Healthy lifestyle strategies to ease fibromyalgia symptoms
Fibromyalgia can be very challenging to deal with. Beyond the chronic pain and stiffness, there is fatigue, lack of sleep, and brain fog or “fibro fog.” Plus, it’s often associated with other issues related to mental health and gut health, making the management of symptoms more difficult. Self-care plays a key role in easing the symptoms. The good news is that there are specific steps you can take to help you manage your fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia: What it is
Fibromyalgia is one of the most common chronic pain conditions, affecting more women than men. In the U.S., it’s estimated that up to 7.7 percent of women and 4.9 percent of men experience fibromyalgia. These rates are higher than in Europe or South America.
Fibromyalgia is considered to be a “pain regulation” or “neurosensory” disorder because people with fibromyalgia seem to experience more pain and a higher intensity of pain than others, even under gentle pressure. Fibromyalgia causes pain or tenderness that is very sensitive to the touch, can happen just about anywhere throughout the body, and lasts days, weeks, months, or longer. This is thought to be because the brain becomes more sensitive to pain. Fibromyalgia pain can come and go throughout the body in “flares” and it often occurs along with stiffness, fatigue, brain fog -“fibro fog,” and mental health issues. It can feel debilitating and may cause a lot of distress.
Additional symptoms include:
IBS and irritable bladder
Unusual sensory patterns (sensory dysesthesia)
Fibromyalgia: How it is diagnosed
There is no specific test for fibromyalgia. Rather, fibromyalgia is a diagnosed by excluding other conditions and meeting the following criteria:
Generalized pain, defined as pain in at least 4 of 5 regions, is present.
Symptoms have been present at a similar level of intensity for at least 3 months.
Widespread pain index (WPI) ≥ 7 and symptom severity scale (SSS) score ≥ 5 OR WPI of 4–6 and SSS score ≥ 9.
A diagnosis of fibromyalgia is valid irrespective of other diagnoses. Similarly, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia does not exclude the presence of other clinically important illnesses.
Recent research looking into the composition of gut bacteria of individuals with fibromyalgia has identified distinct differences between the gut microbiome in individuals with fibromyalgia compared with those without this condition.
Fibromyalgia: Possible Triggers
The underlying cause of fibromyalgia is not known but triggering events or conditions have been thought to contribute to the development of fibromyalgia. The pain may be triggered and worsened by infections, injury, inflammation, or emotional stress.
Possible triggers include:
Infection (viral, bacterial, parasitic, etc.)
Exposure to toxins
Poor mitochondrial function that leads to hypothalamic dysfunction