What are fibromyalgia flare-ups?
Is it non-stop pain that lasts a lifetime?
Or is it pain that comes and goes?
Do they include more than one pain/symptom?
The answer to all of these questions is YES and NO.
Fibromyalgia flare-ups are difficult to fully define because there are so many varying factors.
Although I began experiencing fibromyalgia symptoms as early as age 10, they didn’t start interrupting my life until my late 20’s. Because the symptoms were so vague and embarrassing, I didn’t see a doctor for them until my early 30’s. There wasn’t a lot of information available when I was diagnosed with fibro in 2003. Nor were there any approved medications, that would happen a few years later. In my 20 plus years of living with it, I have discovered four different ways fibro flares up in my body and how to deal with them.
Let’s take a look!
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Keep in mind that there are far more than four types of fibromyalgia flares. When you consider how many fibro symptoms there are and all the different combinations that present at the same time, there could be thousands. The four that I have listed below are ones that I experience most often and that also at times, occur on their own.
- Muscle flares
This flare is best described as muscle soreness. They feel bruised, but there is no visible bruising. At times the pain is wide-spread and at others, it is isolated to one set or particular muscle. It can also present itself as muscle weakness with or without pain. When weakness is involved, limbs may feel like they weigh a thousand pounds and have the strength of a wet noodle!
- Inflammation flare-ups
Flares involving inflammation can occur anywhere throughout the body. Joints, muscles, tendons, organs, etc. Inflammation flare-ups are typically painful. Mobility may be compromised if experienced in the feet, knees, hips, and back. Inflammation in the hands may require the use of accessible tools in the kitchen. Neck and skull inflammation may trigger bouts of fibro fog and migraines.
- Neuropathic flares
This type of fibro flare-up creates what I best describe as strange and sometimes horrifying sensations. Examples of these nerve sensations feel like crawling, burning, tingling, and/or numbness in arms and legs. One of the first neuropathic flare-ups I noticed was what felt like burnt patches on my arms, even though there was no visible sight of injury.
- Fatigue flare-ups
Fibro fatigue is no joke! Many, like myself, often confuse fatigue for tiredness. But unlike tiredness, fatigue isn’t fixed with a nap or proper amount of sleep. Fatigue overtakes your body and body. There may be pain involved, but it can also be a pain-free experience.
What triggers a fibro flare-up varies as much as the symptoms. However, through journaling, it is possible to find what your most common fibromyalgia triggers are. Some possible fibro flare triggers include
but are not limited to the following:
- Trauma – Physical and/or Emotional
- Infections or Illness
- Lack of sleep
- Too much or not enough activity
- Pain from another condition or injury
And this is just the tip of the trigger iceberg!
The symptoms you experience will not only vary from others who have fibromyalgia, but they will often vary between flares. You may experience overlapping flares as I did for the first ten years after my diagnosis and wonder if it will ever end. Or you may only experience random flares with relief in between like I have for the past seven years.
The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia flare-ups include but are not limited to the following:
- Widespread Muscle Pain
- Joint Pain
- Flu-like symptoms without running a fever or being sick
- Fibro Fever – Where your skin feels like it is on fire but you do not have a fever
- Chilled to the Bone – You feel cold for no reason.
- Nerve pain – Topical and internal
- Muscle and Joint Stiffness
- Cognitive Issues
Fibromyalgia flare-ups have no specific timetable. They could pass within a few hours or last for days, weeks, months, and even years. However, with extensive journaling and tracking, it is possible to figure out what your most frequent triggers are. This knowledge can help you address the fibro pressure point that is typically set off before the trigger occurs.
For example, I know that any increase of 10-20 degrees within a day or two will trigger inflammation around my spine and neck. Knowing this, I run extra PEMF treatments to those areas to reduce the effect the trigger has on my pressure points. This decreases the amount of pain and symptoms that I would have experienced without treating prior and lessens the duration of the flare as well.
Having an effective fibromyalgia pain management plan is imperative! I cannot express this enough. If you are unable to relieve pain or experience restorative sleep most nights, the odds of shortening the length of a flare are very slim. This is exactly why I was in a continual state of flare for 13 years!
You might think that having a good pain reliever is all you need to survive a flare. While comforting, it is not enough. I had excellent prescription pain–relievers during my first 13 years. They would block pain receptors and my pain level was lowered. The problem was that they didn’t address what was causing the pain. Another issue I had was while enjoying that relief, I turned into a manic Super Woman hell-bent to catch up on everything I couldn’t do because of pain. The result was an even higher pain level than what I had before treating my pain.
In addition to relieving pain, flare survival typically requires a combination of the following:
- Restorative Sleep
- Reduction of Inflammation
- Lowering stress
- Deep breathing
- A variety of pain relief products and/or medications
Nobody can predict how often a fibromyalgia flare-up will occur. My best advice is to get to know your body, track symptoms, flares, and what does and doesn’t help. This will at the very least decrease how often certain flares are triggered and shorten their duration. The most important thing you can do is to be patient with your body. It needs time to recover and stressing over the flare will only increase your recovery time. Fibromyalgia flare-ups have a mind and agenda of their own, fighting it only makes it worse. It’s better to adopt a comfort and care mindset.
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