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Adrienne Dellwo

Men With Fibromyalgia: Special Problems & Symptoms

By February 18, 2012

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Fibromyalgia may prefer women, but it doesn't stick exclusively to them - it hits men, too.

Doctors may not even consider fibromyalgia in a male patient, and some doctors speculate that only 10% of diagnoses are men because men are less likely to complain about pain.

Because men are the minority in this case, we know less about how fibromyalgia effects them. However, we do know that it's not quite the same as it is in women. Find out what information we have about the difference:

To the men among us - how do you think this illness is different for you,  in terms of both symptoms and social aspects? Was it hard for you to be diagnosed? Have you faced extra scorn for having a "women's illness?" Leave your comments below!

Learn more or join the conversation!


Photo © Andersen Ross/Getty Images

February 18, 2012 at 1:08 pm
(1) James says:

I have had FMS for my entire life that I can remember. I am 37 now. Growing up was hard because I knew I couldn’t do what the other kids could, but the doctors told me nothing was wrong. I was finally diagnosed by an infectious disease specialist about 10 years ago. I take no medication because I find the side effects are worse than the little good they do. I currently get weekly massages and use Karate for exercise 3-4 days a week. This helps me relieve pain. Having had FMS for so long I’ve learned many ways to cope. Especially with the headaches, brain fog, IBS, and heat sensitivity.
As a male I find that I have responsibilities to my family and that forces me to push myself to do more. I’m not sure if women have that same drive. It certainly helps me “suck up” the pain when I need to. I do not feel that I have different systems than females or feel more or less pain then them.
When I was first diagnosed, I used it as a crutch. But that made me feel unhappy and in worse pain. It took me a few years, but I came to terms with it and learned to pace myself better.
I’ve never had anyone tell me it was a woman’s illness. Anyone who has knowledge of FMS has been sympathetic and comforting to me.

February 18, 2012 at 1:50 pm
(2) Patrick says:

I was diagnosed almost a year ago & my life has changed so much since then. I turned 38 on at the beginning of Feb. I played lots of sports every season from grade school to college. At first it was the spinal damage , 7 herniated discs , 3 bulging. After seeing many Dr’s we discovered severe spinal stenosis & sever arthritis of the back . My MRI’s read of car crashes that never happened – I played Sports like You took my $ & now I am paying for it. I grew up in a still contaminated town in NJ & still live there now. I have FMS & the moment I knew 100% was by getting in FB contact with a 2nd cousin on my dipshit biological male donor’s side that she suffers from FMS also.

My pain threshold is insane but I am subject to insane pain almost around the clock. Things are getting better because I have a Wonderful GF but I got tell ya it’s very humbling when you cant move from a chair for a day. I will never give up on a cure , ever. I will admit the FMS effects the following : appetite – none too much pain , sex – minimal the drive is busy processing pain – not going out I need a cane to walk safely. After my 6th spinal procedure the Dr. “nicked a nerve ending …to my left leg so that is permanent nerve damage that never feels OK & it’s worst I consider cutting it off. The barometer rules my life & decides what does not happen during weather. Thankfully I was in peak physical form when i was officially diagnosed by one of the most brilliant Rheumatologists on the Eastern Seaboard. As a man I do not feel like a failure but I yearn to have 1/2 of my old self back for my sake & of others.

February 18, 2012 at 9:49 pm
(3) anned says:

Men with fibro have extra problem even after being DXed.
The first line antidepressants that are used for fibro don’t work as often in men and can cause a number of side effects not seen in women. i can not use anti depressants for fibro as they do nothing for the fibro pain and cause BPH in me.

My doctors(UCLA) had no problem DXing me with fibro they just had problems finding a medication that worked. I take Gabapentin that i found doing my own research on the Internet.
My fibro was caused by Sarcoidosis and has remained long after the Sarcoidosis went into remission.
another thing many doctor miss is about 80% of men with fibro have co-morbid sleep apnea..

Some of the new research is showing fibro maybe a form of neuropathy and likely a form of small fiber neuropathy..

February 19, 2012 at 12:30 am
(4) Mary Seroski says:

I run a support group for fibro and have several men in it including my husband.

I know men feel they have to suck it up to handle it but that just makes it worse. There are ways to reduce pain without prescriptions.

Be sure you are taking supplements of omega 3, magnesium, vitamin D3, Vitamin B12, and eating a vegetarian diet. Meat causes an increase in Omega 9 which can increase your pain.

Try to destress yourself all the time. Stress causes cortisol which causes adrenaline and that increases your pain.

For sleep, take a very warm bath with epsom salts at night before bed and sleep with a sleep mask to block out all light. This will help you get into the delta mode of sleep to regenerate hormones and repair your body.

My husband has been taking supplements and they seem to be helping him. They do help me a lot.

Make your life one of joy and laughter to increase endorphins. Endorphins are one of the pain killers in your body.

February 19, 2012 at 12:32 am
(5) Stuart says:

I reckon that the social expectations on men make it all so much harder. The man is supposed to be out there working. Men are brought up not to complain about pain. It’s not masculine.

If a woman gives up work, no-one even asks why. If a man does, everyone thinks you are suicidal or crazy. Especially if you try to tell them about fibro.

Once I knew I was going to have to stop work, my marriage also ended.

February 19, 2012 at 12:33 am
(6) typingterror says:

Much more fibro diagnoses for men now especially if they have been in military.

February 19, 2012 at 1:26 am
(7) maureen says:

there is a website called
that discusses many of your questions that men may have that they can share with other men

February 19, 2012 at 3:13 pm
(8) Cindy says:

I just have to say, nothing against men, but in my experience they are much more likely to complain about pain. I do feel bad for men with Fibro. it has been a diagnosis with woman in mind. I’m not sure they would be taken any more seriously then woman.

February 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm
(9) Phil says:

I was diagnosed in the early 90′s.
except no-one could tell me what it was, How it needed to be treated, which of my many symptoms were from Frbro…. what ever it’s called. Ha!
Other Dr.’s told me that’s just a Term Used when They Have No Idea whats wrong with you!
Holy guacamole???
That! where I was left. . .
now I am disabled 100% and acute fibromyalgia was 1 of many disorders and Acute: bone and joint diseases. . .
Ok, so, yup I have forgotten most all I had read and just know that I am My own Hero, for just DEALIN. not going to say Left handed cigarettes help; But, I sure as hell won’t say they Don’t! ! ! ;) ~~
That has been the only relief I’ve ever had, until recently, I’ve agreed to start taking Oxycontin?? percosette??? was trying to puff in stead of the Pain meds, but after 20+ years of pain, I can no longer do with out, but still hold out til absolutly needed!
Peace and 10-Q berry berry munch!

February 21, 2012 at 9:04 am
(10) Ammaclarke says:

I’m not very happy about the comments on this article where men are implying that men “suck up the pain” and push through more than women because they HAVE to.  SERIOUSLY???  Also, stating that it’s acceptable for a woman not to work but not for a man. PLEASE!!!  I pushed and pushed for years.  (Still do.) People didn’t know the pain and zombie fatigue I was in until it was impossible to hide.  I HAD to go out on disability at age 56 and believe me, I had to deal with harsh judgements from people.  

I am offended that those comments sound like non-support WITHIN the fibro community. We certainly don’t need that at all. let’s stick together and be compassionate toward one another. It’s not a contest on who has it worse than someone else. JMHO

February 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm
(11) Steve says:

I was diagnosed with Fibro about 2 years ago. I believe there are probably many more undiagnosed cases of Fibro in men than in women. I feel that men are generally less likely than women to seek medical attention for ANY health condition and probably less likely to communicate or admit that they have a health issue.

The symptoms that I have do not seem to be any different than the ones generally associated with fibro. I had a sleep study with showed greatly fragmented sleep and alpha-intrusions, so it was interesting to read that sleep issues are common to men diagnosed with Fibro, however sleep issues are common for ANYONE diagnosed with Fibro.

I have never been told that Fibro is a just women’s illness. I am sure that both women and men have a similar difficulty with coping with new limitations caused by Fibro symptoms whether work related or not, as well as with dealing with an ‘invisible’ illness and dealing with doctors who are uneducated about it.

February 24, 2012 at 5:23 pm
(12) Stephen says:

My biggest problem with fibro is extreme anxiety some days I take up to 12g of valarian to calm my nerves.I take similar stuff to what Mary talks about and I was a vegetarian before I got fibro.I dont work or drive as I get aches and pain in my arms and neck.My post exercise malaise is also bad.

February 24, 2012 at 11:16 pm
(13) Father Daniel Beegan says:

I was diagnosed with FMS first by an older MD, who called it post viral fatigue syndrome. Then, when I moved to Maine, a young female DO diagnosed me with FMS and Chronic Myofacial Pain.

I would say my two biggest problems are constant pain and fatigue..

Now that I’ve moved back to Indianapolis, I am being treated by a DO who is dual certified in internal medicine with a special interest in infectious diseases and in osteopathic manipulative medicine.

While I have an MD PCP who prescribes pain medication and takes care of my heart, liver and kidney problems, Dr. Garren Gebhardt is my go-to-guy and is family.

February 25, 2012 at 2:33 am
(14) Steve says:

I live in Queensland Australia and the majority of people haven’t even heard about fibromyalgia let alone that it is more often diagnosed in women than men.I was forced to go on disability at the ripe old age of 37( I also have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Type 2 diabetes ) and you can imagine the reactions/judgments from people mostly think that I am over stating my symptoms etc. and that I must have wanted to just get disability pension and sponge of them system.
The most common question/statement I get is ” but you look so well ” even from family members.A lot of people still have the view that most things medical can be fixed with a pill and can be cured in a couple of weeks etc
so what is my problem ?
But of course people who see you doing things are not always around when the after effects kick in nor do they see the planning and staging to enable you to do these activities.
I have lost friends through this illness either it freaks them out or they think that I am whinging/faking to get the disability pension which according to some people is mega $’s or they can’t cope with or feel guilty and don’t want to get involved. I am lucky to have now found a great Doctor for me and my family but the journey was long,hard and often nearly ended in violence due their attitude and ignorance and accusations.

February 25, 2012 at 7:38 pm
(15) GB says:

My sister had had CFS, which I have, and I never experienced any gender related issues in regards to my illness. I was told that women get it at a higher number, but like autism that effects boys more than girls, but if you have an illness, you have an illness. The greater problem was the inability of the first half a dozen doctors or so to help me with the illness. It was maybe the ninth doctor who finally identified the illness and began a treatment that helped a condition that, in my case, hasn’t really been treatable – at best just manageable. When you have CFS, you are so exhausted; the issue of gender related issues really doesn’t even make your radar, at least not in my case.

July 2, 2012 at 9:15 am
(16) Ace says:

I was diagnosed with fibro 3 years ago but have been sick for 12 plus years with a ton of medical appointments. I think women hurt due to loss of relationships, whereas men hurt due to loss of sex and work, part of what makes them a man. Antidepressants may work for women but they will kill any sex drive a man has left and he will be unable to function sexually. I don’t think men with fibro have much of a sex drive and due to insomnia and pain, have trouble with sexual function anyway. But if they take antidepressants, forget sex for life. Men are expected to cut the lawn, help people life stuff, and it’s tough trying to explain to other men that you can’t do those things.

August 12, 2012 at 4:21 pm
(17) augoldminer says:

men with fibro should be tested for small fiber neuropathy..

Small fiber sensory neuropathy (SFSN) can mimic fibro or be co-morbid with fibro.
if you have peripheral neuropathy(small fiber peripheral neuropathy)along with fibro this is a sign you also have the sensory neuropathy.

Men work with a lot of toxic chemicals in the workplace and can get neuropathy from them.

You also need a sleep study as many with fibro also have sleep apnea and apnea can cause both fibro and small fiber neuropathy.

over at memwithfibro.com we have a lot of ex military and construction workers and likely many have been exposed to toxic chemicals .

August 27, 2012 at 12:12 am
(18) o boy says:

this is a litlle bit diferent i think that fibro is caused by the gmo foods that we eat also all the soy that is in most foods this not good we need stop junk that monsanto is doing also the fda/

October 22, 2012 at 1:14 pm
(19) cassandra says:

Anyone who has fibro, man or woman, suffers!! It is a horrible disease that robs us of are lives!! I do believe more men would be diagnosed but are less likely to go to drs. for things! I know that all of us who suffer have to just make the best of it and carry on! Men might have it a little more harder physcologically because i am sure this disease makes them feel immasculated!! I have been on disability since I was 30 and have always felt like less of a person, or a mooch!! Although I am not and do have an illness that is not my fault, just like the rest of us!! We didn’t ask to become sick..there are so many more things I would rather do and so many jobs I would love to have, but I just can’t! I have “learned to live” with a great deal of pain and i too believe that supplements, such as, magnesium, vitamin d ect are very beneficial!! I also believe that woman are just as tough as men and can handle anything thrown at them…we make it through child birth and that is some very bad pain! I noticed the comments about the men that have FMS that have been in the military, I myself served in the Army and always felt that maybe we were guinea pigs to something??? We will never know for sure!! I just hope and pray they find a cure, yesterday until then I will keep movin on!! Goodday!!

January 8, 2013 at 11:54 am
(20) Ace says:

I believe fibro is worse for men, and here’s why. When women complain about fibro, it is the loss of relationships that hurt them. Men are more fueled by work and sex, and not being able to do either of those things well has a huge emotional toll on men. The problem is, 95% of articles on fibro are made for women. Think about it, women can take these antidepressants and still have sex, even if maybe their feeling is dulled by the medicine a little bit. Men, who already have insomnia and pain, so they have trouble maintaining erections, and now you throw these antidepressants on top of this? This is why the antidepressants are not effective for men…men can’t fake their way through sex, and for guys that already have problems these medicinces kill sex forever…so to many, they are not worth it.

June 4, 2013 at 1:34 am
(21) Robert says:

The hard truth is when men are afflicted they are less likely to get help. The ego keeps men from pushing for a diagnosis. The shame and pain leads to the only solution we feel we have left. I had this all my life. I was all alone in my on hell. After the doctors left me feeling hopeless, I withdrew from life. I made 3 attempts at ending my pain by ending my life in 30 days. Last attempt I had to be life flighted out of state to save my life. Took 5 more years to get diagnosis. With several more attempts and suicidal contemplation. Diagnosis doesn’t end the suffering, it compounds the problem by removing what hope I had that this would go away. I try and stay focused on living for the benefit of my wife and kids.Its not that I enjoy life or have hobbies i dont its just trying to survive takes everything I have. Me staying alive brings in a disability check that provides for them. The last 10 years I lived only to work in order to provide for them. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t wish I could just lay down and close my eyes and never wake up to the pain of this life. If there are men out there like me, how many of them died before diagnosis because the couldn’t face not being able to be the man,provider and husband they wanted to be. Yes fibro sufferers have a high suicide rate, now think about all the men who check out early and nobody knows why. Its because our ego as men,providers and husbands can’t accept that we are not the masculine man we are supposed to be. While doctors tell us there’s nothing wrong we convince ourselves they are right and I am just a worthless human being for not being able to deal with life. My strength lies not in what I can’t do but in the fact I survive every day not for myself but for my family. One day I may lose that daily Battle but the victory remains in every day I didn’t succumb to the pain.

September 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm
(22) PMN says:

In talking with the few men who admit to being diagnosed with FM, the general feeling is that by telling others they have it is like “coming out of the closet.” Comments such as “You can’t have it, you’re not a woman,” or the ever popular, “Just suck it up. Most of it is mental attitude.”

Most of us were raised to disregard pain and push past it. Coaches, parents, teachers, everywhere reinforce this with comments such as, “Just walk it off, you go back in in the game in 10 minutes,” and “Stop being so girly and just suck it up.”

As we age we just figure it’s because we are getting old so we go back to the the advice given when we were younger. This stops many of us from saying anything to anyone, especially doctors, who are famous with two standard lines: “Well, you know you aren’t getting any younger,” and, “Well, if you just lost ___ (fill in the number) pounds you would feel much better” (if I hear this again I may go postal !!!).

I found it interesting that most of the comments in other articles are by women with FM and, more significantly, women who comment that their male partners have it yet the men themselves say nothing.

When I read about Morgan Freeman I first thought it would be great if he went public and became a public spokesman. After thinking more about it I think the main issue is privacy. Why should he give up what little privacy he has?

I am of the opinion now that it will probably be a cold day in hell (where our thermo-regulation will really suck) before FM and CFS in men is seen as an equal opportunity disease.

PS: Not even sites such as John Hopkins or WebMD help. All of the images are of women and the discussions are centered on womens’ issues and concerns. I do not dismiss this or downplay it, it just doesn’t help men.

Now, back to the closet…

December 3, 2013 at 12:31 pm
(23) Joey says:

My problem and I believe it may be the case with others is EGO. It has been ridiculously difficult to tell doctors just how bad the pain is and how disabling it has been. It’s also been hard to get doctors to take me seriously as with fibro your complaints add up to being a hypochondriac instead of a legitimately sick person. Add to that, the problem in this country with prescription drug abuse and what you end up with is a prescription for disaster!

December 17, 2013 at 6:45 am
(24) Steve Fouse says:

According to the mayo clinic women complain more of pain the men so women got this “disease” first as a result of their complaining, men suck it up and go on till we can’t do it anymore, we have obligations to our family and keep them or try!!!

January 31, 2014 at 8:32 am
(25) Jason says:

I can relate to Robert (post 21) in his feelings and views. I have had so many symptoms over the past 10 years without any real help. They were all just isolated issues I had to deal with. Even lost ability to do any physical labor and found a job working with special needs children to avoid unemployment, disability, shame, and the idea if I ended up not working on disability I would lose everything and stare at a wall till death came to take me. Slowly, I am losing everything. After divorce and losing the ability to even do light duty, depression has really sunk its teeth in. I too have made attempts to just end it. Every time I see steps it may as well be Mt. Everest. I finally broke down and went to the doctor who sent me to a slew of specialists. Eight months later, here it is…fibromyalgia. I don’t know whats gonna happen from here, but I do know all my dreams have been smashed, diverted, altered, what ever term one would use. Its not an end though. The diagnosis did change the nightly ” please god, don’t let me wake up” prayer. See Robert, its really about how you view it. One could see it as an end or one could see it as an unexpected fork in the road. I see it as I now have a face to a once invisible enemy that I can fight. You still have your family, you still have strength. You still see another day, your children strive, the glow of your wife’s eyes. Don’t give up. Think about the good and don’t let it win. There is so much that can still make you happy. I know personally how damn hard it is, but I wont be defeated. I hope that you find a way to fight it and not long for death. It’s a terrible way to see things and live. Just changing the way you see things can make a huge difference.

March 26, 2014 at 3:37 pm
(26) Freddy says:

It’s tough to read this because I haven’t been diagnosed, but had it suggested earlier and have been trying to just fight it. I have basically broken down, pain almost all over my body, never wake up feeling refreshed. I had scolosis, testicular cancer, migraines, so I’ve been fighting for years and will probably continue for years. The inability to rest, the inability to feel any energy, the fog that seems to be a relatively new addition to things has all compounded and made my depression go through the roof. I’m struggling, hard. I’d like to try a lot of herbs and different suggestions, but things aren’t exactly cash-flow friendly of late, so trying something that ‘might’ help is a risk that doesn’t help the stress associated with all of this either. I appreciate the ones who fight, I have a 3 year old (in vitro miracle) and I’ll fight as hard as I can. I’m working and thankful to be, but I find doing things related to it a challenge, and getting moreso daily. I’m going to attempt to go to the doctor and hope that I’ll be lucky and something can help or they find something else. It’s a challenge and God bless the rest of you, and hope that you all, and myself included, find some relief. I’ll fight till I can’t fight anymore, and that’s all I can hope the rest of you do as well.

April 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm
(27) Robert says:

Found my way back here unintentionally. It’s hard to read my post again and experience those feelings all over again. I have been fortunate to find a group of people that have helped me tremendously. As we are outnumbered significantly our group is predominantly women, however that hasn’t been an issue for us. It hasn’t solved, fixed or made my problems go away, but having others who understands and can support you is very important in maintaining what sanity we have left. This isn’t a recruitment post, as there are many support groups online that are available. I share my group as a reference for those who haven’t found the support they need and not to build my group at the expense of other support groups. Breaking up another group thats helping people only hurts more that are suffering than the few that would benefit. Also a message to Jason, I found myself at that point of staring at the walls with limited physical ability trying to find a purpose and what I could do. The group I joined gave me an outlet to help others the best way I could. Putting the years of online research into the disorders I face, fibro being just one of many lables I’ve received. When that group fell apart from within, I didn’t know what was next. So many people involed in the first group needed somewhere to turn. We came together and created our group and the support we give and get from it has given me a purpose and a way to truly make a difference in this world. That above everything I had lost was something I missed most of all. Being able to make a difference in this world. Rather it was one person at a time or group of people. I feel that I benefit more from helping others than they benefit.


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