Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain disorder that causes tenderness throughout body and can affect people of any gender or age, including children.
If you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, you’ll know that having a flare up can affect even the simplest of day-to-day activities. Everyone experiences flare ups differently and they can range from mild to severe. However, one of the best ways to prevent a flare is to try to identify the trigger.
What is a flare up?
There are some people with FM that experience constant pain no matter the time or day, but for others the pain tends to come in waves and can worsen depending on different factors, this is called a flare up. A flare up can happen anytime and can last from a few days to weeks at a time.
We’ve put together a list to help you identify possible triggers that can cause your FM symptoms to flare up.
Triggers of Fibromyalgia Flares
This is the most common case of a short-term flare. Many people with FM experience increase in pain due to changes in barometric pressure and extreme temperatures changes. A temperature or weather-related flare up can typically last a day or two. It’s important to take extra precautions when dealing with the effects of the weather (i.e. staying indoors, staying hydrated, etc.).
It’s evident that some FM patients have sensory issues including sensitivity to bright lights, loud noises, certain smells, and more. These sensitivities can trigger someone with FM to experience headaches or migraines, among others. Try to identify what you’re sensitive to so that you can try to avoid them.
Lack of sleep
Getting a good quality sleep can be very difficult for FM patients and often leads to insomnia. One of the best methods to achieve better sleep is to create a bedtime routine by avoiding simulants before bedtime. This can include avoiding caffeine, limiting screen-time, meditate before bed, and if possible, trying to go to bed around the same time each day.
Anxiety and stress
This may be one of the biggest causes of a FM flare up. When you’re dealing with chronic stress in your life, especially if your have FM, it can lead to a variety of health problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, and more. It’s important to identify ways to reduce anxiety and stress in your day-to-day life (i.e. focus on deep breathing, meditate, take up a hobby, talk with others).
Everyone knows by now that there are many negative impacts to your body that are caused by smoking whether you’re an FM patient or not. So, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that smoking can certainly be a cause of an FM flare up. According to a study conducted by the University of Illinois College of Medicine, smoking can significantly increase FM pain and numbness throughout the body.
Sitting for long periods of time
If you’re an FM suffer and have a desk job you may want to listen up. A combination of prolonged periods of sitting (seven to nine hours a day) and poor posture, can lead to a flare up. If you do not stretch your body or go for a walk around the office, you’ll end up in extreme pain. Remember to take frequents breaks, and if you can’t stop working, ask for a stand up desk.
It’s never fun for anyone to have to deal with the common cold, so it’s even worse if you suffer from FM. If a cold hits, it’s certainly a gateway for a flare up, and unfortunately, it often takes longer for FM patients to get over their cold. It’s crucial that you keep up with taking your vitamins and continue to eat a healthy diet so that your immune system stays strong.
Taking on too much
It’s important to pace yourself throughout your day, taking on too many tasks and activities is definitely grounds for a potential flare up. Remember that it’s okay to say “no” to people, especially if you know that it may trigger you. Don’t push yourself over your limit.
Carbohydrates are of course all full of sugar, so eating carbs is best to be avoided, especially if you’re dealing with FM. Many FM patients are more sensitive to changes in their blood sugar, and simply by limiting or eliminating them from your diet, you may be able to stop a potentially flare.
Now this doesn’t mean a person with FM shouldn’t travel at all, it’s just important to try your best to prepare beforehand. Traveling can cause many of the common flares. Some are out of your control like the weather, but others can be prevented such as stress and disruption of sleep. To minimalize a potential flare, try to rest before, during, and after your trip.
Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to prevent a flare up, but trying to identify triggers can be a step in the right direction and you may be able to reduce the number of flares greatly. A good idea is to keep a journal to document or log your day from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed. This way you may be able to pinpoint exactly what triggers are causing your symptoms to flare up.
Please remember that it’s best to see a doctor if your health changes and that it’s a good idea to keep track of symptoms.