First of all, what is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is considered one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions. In fact, it is surpassed only by osteoarthritis.
In fact, it is said that over 12 million Americans are afflicted with it, and most of those are women between the ages of 25 and 60.
Women are ten times more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. Even though it is common it is often misdiagnosed, and is widely misunderstood both by those who are suffering from it and the medical community at large.
The characteristics of fibromyalgia include fatigue, widespread joint and muscle pain, and several other symptoms.
Ultimately, fibromyalgia can lead to social isolation and even depression because it’s simply no fun being out with friends and being in pain.
Fibromyalgia is a Syndrome
Fibromyalgia is actually a syndrome, which is actually a set of symptoms. When these specific symptoms present together, they imply that there is a disease/disorder already present in the body or that there is an increased risk of developing this disease/disorder.
When it comes to the syndrome of fibromyalgia, the following symptoms often will appear together.
- Anxiety and/or depression
- Lowered threshold of pain on the tender points
- Fatigue that can be incapacitating
- Widespread pain throughout the body
A fibromyalgia flare-up is a period of time where the number and/or intensity of the fibromyalgia symptoms are increased.
The first two symptoms that are typically notices in a fibromyalgia flare-up are worsening fatigue and pain.
However, other symptoms such as an increase in cognitive dysfunction, poor sleep, and even digestive disturbances can be experienced as well.
A fibromyalgia flare-up can last for a day or two, but they also may continue for several weeks or months.
The long flare-ups are the most difficult to deal with because you may fear that they’re never going to end and let you get back to normal life.
However, when you begin to feel a bit discouraged during one of those long fibromyalgia flare-ups, it is very important that you remind yourself that the flare-ups are indeed temporary.
Eventually, the signs and symptoms will begin to subside and you can begin to feel normal again.
The best way to prevent fibromyalgia flare-ups is to figure out what it is that is causing them, and whenever it is possible, avoid those triggers.
You should keep in mind that it may take up to 48 hours after exposure to the trigger for the fibromyalgia flare-up to happen.
Common Fibromyalgia Flare-Up Triggers
It has been said that there are ten common fibromyalgia flare-up triggers. They are as follows:
Changes in weather
One of the most common fibromyalgia flares is the weather changes. When a new front passes through, changing the barometric pressure, many with fibromyalgia will experience a change in symptoms- particularly an increase in pain.
Over exerting themselves
When an individual with fibromyalgia pushes themselves too far physically, they are in danger of causing a flare. It can be quite hard not to push and try to catch up when you’re feeling good.
However, when you overdo it, you can end up with a flare-up. You should gradually increase your activity levels so that you end up having more good days than bad.
This is most likely the “granddaddy” of fibromyalgia flare-ups. We always hear that stress negatively affects health and can cause strokes and even heart attacks, but not much is said about triggering fibromyalgia flares.
Injury or Illness
Injuries and illness can trigger the onset of fibromyalgia as well as flare-ups. Even a common cold can trigger a flare.
Changes in hormones
Women with fibromyalgia have reported that they experience flares related to menopause or menstrual cycles.
She would need to discuss with her doctor whether or not hormone replacement therapy is appropriate for her situation.
Changes in temperature
Many individuals with fibromyalgia say that they experience a sensitivity to extreme heat or cold- or both.
Being in uncomfortable temperatures can trigger a flare- even if only exposed for short periods of time.
Changes in or lack of sleep
Getting quality sleep is a challenge for individuals with fibromyalgia. When sleep is disrupted, a fibromyalgia flare-up could be coming. Find a sleep routine and do whatever you can to stick with it.
Changes in treatment
These changes are meant to improve symptoms but at times the changes can trigger a flare-up of symptoms. It can be hard to determine whether the flare was a coincidence or actually caused by the change.
This is never easy for an individual with fibromyalgia– even great trips can be followed by flare-ups. This is usually due to the changes that come from travel: weather/temperature, sleep, etc.
Individuals with fibromyalgia typically have some personal sensitivities as well and exposure to these things can trigger a flare-up.
One thing that is not mentioned is diet. There are some foods that can result in a fibromyalgia flare-up.
This includes artificial sweeteners. You may think, “Splenda is natural- it’s made from sugar. Can Splenda cause fibromyalgia flares?”
The truth is that while Splenda is made from sugar, it is far from natural. It is run through chemical processes that basically turn it into chlorinated pesticides.
Splenda was approved by the FDA in 1988 as a sweetener for an array of products.
It is actually a chlorocarbon, which are known to cause genetic, reproductive, and organ damage.
Splenda has actually been proven to shrink the thymus gland by around 40 percent. The thymus gland is one of the foundations of the immune system.
It is also thought that in addition to triggering fibromyalgia flares, Splenda can cause the liver and kidneys to swell, issues in fertility in male rats, kidney calcification, and gastrointestinal issues in pregnant rats.
So, you should avoid Splenda period- especially if you have fibromyalgia.