There are many fibromyalgia triggers. Some we can do nothing about. However, these six pain triggers can and should be addressed to limit the amount of pain we experience.
Addressing these triggers doesn’t mean that we will live pain-free. But by catching them before they spiral out of control, we can limit it.
A decrease in pain and symptoms is always possible, even when a trigger feels like it has reached the point of no return. Any decrease will be slim at first. But by consistently addressing it, you will eventually begin to feel a difference.
With that said, let’s take a look at six fibromyalgia triggers that have the power to make our lives miserable, how they do it, and what we can do to avoid their wrath.
I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a stressful year!
Many of us thought we were prepared for the life changes the pandemic brought. We were used to being inconvenienced and stuck at home with our chronic illnesses. But we were wrong! Between not having access to healthcare services, stores not being able to keep up with demand on basic products, being either stuck at home with people who were normally on the go or home alone, we all faced stressful challenges.
One effect of stress is muscle tension, which results in muscular pain and pinched nerves. Fibromyalgia is unforgiving. The pain we experience from it lasts longer, spreads over larger areas, and leads to immobility for extended periods.
The problem with stress and fibromyalgia tension is that addressing the muscles isn’t enough. No amount of muscle relaxers, pain relievers, oils, or lotions can stop it on its own. If what is causing the stress isn’t removed, resolved, or put on hold, the tension will return with a vengeance after a treatment wears off.
Stress also increases fibro fog, anxiety, migraines, fatigue, and interferes with sleep. And as we all know, once more than one area begins flaring, putting out the flames is like playing a game of whack-a-mole!
It’s unrealistic to expect to live a stress-free life. Besides that, not all stress is bad. But what we can do is make an effort to limit the amount of bad stress in our lives.
Ways to limit stress include but are not limited to:
- Planning for emergencies
- Budgeting within our means
- Distancing ourselves from people or situations that thrive on chaos
- Protecting our mental health
I truly had no clue what we were in for when I wrote Coping with Fibromyalgia Stress Flares at the beginning of the year. But the tips I share couldn’t have been more spot on! Be sure to check it out!
While often poo-pooed by doctors, those of us with fibromyalgia all seem to agree that weather has a direct effect on our pain and symptoms.
For example, I can predict rain better than any meteorologist. We were in Roswell, NM on July 12, 2011, visiting my husband’s parents. I woke that morning with an extraordinary level of muscle, joint, and nerve pain. My husband tried comforting me by rubbing my back. But even the lightest of touch sent what felt like lightning bolts throughout my body.
The next day, pain and fatigue forced me to back out of plans to visit Carlsbad Caverns, National Park. My mother-in-law stayed behind with me and I managed to drag my lifeless body to her living room sofa. While discussing my pain, I declared that rain was on the way. She laughed and said that it would be a miracle as not only wasn’t there any rain in the forecast, it had been over 250 days since their last rainfall. I replied well, get ready for a miracle because the pain I was experiencing was the same as I used to experience before every storm when I lived in Denver, CO, or during Arizona’s monsoon season.
Sure enough, a miracle took place. An hour later there was a loud thunderclap followed by a downpour of rain. With each raindrop that fell, my pain level decreased. Thirty minutes into the rainstorm, energy erased my fatigue, and I felt better than I had in days. All I needed was for the pressure to release.
This one is tough. We can’t run or hide from weather changes. As demonstrated in my example, weather reports aren’t always reliable. But when we learn to recognize how our bodies react to various forms of weather, we can better prepare for getting through it.
I love both Colorado and Arizona, but would never live in either state again. Instead, I do my best in California. And not just southern Cali, Since moving here in 2010, I have discovered that my body prefers that I remain no farther than 75 miles from the Pacific ocean. From San Diego to San Francisco, my body loves being on the coast. Living here comes with a price tag, but living with less pain is worth it. If you have the opportunity to live in a climate that your body prefers, do it!
Whether you move or not, there will always be some type of weather activity that will trigger fibromyalgia pain. For me, it is the pressure that brings in extreme heatwaves. Like rain, the swelling that takes place along my spine signals the pressure pushing in extreme heatwaves. While not pleasant, at least I know what to watch for.
At the first sign of spinal pressure, I begin running PEMF treatments at the base of my neck. By doing this, I prevent nerve pain and migraines that knock me out. Had I not gotten lazy about running daily treatments earlier in the year, I could have prevented the few migraines I did have this year.
Prepare for how weather triggers your fibromyalgia pain by starting a pain journal. Simply track the weather, your sleep or lack of, and your pain levels/areas. Note daily highs, lows, along with weather activity. Did it rain or snow? Was there a tornado or are you in the path of a hurricane? Over time you will see a pattern form with certain weather events.
Once you know what to expect, it is time to find products/treatments that help you cope. Knowing how what parts of your body are affected by weather makes it possible to have plans in place to modify or cancel activities.
Avoid visiting areas during seasons that inflict the most pain on your body. I can visit Arizona and New Mexico in the winter, but not during the summer months.
Keep a keen eye on your local weather reports. Although not always reliable, it will help a lot if you find pressure pushing in warm or cold fronts an issue.
Last but not least, listen to your body and be proactive. Begin treating your symptoms and pain when it first begins. Waiting until it is severe makes it harder to address and takes longer to relieve.
This fibromyalgia trigger is one that none of us want to hear about, but need to. If you are anything like me, you want to slap the words “you will feel better if you exercise” from the lips of people who have no idea of the pain we live in. It isn’t so much the advice that annoys me, but the misunderstanding of what it means to be active while amidst a fibromyalgia flare.
Exercising in the same manner as a healthy person would, how we used to, or maybe still do on good days, is not the activity that we need while flaring.
What we need is movement in forms that will not increase our pain and recovery time. Simple stretches or just gentle movements like making snow angels while lying on the bed can help more than you might think. Hip stretches are what my body craves when bed-bound for days.
Find stretches to address your most painful areas and make a point of doing them daily, whether you are flaring or not.
On the flip side, over-activity is another fibromyalgia trigger that many do not want to hear about. I get it. Pacing is difficult.
We obviously have to do less while flaring. But it is what we do on good days that really matters. I admit to being just as guilty about doing too much on a good day. And it is something that I am currently working on.
What I am learning is that pacing on good days means NOT ending the day feeling like I have been hit by a truck. Those days are not for pushing limits but finding what I am capable of doing without increasing or triggering pain.
How will you know when you have found your daily limit? When you begin spending more time out of bed than in.
You will never limit triggering fibromyalgia pain from over-activity if you refuse to modify your activities and lifestyle. To be successful at it, you must first accept and acknowledge that fibromyalgia is and will be a part of your life.
Think about what you do on a regular basis that increases or triggers fibromyalgia pain points.
Have mobility issues? Ask yourself what would take the strain off of your body. Then research mobility aids to find the one that best fits your needs. Do not worry about what others think. Their opinion is not worth any amount of physical pain.
Does preparing dinner for yourself and/or your family increases your pain? Purchase pre-cut produce to give your hands a break. Do not be embarrassed to use utensils that have been designed for people with arthritic hands or muscle spasms. Again, if something helps you, USE IT!
Learn to be okay with reducing your activity time. Maybe knitting for 6 plus hours is no longer an option But what about 15 or 30 minutes? The same goes for exercise. Don’t give up on walking just because you can’t walk as long or far as you used to. If all you can do is 5 minutes for 3 days a week, then do it! For safety reasons, you may have to change where you walk. Instead of walking outdoors, it may be better to walk inside your home. I have my furniture strategically placed in case I would lose balance and need a place to fall.
Lastly, the fibromyalgia trigger that is the most hated, FOOD.
Raise your hand if you have ever said, “It doesn’t matter what I eat, I will always be in pain.”
I was guilty of this for many years. That is until I began keeping a pain journal.
My journal revealed how certain foods or ingredients were triggering unnecessary pain.
Removing all fibromyalgia food triggers from our diets won’t cure us or guarantee that we will never flare again. But by making an effort, we will experience less pain than if we continued putting them into our bodies.
Learn more about how I track my pain and get a free download to begin your own chronic pain journal.
Final Thoughts on Fibromyalgia Triggers
Even if we do our best to combat each one of these fibromyalgia triggers, the illness will never go away. This means that fibromyalgia pain of some sort is always going to be present. Knowing this doesn’t mean we should give up, but to instead acknowledge that addressing them decreases pain. And I don’t know about you, but I will take any reduction of pain, even a slight one!
In the past three years, I have significantly reduced the amount of my fibromyalgia pain by addressing the triggers in this article and making radical changes to my pain management plan. That reduction of pain doesn’t mean that I have been cured or healed. I am not living the life I had before my fibromyalgia diagnosis. I live a life filled with modified activities, dietary restrictions, and constant mindfulness of my body and its illnesses.
Is it worth all the effort? Yes!!! Even though I am currently bed-bound due to abdominal pain from adhesions that are strangling my internal organs, my fibromyalgia pain level remains between 0-3. And because I am not pushing beyond what I can do with my abdominal pain, I can quickly address fibro flares before they spiral out of control.
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