Fibromyalgia, called FM for short, is a neurological disorder that is characterized by a dull aching pain throughout the body.
Your central nervous system is much more sensitive to pain, which causes pain to be widespread. Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose, and quite often is mistaken for other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, or RA.
Additionally, it can be difficult to get a diagnosis for fibromyalgia because the symptoms are not always present- it waxes and wanes- at times the symptoms will be worse than others.
Fibromyalgia typically affects middle aged women, but men are diagnosed with it as well, on occasion.
The American College of Rheumatology says that if you are experiencing pain on both sides of your body and below your waist for three or more months, then you should have your primary care physician, or PCP, get you referred to a rheumatologist in order to get a correct diagnosis.
So, what are some of the fibromyalgia flare-up symptoms?
Symptoms of Fatigue
When it comes to energy levels, individuals who have a diagnosis of fibromyalgia have good days and they have bad days.
At times, you will have all the energy you need to perform your routine daily activities. Then, there are those days when your fibromyalgia symptoms will flare-up and you’ll barely have the energy to drag yourself out of bed.
The American College of Rheumatology recommends that you begin an exercise program such as water aerobics, swimming, or walking in order to decrease your flare-ups.
However, when starting a program, you should start slow and have lots of patience with yourself- never give up. Consult with your physician before you begin any new activity, though.
The flare up symptoms of fibromyalgia can cause your sleep patterns to be disturbed- sometimes quite severely. When your fibromyalgia flares up, you could wake up feeling very unrefreshed.
The National Fibromyalgia Association says that fibromyalgia actually causes “awake-like” brain activity that will keep you from getting adequate sleep by preventing that stage 4 deep sleep.
Symptoms of Pain
Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain- at varying degrees. In the midst of a severe flare-up, it can be described as a deep muscle ache that is accompanied by shooting pains.
Typically, the pain is most severe in the mornings and has many possible triggers, including weather changes, stress/anxiety, and mental fatigue.
When your fibromyalgia has flared-up, the pain could cause many areas of your body to be sensitive to even a gentle touch.
Digestion Issue Symptoms
An individual who is experiencing a fibromyalgia flare-up could have constipation and symptoms that are very similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.
Individuals affected by fibromyalgia actually experience a wide variety of different symptoms, which flare-up at different times.
Sometimes, an individual will experience headaches, which can be almost like a severe migraine in times of a flare-up.
Other individuals say that they have impairments in their cognitive functioning, such as being unable to concentrate and losses in memory.
Many individuals with fibromyalgia also experience bouts of depression and anxiety. Usually, as they flare-up, physicians treat the individual symptoms because they are quite difficult to predict.
Additionally, an individual experiencing a flare-up of fibromyalgia symptoms may experience weight gain, blurred vision, chest pain, and even TMJ.
Causes of Fibromyalgia Flare-Ups
Some flare-ups will only last a day or so, but sometimes they can continue on for several weeks or months.
The longer flares are harder to deal with because you may feel like they’re never going to go way. When you become discouraged during a flare-up, you should remember that it is only temporary- eventually it will subside.
The best way to prevent flares is to figure out what is causing them and if possible, avoid these triggers. You should remember that your flare may not occur for up to 48 hours after the trigger event.
There seem to be ten common causes for fibromyalgia flares. They are as follows:
1) Changes in the weather
This is the most common reason for short term flares. When the barometric pressure changes, many people with fibromyalgia will experience an increase in symptoms. These typically only last a day or two.
When an individual with fibromyalgia pushes themselves too far, they could trigger a flare. When you do feel good, it’s hard not to over-exert and get caught up on those chores that you’ve been unable to do.
However, when you over-do it, it will usually cause you a flare-up. It is much better to gradually increase your level of activity so that you will have more good days and fewer setbacks.
This is most likely the “granddaddy” of triggers of fibromyalgia flare-ups. Stress often sneaks up on us, which makes it an insidious culprit. These often last the longest because they are the hardest to identify and find ways to manage.
An injury/illness can trigger the original onset of fibromyalgia. It can also trigger a flare-up. Even something as simple as a cold can cause your symptoms to flare up.
5) Hormonal Changes
Many women say that they experience flare-ups in fibromyalgia symptoms during their periods and menopause.
You would need to discuss with your doctor whether or not hormone replacement therapy would be appropriate for your situation.
6) Changes in Temperature
Many individuals with fibromyalgia experience a flare-up when exposed to extremely hot or cold temperatures.
7) Lack of Sleep/Routine Changes
As an individual with fibromyalgia, you know that it is challenging to get restful sleep.
When your sleep is disrupted or your normal sleep habits change for some reason, a flare-up could occur. You should figure out a sleep pattern that works for you and stick to it.
8) Changes in Treatment
While any changes made in treatment are to facilitate improvement in symptoms, a flare-up could be triggered. It can be hard to figure out if the flare-up was caused by the change or if it’s just a coincidence.
Individuals with fibromyalgia find it quite difficult to travel and could experience a flare after taking a trip.
This could be due to a variety of the above factors. So, make sure that you have plenty of time to rest and give yourself a day before you leave and a day or two to rest after you return.
10) Individual Sensitivities
Typically, individuals with fibromyalgia have sensitivities/allergies to noise, smells, or light. If they are exposed to these things, a flare-up could be triggered.