Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by musculoskeletal pain throughout the body and often accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues.
Researchers don’t know the exact cause, but fibromyalgia seems to occur when the body’s central nervous system fails to process pain properly. While it may feel like it’s stemming from a specific area of your body, the pain is actually coming from the brain and the larger central nervous system.
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain disorders. It affects around 10 million adults in the U.S., as well as three to six percent of the world’s population, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA). Additionally, women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men: The NFA estimates that between 75 and 90 percent of people diagnosed are women. The condition grows more common with age so that by age 80, about eight percent of people meet the criteria for a fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Psychological stress and its accompanying hormonal disturbances can make symptoms of fibromyalgia worse. People may benefit from trying to avoid or limit exposure to stressful situations and finding effective ways to relax. There are many different ways to manage stress, which include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy and aid from qualified health professionals.
Infection and injury
Like psychological stress, infection and injuries can worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia due to the physiological toll it can take on the body. Once the illnesses or afflictions resolve themselves, the fibromyalgia flare-up should resolve on its own.
The list of negative health consequences associated with smoking seems endless; but for fibromyalgia sufferers, there is even more reason to quit. According to a study by the University of Illinois College of Medicine, fibromyalgia patients who smoked reported “significantly more pain, numbness, patient global severity, and functional difficulties than non-smokers.”
Lack of exercise
Regular physical activity can improve symptoms of fibromyalgia. Although exercise may increase symptoms of pain at first, it may help prevent pain over time. Recommended workouts include walking, biking, swimming and water aerobics. Good posture, stretching and relaxation exercises may also help.
Poor sleep quality
Getting too little quality sleep can be a huge stressor on the body. On top of that, studies have shown that people who have disorders affecting sleep, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome (RLS), are more likely to have fibromyalgia.
Trauma and PTSD
Traumatic life events, which can range in severity, are a known cause of fibromyalgia flare-ups. Like those who struggle with extreme stress, people who experience physical or emotional trauma may also develop fibromyalgia. Because of this, the condition has been linked with the more extreme post-traumatic stress disorder.
Although there is no specific diet recommended for people with fibromyalgia, there are certain foods that seem to make symptoms worse. Experts recommend that you try an elimination diet, in which you exclude certain food groups each week to see if symptoms improve to identify trigger ingredients.
In some women, fibromyalgia flares are closely linked to the menstrual cycle. Because the condition makes general pain harder to bear, it’s likely that the normal discomfort associated with PMS and the period is worse for someone suffering from fibromyalgia.