We all know that fibromyalgia flares are rough. Heck, I wrote a whole post last week about How to Deal with a Fibromyalgia flare. Because let’s face it, they’re basically the worst.
So this week’s post isn’t going to be how to make flares shorter or easier. Instead, I want to talk about things that actually cause fibro flares. Because if we know what causes them, we can be better equipped to avoid them. There is a bit of a caveat with this post, as there have been with my last few.
I want to make sure we’re all on the same page before I dive into the bulk of this post. This is by no means an exhaustive list of things that trigger fibromyalgia flares. We are all bioindividuals. While some people with fibro have similar triggers, everyone has their unique triggers. If you feel so inclined, I would love if you share what triggers your fibro flares by commenting below. If something in particular on this list is a major trigger for you, or if you just want to share your experiences, please leave a comment! Let’s have a conversation and help each other!
7 Things That Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flare
Honestly, stress is one of my main symptom triggers. Now stress comes in a couple different forms: physical and mental. And obviously there are a variety of ways these can manifest, so I’m going to focus on mental stress here. Busy day? Overwhelmed? People get stressed for a lot of reasons and way too frequently. It’s basically ingrained in our culture. Unfortunately, it seems stress has some pretty intense physical consequences as well.
High stress levels are a pretty common trigger for many fibromyalgia patients. Not only does it cause fatigue and fibro fog, but many patients (including myself) experience increased pain levels after a particularly stressful day or week. Sometimes, it can even leave patients bedridden for a bit. And while stress can’t be avoided, it can be minimized. Try to avoid unnecessary stressful situations and be sure to provide time for rest when you can.
This was a something I honestly didn’t believe until I experienced it myself. How can changes in the weather affect how someone feels physically? Well there are a lot of ways the weather can cause a flare. First and foremost is temperature changes. Some fibromyalgia patients have difficulty regulating body temperature, so rapidly changing environmental temperatures can wreak havoc. Same goes with temperatures that are too hot or too cold. Even changes in pressure and humidity can affect how your body functions and trigger a flare.
Have you ever been at a party or another event and all of a sudden you feel a flare coming on for what seems like no reason? You’re not sure why but all of a sudden you’re hyper-aware of every single sound, smell, light, taste, and feeling. THAT is sensory overload. And because fibromyalgia is technically a central nervous system disease, it can cause your symptoms to flare. Many fibromyalgia patients have experienced increased headaches or migraines, dizzy spells, and other painful symptoms as a result of sensory overload.
Sickness or Injury
I know I can’t be the only one who feels my fibromyalgia symptoms flare any time I get a cold (actually recovering from one right now). As if being sick weren’t hard enough, add in a fibro flare. Who doesn’t need extra achy joints and fatigue when you’re in the midst of a coughing attack, am I right? But in all seriousness, many people with fibromyalgia get pretty severe flare ups when they’re sick with the flu, a cold, or any number of other ailments. The same holds true for injuries such as broken bones or wounds. The belief behind this is that your body has to use precious resources to heal and recover, resources that are usually allocated to functioning semi-normally with fibromyalgia.
Not Enough (or Too Much) Rest
Sleep deprivation is a pretty common symptom of fibromyalgia. But unfortunately, this same sleep deprivation can cause fibromyalgia flares as well. Without adequate time to rest, your body can’t recover from the day, wearing you down and eventually triggering painful and frustrating symptoms. Some people with fibromyalgia actually require more-than-average time for a full night’s sleep to help their body fully recover. That way they can tackle the day ahead comfortably.
Alternatively, too much sleep can also cause problems for fibromyalgia patients. Too much inactivity can make your muscles more sore and your joints stiffer. Oversleeping past your routine sleep time can also throw your body out of whack, causing a flare. So it really is all a balancing act, and learning what your body needs.
Again, everyone’s body is different. And everyone has different nutritional needs. But certain inflammatory foods, such as refined sugar, gluten, processed foods, caffeine, and alcohol, can often lead to fibromyalgia flares. This one can take some trial and error to figure out, finding what works for your body and what doesn’t. For me, for example, gluten and alcohol are big triggers, both for fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis. Soy is another. However, I also know people with fibro who do fine with all those foods but can’t handle nightshades. So it’s all about finding what works for you and your body.
I guess this could go under stress, but I think this is an important thing to cover. As people with an invisible illness, we are often held to the same standard as people who are not living with invisible illnesses. As a result, we often think that we should be able to do every single thing we “should” do as apparent members of the healthy world. And don’t get me wrong. I know that sometimes we all end up overdoing it. Sometimes it can’t be helped. However, it’s important for all of us to remember that sometimes we have limits that others do not have. And it’s okay to acknowledge that. It’s okay to say no to things that do not serve you, or will cause a flare. Just remember, by taking care of yourself now, you’ll be better off down the road, which is better for everyone.