Warning Signs of Fibromyalgia – How do I know if I have it?
Do you suffer from fatigue & widespread pain in your muscles & joints?
Fibromyalgia is a mysterious and debilitating disease – that causes fatigue, pain & tenderness throughout your body.
Doctor’s aren’t sure what causes it but suspect that there is a problem with how the brain & spinal cord process pain signals.
Fibromyalgia is the second most common condition affecting your muscles & bones.
It is suspected that more than 5 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia. 80 – 90 percent of those diagnosed are women.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition & although it affects such an enormous number of people worldwide – it is often misdiagnosed.
There are however telltale signs you have fibromyalgia.
Why is fibromyalgia misdiagnosed?
Fibromyalgia is misdiagnosed because there is no standardized objective test available. Doctors often come to a diagnosis through deduction –you don’t have XYZ, so you probably have fibromyalgia.
There are a number of warning signs of fibromyalgia that your doctor will look for.
The lack of clearly defined tests has led some doctors to question the existence of fibromyalgia. Disturbingly, some doctors were concerned that people were using their undetectable pain in order to gain access to prescription pain medications.
Thankfully, the existence of fibromyalgia is more widely accepted in medical circles now. Much of the stigma surrounding the condition is disappearing.
The more the medical community begin to accept fibromyalgia as a diagnosis – the more likely they are to find effective treatments for the condition.
Risk factors for fibromyalgia
We don’t know what causes fibromyalgia but researchers have identified a number of risk factors. These risk factors may contribute to a ‘perfect storm’ of conditions leading to fibromyalgia.
These factors include:
- Genetics – fibromyalgia often runs in families. If you have family members with fibromyalgia – you have a greater chance of developing it yourself.
- Other rheumatic conditions – prior illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus or ankylosing spondylitis are linked to fibromyalgia.
- Trauma – fibromyalgia is more prevalent in people who have lived through trauma such as abuse. It is also linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Stress – Prolonged periods of stress lead to hormonal disturbances. This hormonal imbalance is thought to contribute to the onset of fibromyalgia
- Being a woman – according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, women are 8 to 9 times more likely to have fibromyalgia than men. Scientists believe this is in part because of the female reproductive hormones, estrogen. Menopause is another risk factor due to the lowered levels of estrogen.
- Age – Most people with fibromyalgia are aged between 20 to 50 years old according to the National Fibromyalgia Association.
- Sleep disorders – People with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea & restless leg syndrome are more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia. It is not known if the sleep disorders are a symptom or a cause of fibromyalgia
- Mental health conditions – Fibromyalgia is closely linked to mood disorders. Conditions such as depression and anxiety stem from the same chemical imbalances as fibromyalgia. The stresses of life with chronic pain also causes mental turmoil which can lead to depression or anxiety
Warning Signs of Fibromyalgia: 13 Signs You Have Fibromyalgia
The following symptoms are indicators or flags which may serve as warning signs of fibromyalgia:
1. Painful muscles – can include burning, twitching or tightness
2. Tender points – increased physical sensitivity and pain from stimuli that aren’t normally painful
3. Debilitating fatigue
4. Fuzzy head or ‘fibro fog’ causing trouble concentrating & remembering
5. Poor or irregular sleep or insomnia
6. Feeling anxious, nervous, worried or sad
7. Bellyache, queasiness, bloating & wind, constipation or diarrhea (Irritable bowel syndrome or IBS)
8. The need to urinate more frequently
9. Headaches or migraines
10. Dry mouth, nose, and eyes
11. Creeping or crawling sensation on your skin – sometimes described as feeling like “bugs under your skin”
12. Sensitivity to stimuli such as cold, heat, light or sound
13. Numbness or tingling in your face, hands, feet, arms or legs
If you suffer from several of the above fibromyalgia symptoms you should talk to your doctor.
What are the fibromyalgia trigger points?
There are 18 known tender areas or trigger points that suggest you may be suffering from fibromyalgia.
Historically a doctor would press firmly on the fibromyalgia trigger points to see how many were painful.
Some of the most common trigger points include:
- Tops of shoulders
- Upper chest
- Outer elbows
- Back of head
Testing for the fibromyalgia trigger points is no longer the main focus for diagnosis. Instead, your doctor will consider widespread pain for more than three months with no known explanation
What causes the fibromyalgia ‘bugs crawling’ sensation?
Fibromyalgia is often associated with a very unpleasant sensation of crawling skin. Many people have described it like “bugs crawling under your skin” or “pins and needles”.
This fibromyalgia skin crawling sensation is known as formication. Interestingly the word comes from the Latin word “formica” which means ant.
Formication is a type of paresthesia or a tactile hallucination. This means there is no physical cause for the skin crawling sensation you are feeling.
The sensation of bugs crawling under your skin can make you feel itchy. This itchiness can prompt you to scratch when there is no actual cause for the itch.
Frequent scratching to relieve the fibromyalgia ‘bugs crawling’ sensation can cause skin damage and open cuts. The open sores may get infected and lead to other complications such as skin ulcers or open wounds.
Try your best to avoid the temptation to scratch.
You may find the application of a cooling essential, oil such as peppermint, relieves the crawling skin sensation.
It is also worth remembering formication or ‘bugs crawling under the skin’ can be caused by a reaction to medication. Conditions such as Parkinson’s may also cause a crawling skin sensation.
Fibromyalgia dry eyes: is this a thing?
It is very common for people with fibromyalgia to also suffer from dry eyes & eye pain.
People with fibromyalgia dry eye report noticing a gritty, sandy or itchy feeling in their eyes. This is known as Dry Eye Syndrome (DES).
One study found that people with fibromyalgia were 40% more likely to suffer from dry eye syndrome than people without fibromyalgia.
The following strategies can be useful for relieving the dreaded fibromyalgia dry eye syndrome:
- Omega-3 – This fatty acid helps to reduce inflammation & is excellent for eye health. Eat oily fish such as tuna, mackerel or sardines. Choose chia seeds, flax seeds or walnuts for a plant-based alternative.
- Water – Make sure you stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- Blinking- This is your body’s natural way to moisturize your eyes and remove irritants. Make an effort to blink often.
- Moisturizing gel – Using a moisturizing eye gel before bed will provide your eyeballs with an extended moisturize boost. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist first.
- Humidifiers and air filters – The National Eye Institute found that dry, windy, smokey or polluted environments contribute to dry eye. Controlling your environment and keeping the air moist may help ease the symptoms of dry eye.
What is Fibro Fog?
Aside from the physical symptoms, fibromyalgia can cause problems with memory and cognition.
These symptoms of fibromyalgia can be incredibly debilitating and are often referred to as the “fibro fog”.
Fibro fog is an accurate way to describe the symptoms of fibromyalgia which leave your brain feeling hazy.
Many people often experience:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased alertness
- Slower reactions
Fibro fog can cause you to fear you are developing Alzheimer’s disease – but the two conditions are not related.
There are several things you can do to reduce the symptoms of fibro fog including:
Get enough sleep – avoid caffeine after 4 pm and alcohol near bedtime
Take ribose supplements – this is a natural simple sugar that helps with energy production & brain cells
Change your routine – changing any established habits forces the brain to make new neural pathways – discover more here.
What is the best treatment for fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition so unfortunately – there is no cure.
The good news is there are several options for reducing the key symptoms of fibromyalgia – pain & fatigue.
Making lifestyle changes can help to manage fibromyalgia.
- Regular exercise – when you move your body produces serotonin. Serotonin is a real wonder hormone. It acts as a natural pain reliever & it makes you happy. In fact, serotonin has been found to be 60 times more effective than opioid medication. If you find it too difficult to exercise with pain and fatigue – just try a walk around the garden. No amount of exercise is too small to start. If you would like some tips on how to get started exercising with fibromyalgia check this out.
- Healthy Diet – Some food additives, such as aspartame, have been found to cause fibromyalgia. Many people report a huge improvement in their symptoms by following an anti-inflammatory diet. The anti-inflammatory diet is high in fresh natural foods and plenty of vegetables. For more information on the anti-inflammatory diet read this guide.
- Getting enough sleep – Don’t underestimate the enormous health benefits of having a good night’s sleep. Sleep is when our body has time to restore and rebuild. Unfortunately, the symptoms of fibromyalgia often interfere with your ability to sleep well. Try to follow a good sleep hygiene routine such as no caffeine past 4 pm and going to bed at the same time every day.
- Don’t overdo it! – Adjust your work demands – you just can’t do it all! If you live with fibromyalgia it is very easy for you to fall into a ‘boom and bust’ cycle. You do too much on a good day and then pay heavily for days or even weeks afterward. It is really important to pace. If you would like our guide on how to pace your activity levels to avoid the ‘bust’ check this out.
Fibromyalgia Treatment without Drugs
Your doctor may prescribe you medication to alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia. There are also many natural ways to treat fibromyalgia without drugs.
- Yoga – this is an excellent way to gently stretch your body and loosen up aching, tight joints and muscles. The restorative nature of yoga has the ability to calm the mind and relieve stress.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese treatment. It involves inserting fine needles into certain areas of the body to stimulate energy and blood flow. Although results are mixed some people suffering from fibromyalgia find acupuncture helpful.
- Physical Therapy – A physical therapist will use safe, gentle and effective techniques to ease the symptoms of fibromyalgia. The treatments can be either passive (such as massage) or active (such as exercises)
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is produced naturally when your skin is exposed to sunlight. Sometimes natural production is inefficient leading to a vitamin D deficiency. Studies have found people suffering from fibromyalgia are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency. Studies also found taking vitamin D supplements can relieve the pain and fatigue.
- Tai Chi – Tai chi is a series of simple, graceful movements designed to exercise the body and calm the mind. Tai chi may have greater benefits for people suffering fibromyalgia than standard aerobic exercises.
- Learning strategies to heal body, mind & social well-being – Fibromyalgia is a condition that affects all areas of your life. The physical, mental, work, social life, and even your relationships. To effectively treat fibromyalgia you need a treatment plan that addresses all of these areas of your life. Body, mind and social well-being. If you would like more information on a proven holistic pain program click here for more.
Fibromyalgia is an incredibly common yet often misunderstood condition.
There are a number of key factors & symptoms which serve as warning signs of fibromyalgia. If you think you are suffering from a number of these symptoms, speak to your doctor.
Although fibromyalgia is a chronic condition – it does not have to mean a life sentence.
Many people manage to live active & fulfilling lives in spite of fibromyalgia.
Making simple lifestyle changes and natural treatments are proven to be incredibly effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia.
Have you spoken to your doctor about the warning signs of fibromyalgia?