
if you have not encountered the elimination or exclusion diet refer to diet which also excludes artificail preservatives eg “failsafe ” but the full exclusion diet should be used in AM and early PM .
if you still have trouble contact me at bravenewlogic@yahoo.com.au.
sometimes the thigh pain is also medial and sometimes pain in calf or back or even knee.
please let me know how you respond


October 28, 2012 at 9:04 am
(14) jill says:

Wow…just diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic with leg Fibromyalgia. That explains the pain strong enough and long lasting enough to bring tears. Sometimes I simply cannot walk.

I need new knees but the surgeous basically said the Fibro pain will not go away so why bother with the knees?

I truly believe it’s related to stress. When the person causing MY stress is not around, the pain subsides a bit.

Thanks for this site.

January 24, 2013 at 9:19 pm
(15) David says:

All you people who are experiencing leg cramps or pain need to ask yourself: have you ever taken Cipro or Levaquin? These two antibiotic drugs are horrible and cause severe leg, muscle and tendon issues. I was a marathon runner until I took Cipro.

February 21, 2013 at 12:09 am
(16) steph says:

Only 2 things help at all..
super super hot water (burns my feet but relieves leg pain)
arnica gel (helps somewhat)

Thanks for your comments and ideas.
Hang in there everyone.

March 25, 2013 at 5:09 pm
(17) falicia says:

Hi.ihave some of the same symptoms. that some of u all have the only thing that helps is a b.c powder. but the pain comes back later so i just stay off it for a while.i hope u all feel better eventually

June 2, 2013 at 9:36 am
(18) Michele says:

Hello, I had back surgery last yr. Sadly it didn’t work. I’ve have problems with my legs. One doctor says I have bursitis in both hips. For 2 years now my knees all the way down to my feet hurt everyday. Nothing seems to work for the pain. I do wrap them, but no relief. I have Fibromyalgia. I’ve been to numerious doctors/pain clinic. The other day I went to see another Ortho dr. He bent my legs, stretched my legs. than took an xray. He came back into the room and said. I can’t do anything for you. I don’t see anything wrong with your legs. Now, mind you. I’ve seen other doctors in the past and one said a little over a yr ago, that my knees were in the beginning statages of degentative sp* disc diease. I went to med express 2 weeks prior to going to the new ortho dr. infact med express referred me to him. ME took xrays as well. they said Arthritis and maybe fluid on my kneesand degenative diease. I am soo irretated anymore. No doctor can tell me what is wrong with my legs. I know infact it must be something because they hurt everyday with no kind of relief. I did pt in the pool but that didn’t help. I did excerises. again no relief If anyone has any advice or is or has gone through anything like this. I be greatful to hear what your doctor says. I look forward to hearing from someone. Thx!!

June 7, 2013 at 1:38 am
(19) Gina says:

I have chronic leg pain from my hips to my feet. It’s like a burning pain and my feet feel really hot. This comes on every few months and lasts for a long period of tie. It’s miserable, but I’ve had it for many years. When it is absent, I forget about it, although I have chronic back pain too. But the aching leg syndrome is different and I can’t figure out what it really is, as it is random and has no rhyme or reason. I have never pursued a diagnosis for it but often was certain it was fibro. I haven’t found anything to relieve it, just one day it goes away.

July 4, 2013 at 3:00 am
(20) Mary Russell says:

I have had severe lower leg pain and swelling for 15 months. The pain came on suddenly. I am 5’3″ 220lbs but not diabetic. Have had vascular scans, no clots. Had MRI of back and have degenerative discs L4 and L5 but was told this is common. I’m 50yrs old. I’ve had 3 epidurals and felt some relief but not substantial. The pain and swelling persists after only 3 hours of walking or sitting. My legs feel cramped and I stretch them without much relief. The only relief I her is having them elevated. I will try these ITB exercises and post my results. The pain is excruciating.

August 7, 2013 at 11:14 pm
(21) Marisa says:

So glad I found this site. I have FMS and CFS. I, too, am suffering from severe and constant leg pain from hip to toe. It’s relentless! 24/7! Burning, pulling, aching pain. I constantly feel the need to stretch and move my legs around. Believe it or not….I have had this since grade school. I used to get in trouble at school because I couldn’t sit still. I was constantly stretching my legs trying to get relief. I would sit at my desk and cry. My parents took me to a doctor but they had no idea. I guess they thought I was just a crazy kid! :) I am going to try the ITB stretches TODAY! I’m sorry others are suffering too but it’s a comfort to know I’m not alone. God bless you all !

August 7, 2013 at 11:25 pm
(22) Marisa says:

So glad I found this site!! I have FMS/CFS and am also struggling with severe leg pain. A constant (24/7) pulling, aching, burning pain from hips to feet. Drives me crazy all day and keeps me up at night. This actually started when I was in grade school. I used to get in trouble for squirming in my seat. I was just trying to stretch to relieve the pain! I would sit at my desk and cry from the pain. My parents took me to doctors but they had no idea what was wrong. They probably thought I was just a crazy kid! :-) Anyway, I am going to try the ITB stretches TODAY! I am really sorry you all are suffering but I get comfort from knowing I’m not alone in this struggle. God bless you all !

August 18, 2013 at 1:34 am
(23) Suzanne says:

This article was so helpful. I’ve been having leg pain which I thought was sciatica. But the exercises that usually help weren’t working. I realized after reading your article that it’s actually trigger points! I worked on them with my Thera cane and already feel better.

August 18, 2013 at 10:37 pm
(24) Priscilla Straka says:

Has anyone been able to get disability because of chronic leg pain?

August 19, 2013 at 10:34 am
(25) Nette says:

Please read my story might really help someone get their life back. Wow, I didn’t know so many people suffered from this. Since 2008 I have suffered from fibro pain after 2 falls, I was 28 at the time. In 2009 I started have a severe burning pain in the backside of my lower legs. Thank God I was on break from nursing school. Sometimes I felt painful shooting electrical pains and I could hardly walk for a month. Could not wear socks. I used a cane that whole time while walking extremely slow. I have lower back problems along with DJD and I thought sciatica was the culprit. Sitting/rest did help with the pain. I soon realized after I would eat the pain would get worse.

I was seeing a chiropractor at the time but I also stop eating anything with regular table salt. Sounds crazy but it worked. Then I switched to sea salt & found that I could eat it only if I remain seated for the 3 hrs following. The pain went away after that month and I returned to school. A few months later I retested my theory & ate some food with regular salt & the burning & pain came back. It’s very tedious to eliminate table salt from your diet because almost everything packaged in the store has salt. I always read the ingredients and mostly shop at whole foods & I rarely go out to eat & if I do it’s salad. I cook mostly what I eat.

I’ve been a vegan since 2008 I dont eat processed sugar, caffeine, or white flour. I cook mostly with Bragg amino acid which is like soy sauce but made from vegetable protein it has no salt only natural occurring sodium . I don’t really have leg pain anymore, I have many fibro issues but at least I can walk without a cane/pain. I can also work as a nurse with light duty. I also juice raw veggies & drink often &i recover quicker from my many other fibro pains.

Watching what I eat certainly helps me manage symptoms better. Check out http://www.hacres.com hallejuah diet many fibro success stories. I do my modified version of the diet but my goal is to do it 100% soon.

September 3, 2013 at 1:30 pm
(26) Phyllis says:

SOO good to see I am not the only one with awful leg pain. I was diagnosed with Fibro in 2000..thru process of elimination – not MS or Lupus. I went to pain management – injections didn’t help at all…neither did Lyrica or the others. 99% of my pain is in my legs…feels like non stop charlie horses, muscles that are contracted but trying to separate…IF that makes sense to anyone. But it’s mostly in my hamstring and calf areas. My knees have awful pain too but I find it easier to comfort them with ice. The ONLY thing that helps my muscular pain is pain meds. I HATE taking them but I hate the pain more. I have seen many of you say your pain is worse than the worst tooth ache.. I AGREE…even an abcess tooth! It’s truly maddening pain for me. A vet would put a dog to sleep as opposed to letting him/her live with pain as this.

January 3, 2014 at 1:54 am
(27) Debra says:

My leg pain started 4 months ago, woke up to the left front thigh pain. So bad, went to pcp, and tried anti-inflam. as well as pain pills. did not help.
went to Orho, had xrays which did show arthritis in hips and knees but did not match my complains. But since I have no health Ins. i had a injection in hip, which has helped alittle. the problem is the pain is now in front of both thighs and I can barely walk some days. Sometimes it hurts in the groin down to the knees. Can’t believe there is no diagnoses.

February 22, 2014 at 5:55 pm
(28) Debra says:

I have Fibro and recently have started with pain in my left leg. It helps if I stand up which makes me think it could be a Restless Leg Syndrome. I am 56 and until recently have avoided most illnesses but the Fibro is kicking my tail and now this leg pain. My doc has me on 100 mg of Lyrica but the only thing that really helps is taking a Hydrocodone with a Tylenol before bed. I sleep well but I have shooting pains in all of my limbs a good deal of the time in the day. Thankfully I am retired because I can’t imagine going to work anymore. I wish everyone well and am so appreciative of this site.

April 7, 2014 at 11:59 am
(29) srujana says:

had lower back pain on left side.
Dragging pain through out left leg.sometimes it settles in ankle, sometimes in knee, sometimes claf stiffens up.
had this pain from many years.
Thought i had sciatica, went for physio sessions.
Took MRI and CT scans.Met many orthopedics and Neurologists.
Nothing is wrong in reports.
Was on pain killers for some time.Still pain persists.
From last 6-8 months it s becoming more.
It starts before 10 days of my periods.And when it goes off i can’t say.
Took ultra sound scan suspecting gynic problems.That scan was also fine.
went to another gynic.She saw all reports and finally suspected Endometriosis..Took pain killers for a month.Still it is the same.
Pain used to start on lower back and radiates down through whole leg. sometimes it pains on the front of left side in lower abdominal area. when that pain comes i feel like having some emptiness or vaccum there.

From past 2 days all of a sudden pain started in right leg.But only in hip and down through out the leg.i never had pain in right leg.
its bad draggin gpain.
Couldn’t sit in office.
My job mostly includes sitting before computer for 8 hours.
I do get up in between and take breaks.
Even before i joined in job this pain was there.
Gone through many web sites and not able to find information properly.
Endometriosis sysmptoms mostly matched with my sysmptoms. But when i asked gynic to do a laproscopic examination she said no and wanted to continue pills for 2 more months.

can anyone please help me on this.

Thank you.

May 1, 2014 at 5:47 am
(30) ki'm.elliot says:

Hello, I went to see my gp last night, I explained where the pain is and asked him, what could it be. He asked do you run, I said no. He then said, well it can’t be shin splints you don’t run. Then he said goodbye and said he didn’t know what is wrong. My fibromyalgia medication is working but not on my legs.
Thanks to your page, I now know what the pain is.
Thank you for your page.

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