Fibromyalgia, Fatigue and Menopause? Many Experts Say There Is a Link

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome (set of symptoms) characterized first by diffuse muscular and joint pain, with no particular origin or identifiable cause, accompanied by fatigue and compromised immune system function. The most identifiable characteristic of this condition is the presence of multiple “tender points”–up to eighteen points on the body that are unusually tender and painful

This disorder is closely related to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which manifests with similar symptoms. CFS’s primary symptom is profound fatigue; muscle and joint pain is secondary. The two disorders are often misdiagnosed and are sometimes difficult to differentiate from one another.

Symptoms include burning, stabbing pain in the back, neck, shoulders and back of the head, fatigue, stiffness (which is usually worse in the morning), headaches, unrelenting insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, impaired coordination and memory problems. Some sufferers also report bouts of anxiety, depression, dizziness and dry eyes/mouth.

It is estimated that at least 5 million Americans, mostly women, are affected to some degree with this disorder.

Is there a correlation between fibromyalgia and menopause symptoms?

Is there a connection between fibromyalgia and menopause? Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) can occur at any age, and afflicts both sexes, it is most prevalent in women of childbearing age and beyond. Plummeting estrogen levels at the onset of menopause are thought to affect sleep quality, mood, memory and energy levels. Conventional thinking holds that estrogen deficits are directly linked to the onset of FMS symptoms at menopause; however, it is important to note that progesterone levels have dropped even more severely at menopause. Often progesterone production has been compromised for years prior to menopause, which has resulted in ongoing estrogen dominance. Or perhaps a woman has been taking estrogen supplements, under the advice of a physican, to alleviate menopause symptoms.

Regardless of how it occurs, excess estrogen, in relation to progesterone, may impair thyroid function and thyroid hormone conversion. This appears to be true even when estrogen levels are perceived to be ‘low’. (Remember, if estrogen is low, progesterone is most likely even lower.) Says Dr. John Lee, author of the leading book on the benefits of bioidentical progesterone, (What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause), “…estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormones are interrelated.” (page 146)

Is there a connection between osteoporosis and fibromyalgia?

Some research has shown that middle-aged women with FMS tend to have lower bone mass, when tested with DEXA scans.Research indicates that early osteoporosis, called ostopenia, can produce symptoms of muscle and joint pain. This is yet another reason to be mindful of bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.

What is the possible connection between fibromyalgia and low thyroid function?

According to patient advocate and bestselling author Mary J. Shomon, both conditions share symptoms, and further notes that a high percentage of the estimated 20 million people with hypothryoidism also end up with a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Some naturopathic practitioners, such as Dr. John C. Lowe, Director of Research for the Fibromyalgia Research Foundation, have postulated that FMS and chronic fatigue may actually be unrecognized symptoms of an underactive thyroid condition.

Thyroid hormone , and the proper conversion of T4 to the active T3, impacts the body at every level. Even when TSH levels are in the so-called ‘normal’ range, Dr. Lowe does not feel that this necessarily indicates a healthy patient. Rather, the question is whether or not the patient has adequate amounts of available, circulating T3 (the active thyroid hormone, which is a product of T4 conversion). Without adequate conversion, healthy cell metabolism does not exist, which means that certain tissue metabolism is abnormal. Therefore, the actual root cause of ‘classic fibromyalgia’, in Dr. Lowe’s opinion, is metabolic malfunction at the cellular level. Back to top on fibromyalgia and menopause.

For more in-depth information about the possible metabolic link between hypothyroid and fibromyalgia, check out the following:

Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and Menopause



Disclaimer: This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or other medical condition. This information is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult with your doctor should you have specific health questions or concerns.


References and resources:

1. Uzzi Reiss, M.D., Natural Hormone Balance, New York: Pocket Books, 2001.

2. John R. Lee, MD, with Virginia Lee, What Your Doctor May not Tell You about Menopause, New York: Warner Books, 1996.

3. Christine Conrad, A Woman?s Guide to Natural Hormones, New York: A Perigee Book, division of Penguin-Putnam, Inc., 2000.