What Causes Fibromyalgia Flare-Ups?
Fibromyalgia symptoms often get better or worse on a daily basis. However, when symptoms become worse for several consecutive days or even weeks, it can be considered a flare-up. Flare-ups affect everybody differently, and you might wonder, "What causes fibromyalgia flare-ups?" Well, get to that. But first, let's review some of the most common symptoms:
- Worsening of pain and stiffness.
- Increased fatigue.
- Sleep disturbances.
- Increased fibro-fog — difficulty concentrating, thinking straight or remembering things.
- Increased sensitivity to hot and cold.
- Tingling or burning sensations.
- Dizziness, clumsiness or poor balance.
So, what causes fibromyalgia flare-ups? A number of different things can trigger flare-ups, and these can vary from person to person. It can take a couple of days between the trigger and the flare-up, making it difficult to identify the exact cause.
If you have fibromyalgia, it is a good idea to keep a diary. Make note of any changes in symptoms and look at what you have done in the past few days. Over time, you may see a pattern emerging which should point you towards your triggers.
We explore potential triggers below.
Stress is a major trigger for fibromyalgia flare-ups and is something that is all too common in our busy, modern lives. While you may not be able to control the pressures of everyday life, you can change how you deal with them.
Try not to take on too much, and be sure to make time to rest and recover every day. Practicing relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises and meditation, can help you to feel calmer in the moment and may have cumulative effects over time. Therapies like massage and acupuncture can be relaxing, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a talking therapy, can help you to develop coping strategies.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends and family about your condition so they can offer extra help and support if needed.
2. Lack of Sleep
If you have fibromyalgia, sleep can be a problem at the best of times. Getting a good night’s rest can be difficult, leaving you feeling tired and groggy during the day.
Pay close attention to your sleep hygiene, going to bed at around the same time every evening. Make your bedroom calming and comfortable, dim the lights in the evening and do something relaxing before bed.
Avoid eating late, drinking caffeinated drinks in the evening and looking at electronic screens before bed, as these can all get in the way of a good night’s sleep. If you need to nap during the day, keep it short as long naps can make it harder to get off at night.
Doing too much at one time can cause real problems if you have fibromyalgia. Even if you feel well at the time, after a few hours of rushing around, you will likely feel drained and in pain.
Take it easy by scheduling rest time in between activities and not organizing too much on any one day. It can be frustrating not being able to do as much as you used to, but your body will thank you!
Overdoing it can lead to fibromyalgia flare-ups, but did you know lack of exercise can too? In fact, regular, gentle exercise is one of the best ways to keep fibromyalgia flare-ups at bay.
Choose low-impact sports, such as walking, swimming or cycling. Start off slowly and build up gradually over time. Yoga is another great option for people with fibromyalgia as it not only improves physical strength and flexibility but can also be incredibly relaxing. Let your yoga instructor know about your condition before starting so they can adapt the class to your needs.
Any illness, injury or surgery can put your body under extra strain and cause fibromyalgia flare-ups. While you may not always be able to avoid this, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.
Avoid situations where you will come into contact with sick people as much as possible. Wash your hands regularly with antibacterial soap, wipe down surfaces and change your bedding often.
Avoid stress as much as possible as this may lower your immunity. Exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet with plenty of vitamins and minerals to stay healthy and avoid infections.
What you eat is especially important if you have fibromyalgia. Processed foods and refined sugars can cause flare-ups, so avoid these as much as possible. Some of the biggest culprits are food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame, so always read food labels to check for these.
Eat a diet that is based on whole foods. Include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein to keep you satisfied. Add some oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel, which are rich in healthy fats, and eat more foods with a high magnesium content, such as leafy greens, nuts and seeds.
Two diets that may be especially suitable are the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. Both of these have the potential to reduce inflammation and keep pain levels down, along with many other health benefits.
7. Hormonal Changes
Fibromyalgia is more common in women, and flare-ups can often happen during times of hormonal change, such as menstruation or menopause.
If hormones cause your flare-ups, talk to your physician about different options for keeping them under control.
Changes in the weather and temperature can also cause flare-ups, and you might find that your symptoms get worse around the change of the seasons.
Pay attention to weather forecasts and dress appropriately when you go outside. You might also want to consider using climate control in your home or car to keep things more stable.
Travelling can be exhausting for anyone, but especially if you have fibromyalgia. The combination of sitting still for long periods, having your sleep pattern disrupted and extreme changes in weather makes a flare-up more likely after a long journey.
Be sure to schedule rest time into your trip and don’t take more luggage than you can easily handle. Get out of your seat and stretch whenever possible to avoid stiffening up as you travel.
10. Medication Changes
Getting your medication right can be a delicate balancing act, and any changes may make your symptoms temporarily worse.
It is important that you have a good relationship with your physician so that you can discuss any issues or concerns openly. This will allow you to get the help you need, avoid flare-ups and live a happier, healthier life.