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Watch Out for These 7 Fibromyalgia Triggers



Triggers Cause Flares

A "fibro flare" is a flare-up or increase of fibromyalgia symptoms. Researchers have studied various flare causes, or triggers, including stress, diet, sleep, and weather. Because you have a heightened and sensitive nervous system, your threshold before your pain alarm goes off smaller than someone without fibromyalgia. Simply put: you have less room for error than you did before having fibromyalgia.



Common Triggers

Here are common triggers found in research and reported by fellow fibromyalgia warriors:

  • Stress, particularly emotional stress (ex: conflict with a loved one, grieving a loss), makes pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms worse. It's helpful to keep stress low, but even more essential to have stress-reducing strategies when negative situations arise.

  • Diet. Specific foods and ingredients, particularly aspartame and glutamate, are associated with negative effects on those with fibromyalgia. Fibro fighters experience worsened symptoms when they have a low intake of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, magnesium, zinc, and antioxidants.

  • Sleep is a big trigger and challenge for fibro fighters as sleep disturbance is a common symptom, yet getting restorative sleep is vital. In general, it's vital to find a sleep routine that works for you and keep that routine as best as you can.

  • Weather. Most fibro fighters agree that the weather impacts their symptoms, but there isn't a consensus on what specific weather is bothersome. Some say hot and humid; others say cold and windy. Many describe worsened symptoms during a swift change of barometric pressure, such as right before a thunderstorm. Recent studies have found that low barometric pressure, high humidity, and stronger winds result in increased pain for fibro fighters.

  • Over-exertion. It's common for fibro fighters and chronic pain warriors to become fearful of moving because sometimes moving hurts. Lack of activity results in physical de-conditioning such as poor stamina, disordered breathing patterns, limited strength, and poor balance. As a result, tolerance is much lower when getting back into physical activity, so you end up doing too much and flaring. Having a plan to get back to activities is important—check out this free resource on making a plan to do things without flaring.

  • Sensitivities. Many fibro fighters have sensitivities to specific noises, scents, and lighting. Exposure to these sensitivities can cause an increase in symptoms. Mood. Most individual's mood, regardless of if they have a chronic illness, is impacted by stress. As mentioned previously, it's critical to have a few stress management and relaxation techniques when you're feeling hopeless, stressed, frustrated, or sad.

  • Any changes. The central nervous system processes a more than we give it credit for, including a change in medication, amount of activity, and hormonal/menstrual cycle. The ultimate goal is to calm the system down so you can have more "wiggle room" before the pain alarm goes off. In the meantime, pay attention to various changes within your day and how you feel.


How to Figure Out Your Triggers

When a fibro fighter has had fibromyalgia for a few years, it's typical that they have a sense of what causes their flares. It can take time, energy, and a decent memory to figure out what your triggers are. Fibro fog can make it difficult to remember what led to a flare, so we've created the Weekly Strategies and Triggers Tracking Sheet for you! You can access the tracking sheet within our free e-book.

 

Sources

Binkiewicz-Glińska, A., Bakuła, S., Tomczak, H., Landowski, J., Ruckemann-Dziurdzińska, K., Zaborowska-Sapeta, K., Kowalski, I., & Kiebzak, W. (2015). Fibromyalgia syndrome - a multidisciplinary approach. Psychiatria polska, 49(4), 801–810. https://doi.org/10.12740/psychiatriapolska.pl/online-first/4

Boomershine C. S. (2015). Fibromyalgia: the prototypical central sensitivity syndrome. Current rheumatology reviews, 11(2), 131–145. https://doi.org/10.2174/1573397111666150619095007

Chinn, S., Caldwell, W., & Gritsenko, K. (2016). Fibromyalgia pathogenesis and treatment options update. Current pain and headache reports, 20(4), 25. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11916-016-0556-x

Clauw, D. (2015). Fibromyalgia and related conditions. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 90(5), 680–692. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.03.014

Dixon, W. G., Beukenhorst, A. L., Yimer, B. B., Cook, L., Gasparrini, A., El-Hay, T., Hellman, B., James, B., Vicedo-Cabrera, A. M., Maclure, M., Silva, R., Ainsworth, J., Pisaniello, H. L., House, T., Lunt, M., Gamble, C., Sanders, C., Schultz, D. M., Sergeant, J. C., & McBeth, J. (2019). How the weather affects the pain of citizen scientists using a smartphone app. NPJ digital medicine, 2, 105. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41746-019-0180-3

Fagerlund, A. J., Iversen, M., Ekeland, A., Moen, C. M., & Aslaksen, P. M. (2019). Blame it on the weather? The association between pain in fibromyalgia, relative humidity, temperature and barometric pressure. PloS one, 14(5), e0216902. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0216902

Friedberg, F., Williams, D. A., & Collinge, W. (2012). Lifestyle-oriented non-pharmacological treatments for fibromyalgia: A clinical overview and applications with home-based technologies. Journal of Pain Research, 5, 425.

Holton K. The role of diet in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Pain Management. 2016;6(4):317-320. doi:10.2217/pmt-2016-0019

Imrie, R. (2017). Fibromyalgia. InnovAiT, 10(1), 45–50. https://doi.org/10.1177/1755738016638865

Jay, G., & Barkin, R. (2015). Fibromyalgia. Disease-a-Month, 61(3), 66–111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.disamonth.2015.01.002

Kengen Traska, T., Rutledge, D. N., Mouttapa, M., Weiss, J., & Aquino, J. (2012). Strategies used for managing symptoms by women with fibromyalgia. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 21(5‐6), 626-635. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2010.03501.x

Lichtenstein, A., Tiosano, S., & Amital, H. (2018). The complexities of fibromyalgia and its comorbidities. Current opinion in rheumatology, 30(1), 94–100. https://doi.org/10.1097/BOR.0000000000000464

 

Disclaimer

Fibromyalgia is not a "one size fits all" diagnosis. What works for some doesn't work for others. The information provided is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. Should you have any health-related questions, please consult your physician or other health care provider promptly.

 

Teresa & Hannah are fellow fibromyalgia warriors. Teresa is a certified dietary manager and wellness coach. Hannah is an occupational therapist. Together, we're a mother-daughter duo on a mission to empower others to fight against fibro.

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