Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that causes pain and sensitivity throughout the body. Scientists estimate that about 5 million adults in the United States are affected by fibromyalgia.
Although men and boys may have the disorder, it is seen more often in women.
Most people with this condition are diagnosed during middle age.
When severe fibromyalgia pains intensify, each activity may seem more difficult. All people experience outbreaks differently, and there may be different triggers depending on the person.
What is a fibromyalgia outbreak?
Some people with fibromyalgia may feel certain symptoms regularly. However, the pain associated with fibromyalgia tends to fluctuate and worsen.
When symptoms temporarily increase in number or intensity, this is called an outbreak or crisis.
Outbreaks can occur without warning and are more likely to occur if a person with fibromyalgia is stressed or under a lot of pressure.
An outbreak can last from a few days to weeks at a time.
Potential for an outbreak
Certain factors can trigger an outbreak of fibromyalgia, such as changes in:
- physical or psychological stress
- temperature or the weather
Stressful events, surgery or accidents can worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Outbreaks can also be caused by lack of sleep or by doing too little or too little exercise.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia Outbreaks
The main symptom of fibromyalgia is generalized pain. The condition causes pain, stiffness, and tenderness in muscles, tendons, and joints. The individual symptoms differ from one person to another. Symptoms may vary in intensity and appear and disappear.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia may include:
- pain throughout the body, especially the back or neck
- Extreme sensitivity to pain, bright lights, smoke and certain foods
- stiffness by remaining in the same position for long periods of time
- muscle spasms
- extreme tiredness
- poor sleep
- problems to remember, learn, pay attention and focus as “fibro fog”
- speak slowly or confused
- frequent headaches or migraines
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Someone with fibromyalgia can sometimes feel clumsy, dizzy, feel very hot or cold, painful periods, restless legs syndrome and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet .
Daily pain and sleep prevention can cause problems at home and at work. The stress of dealing with a condition can also lead to anxiety and depression.
Doctors used to refer to sensitive points or triggers that cause outbreaks, but they are no longer widely used. The American College of Rheumatology has new criteria for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
Although some of the triggering factors for fibromyalgia are beyond one person’s control, others can control and prevent outbreaks. It is often easier to prevent an outbreak than to treat one.
Below you will find various lifestyle changes and suggestions that can help relieve the symptoms and make the daily life of fibromyalgia easier.
Keep a record of triggers
Fibromyalgia triggers vary from person to person. Keep track of activities, meals, sleep and duration and fibromyalgia symptoms can help identify the specific triggers.
Recording these activities could highlight patterns that trigger an outbreak. This could help a person with fibromyalgia to figure out how to better manage or avoid these triggers.
Reduce stress and relax
Stress worsens the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Many people with fibromyalgia experience stress and feelings of depression, anxiety and frustration. People can benefit by trying to avoid or limit exposure to stressful situations and take time to relax.
Although techniques such as meditation or deep breathing can help control stress, it is important that people with fibromyalgia do not completely avoid physical activity. People with fibromyalgia who stop working or stop exercising do not work as well as those who remain active.
Options to help with stress management are available and include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and feedback from qualified health professionals.
Sleep or enough
Fatigue is one of the main symptoms of fibromyalgia. It is essential that a person with fibromyalgia get enough sleep.
Sleep hygiene practices that can help you go to bed and get up at the same time every day and limit the nap during the day.
Sometimes people with fibromyalgia have restless legs syndrome and pain that can interfere with sleep. A doctor may recommend treatments for these problems, which can help you sleep soundly.
Regular physical activity can decrease or ameliorate the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Although exercise can increase pain symptoms early on, it can help prevent pain over time.
Recommended activities for people with fibromyalgia include walking, cycling, swimming and water aerobics. Maintaining good posture habits, stretching and relaxation exercises can also help.
For maximum effect, it is recommended that people with fibromyalgia start with light exercise, such as walking, and develop resistance and intensity slowly.
Strengthening and endurance exercises can improve muscle strength, physical disability, depression, and quality of life. They can also improve fatigue, function and increase mood in people with fibromyalgia.
Do not do much
While regular physical activity is recommended to help control the symptoms of fibromyalgia, it is crucial to limit the overexertion not to overdo it.
Moderation is the key. If a person with fibromyalgia does much on the days when their symptoms are good, they may end up having worse days. However, on bad days, people should try to be as active as possible. Keeping activity levels as uniform as possible provides the best result.
Although a specific diet is not recommended for people with fibromyalgia, there are certain foods that seem to worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Try a elimination diet in which you exclude certain food groups each week to see if the symptoms improve. If symptoms improve after discarding a particular type of food, they may be related to the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Maintaining adequate nutrition will help increase energy levels and prevent other health problems.
Fibromyalgia and Social Security
Many people with fibromyalgia are unable to work or resume a normal standard of living.
For these people, Social Security resolutions in the United States dictate that as long as a doctor or osteopath can determine that the disease causes a medically determinable disability (MDI), the condition will qualify as a disability for Social Security payments.
This means that a doctor should be able to confirm:
- a history of generalized pain
- a minimum of 11 points after the exam
- Repeated examples of at least six symptoms of fibromyalgia
- evidence that other explanations or conditions were discarded.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires medical documentation dating to 12 months related to the disease, and can conduct interviews with family, friends, neighbors and former employers to confirm the diagnosis.
In some cases, SSA may fund a consultation to confirm the debilitating nature of the disease.
Treatment of Fibromyalgia Outbreaks
Treating fibromyalgia crises can be tricky. Preventing the development of an outbreak in the first place is less complicated than treating it.
Fibromyalgia has several symptoms, which means that no treatment will repair all of them. In addition, a treatment that works for one person may not work for another.
Various treatments should be tried in different combinations before someone finds a plan that works for them. The treatment plan will often be a mixture of medications and changes in lifestyle.
Medications that can help reduce fibromyalgia pain and improve sleep include:
- anticonvulsant medications
- naltrexone, which is an anti-opioid medication, may be useful
Conversational therapies, such as CBT, aim to change the way a person thinks about things and can help fight fibromyalgia in a more positive way. Psychotherapy can also help someone with fibromyalgia understand and treat their thoughts and feelings.
There is little evidence that alternative treatments like acupuncture, massage and aromatherapy help with fibromyalgia. However, these methods can help in relaxation and stress.
Summary and Conclusions on Fibromyalgia Outbreaks
Changes in medications and lifestyle can help treat severe fibromyalgia and reduce the likelihood of outbreaks. Fibromyalgia is a disease that can be treated and people with this disorder can live a full life.
Getting involved in regular exercise is one of the most effective ways you can prevent fibromyalgia outbreaks and can control the pain.