10 Triggers that All Fibromyalgia Patients Should Be Aware Of

Living with fibromyalgia can sometimes seem like traveling down a road with many potholes. With that picture in mind, the symptoms of fibromyalgia can be aggravated by quite a number of “potholes” out there, so one must carefully avoid them as much as possible in order to prevent fibromyalgia symptoms from flaring up. It is very important that thorough care is taken since it can sometimes take days to recuperate fully from the pain or damage caused by a trigger.

A good understanding of the things or foods that can trigger the symptoms of fibromyalgia and how to manage them will be a good guide as the patients and their caregivers travel down this road with many potholes. Although, each person’s reaction to these various threats or triggers is somewhat different, there are quite a few triggers that all fibromyalgia patients should be conscious of. Here is a list that highlights and explains 10 of those common triggers:

1. Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, which is naturally found in some fruits and vegetables and is used as an additive in a lot of processed foods to boost the flavor. Like quite a number of food additives, monosodium glutamate is an excitotoxin that stimulates neurons, which then increase pain sensitivity in those suffering from fibromyalgia.

Whenever there is a label on food that shows it contains yeast extract, Gelatin, Glutamic Acid (E 620)2, Caseinate, Glutamate (E 620), or anything hydrolyzed among the ingredients, it is advisable to avoid it. Glutamic Acid (E 620)2 and Glutamate (E 620) are just different names for MSG, while the other ingredients mentioned contain high levels of MSG but aren’t required to indicate it. Fruits and vegetables that naturally contain MSG include tomatoes, potatoes, and mushrooms.

2. Caffeine

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Most fibromyalgia patients find out that they often get tired and worn out easily. For this reason, coffee or energy drinks may seem like rescue options to help boost energy levels and deal with fatigue and exhaustion. However, the caffeine content of these beverages can, in fact, worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia and may not have a significant effect on energy levels in many cases. Caffeine typically stays in the system for 3-7 hours and may cause fever, dizziness, and sleeplessness.

3. Sleeplessness

The issue of sleep is somewhat like a riddle for fibromyalgia patients. While some sleep problems, such as insomnia, can occur as a result of some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, lack of sleep, on the other hand, can also worsen some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia and lead to increased pain sensitivity. This makes sleeplessness a sort of vicious cycle that can be hard to break.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been found to be very effective in treating insomnia in patients with chronic conditions. In fact, it has been suggested by some research studies that CBT may provide more lasting relief than some prescription medications.[1] Irrespective of the chosen method (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Medications), it is crucial for a fibromyalgia patient to get the best amount of rest possible.

4. Prolonged naps

The issue of daytime naps further shows the idea that sleep is somewhat a riddle for fibromyalgia patients. While it is necessary for most fibromyalgia patients to take naps during the day in order to relieve the fatigue and exhaustion they often experience, it is advisable not to take long and frequent naps as these may make the symptoms more severe.

Research studies have shown that prolonged daytime naps can aggravate the severity of fibromyalgia symptoms.[2] That being the case, shorter ‘power’ naps (between 10 and 20 minutes) throughout the day would be a better recommendation for the relief and rejuvenation of the body without aggravating the symptoms.

5. Stress

Stress is an inevitable phenomenon for those who are suffering from chronic health conditions like fibromyalgia. In fact, living with a chronic illness is a major risk factor for chronic stress. While fibromyalgia predisposes patients to chronic stress, chronic stress can, in turn, also aggravate the symptoms of fibromyalgia due to this surge in adrenaline.

Besides, chronic stress can also lead to other chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. It is, therefore, advisable for fibromyalgia patients to find ways to productively relieve and manage their stress. This will not only prevent the aggravation of symptoms but also improve general well-being.

6. Depression

Like stress, fibromyalgia often increases the risk of depression, which can, in turn, worsen the symptoms of fibromyalgia. This is also a vicious cycle that can weigh a fibromyalgia patient down mentally, physically, and emotionally.

Although depression is a subject that is often not discussed, it is a real challenge that affects almost every one. It is advisable to seek professional service from a certified therapist or counselor if there is an onset of depression so that the vicious cycle can be broken and the patient can lead a much happier life.

7. Smoking

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The list of the negative impact of smoking with health is seemingly infinite, so much so that there is no argument about the fact that smoking is injurious to health, regardless of whether there is an underlying medical condition or not. For fibromyalgia patients, the effect of smoking is even more telling. Studies have shown that smoking significantly exacerbates pain, numbness, and functional difficulties in fibromyalgia patients.

8. Sensory overload

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People suffering from fibromyalgia are definitely more sensitive to overstimulation of their senses by the environment such as loud noises, bright lights, strong odors, and so on. If any of these happens, it can lead to a severe headache or a migraine, and a host of other symptoms. Staying away from places and situations that may expose the patient to sensory overload will prevent an undesirable upsurge of symptoms.

9. Adverse weather conditions

Although researchers are yet to establish the link between weather conditions and aggravation of fibromyalgia symptoms, the vast amount of reports from the experiences of actual sufferers is so profound. Almost all fibromyalgia patients notice that weather conditions, especially extremes in temperature (too hot or too cold), have an adverse effect on their symptoms.

Sometimes, taking some extra safety measures (e.g. staying hydrated in extreme heat) can counterbalance the effects of adverse weather conditions, but at other times, when the adverse conditions are intense, it may be expedient to move to a different climate that would be more comfortable.

10. Lack of care and support

Again, while there is no research to back this up, reports from experiences of those suffering from chronic illness are sufficient to prove that the level of care and support received from family and friends has an effect on the management of the condition and on general well-being

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