Fibromyalgia Symptoms in Men

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Fibromyalgia is often thought of as a "women's condition," but men can have it as well. Men with fibromyalgia are definitely outnumbered—women make up about 90 percent of cases.

Man in park with neck pain turned away touching his neck
People Images / Getty Images

That doesn't mean the diagnosis shouldn't be considered in men, though. After all, according to National Fibromyalgia Association estimates, 10 percent could mean one million men are living with illness.

Often Overlooked

Because of gender disparity, we know a lot more about how fibromyalgia affects women. Many studies are done with exclusively female participants and most healthcare providers have a lot more practical experience with female fibromyalgia patients.

A lot of people, and even some healthcare providers, erroneously think that men don't get fibromyalgia. This can cause special problems for men who are living with it—both in getting a diagnosis and in finding support. Societal expectations and stereotypes of men pose their own problems as well.

One study suggested that fibromyalgia is under-diagnosed in general, and even more under-diagnosed in men. It was a relatively small study and it didn't examine the reasons behind the under-diagnosis. However, now that the issue has received some attention, it's possible that we'll continue learning more about it.

Symptoms in Men

Some research is beginning to suggest that men's symptoms may be quite different than women's. This is an area that needs more research, but one study showed several differences in pain symptoms. It also showed that men tended to have:

  • Lower reported pain intensity
  • Lower tender-point count
  • Lower depression rates
  • Longer duration of symptoms when making the first complaint to a healthcare provider
  • Higher overall disability due to symptoms

Also, ongoing pain in men was especially linked to pressure-triggered hyperalgesia (amplified pain) in the neck. Future research will need to determine why men have a different symptom profile, but some physiological differences may be involved.

Diagnosing Fibromyalgia in Men

If you suspect you have fibromyalgia, bring it up to your healthcare provider, as he or she may not consider it because they're so accustomed to thinking of it as a woman's illness. 

If your practitioner dismisses the idea based on your gender, you may need to be persistent about it or see another medical professional.

Psychological and Social Impact

Our society has certain expectations of men and specific, narrow ideas about what it means to be masculine. Even in a two-income household, the man is often thought of as the primary breadwinner. Men are supposed to be hard-working, tough, and oblivious to pain.

Everyone with fibromyalgia faces the misconception that they're crazy, lazy, or both. When a man has a debilitating pain condition, people may also view him as weak and think especially badly of him if he doesn't have a job. He may view himself this way as well. (Women are not exempt from these issues, but men face them to a higher degree.)

Men with fibromyalgia report feeling like they've failed as a husband, father, and provider. It's a huge blow to the ego to be knocked down with what is sometimes considered a "woman's condition." It's important to remember that illness is not a weakness. Instead, the ability to keep functioning at any level when you're sick shows tremendous strength.

Also, remember that it's not a weakness to need mental health counseling to deal with these issues. It may help you overcome mental and emotional barriers to getting better.

Support for Men

Local support groups and online forums for fibromyalgia have always been dominated by women, which can make it hard for men to feel included and really understood. Several websites now offer information and support specifically for men, including Men With Fibro. You may also be able to find male-focused groups or pages on social networking sites.

However, you do share experiences—not to mention dozens of symptoms—with the other 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia. You can learn a lot from them and teach them a lot, too.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wolfe F, Walitt B, Perrot S, Rasker JJ, Häuser W. Fibromyalgia diagnosis and biased assessment: Sex, prevalence and bias. PLoS ONE. 2018;13(9):e0203755. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0203755

  2. Vincent A, Lahr BD, Wolfe F, et al. Prevalence of fibromyalgia: a population-based study in Olmsted County, Minnesota, utilizing the Rochester Epidemiology Project. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2013;65(5):786-92. doi:10.1002/acr.21896

  3. Castro-sánchez AM, Matarán-peñarrocha GA, López-rodríguez MM, Lara-palomo IC, Arendt-nielsen L, Fernández-de-las-peñas C. Gender differences in pain severity, disability, depression, and widespread pressure pain sensitivity in patients with fibromyalgia syndrome without comorbid conditions. Pain Med. 2012;13(12):1639-47. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4637.2012.01523.x

Additional Reading

By Adrienne Dellwo
Adrienne Dellwo is an experienced journalist who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and has written extensively on the topic.