It’s a fact; when you have Fibromyalgia you will experience setbacks and flare ups. Even if you have been managing your condition well for a while, a Fibromyalgia flare up can still occur and knock you flat on your face.
Flare ups are part and parcel of having Fibromyalgia and they are something that we need to accept can happen from time to time. Living with a Fibromyalgia flare up can be challenging, but there are things we can do to make them a little easier to cope with.
WHat is a Fibro Flare up?
A flare up of Fibromyalgia is a temporary worsening of symptoms or an increase in the intensity of symptoms.
An increase in fatigue and pain is most commonly seen. However, other symptoms can get worse too.
Fibromyalgia flare up symptoms can include:
- A decline in cognitive function due to a worsening of brain fog.
- Digestive difficulty (acid reflux, bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhoea and/or constipation).
- Swollen, painful joints.
- Numbness, tingling, pins and needles or other neurological symptoms.
- Difficulty with sleeping.
- Dizziness or balance issues.
- Difficulty regulating temperature (chills or excessive sweating).
When in a flare people can go from being functional to having to spend all or most of their time resting in bed due to these symptoms.
Flare ups can last anywhere from days to weeks or months. They can be scary and sometimes leave us wondering if our decline in health will be permanent.
It can be hard to envision your health ever improving, especially if a flare drags on for weeks.
What Causes Fibromyalgia To Flare Up?
When a flare up happens, we are often left wondering what caused our fibromyalgia to worsen? After all, it’s only human nature to try and figure things out and gain a better understanding.
Although we may never know the answer to that question for sure, there are some common triggers for a Fibromyalgia flare up.
Common causes of Fibromyalgia flare ups include (but are not limited to):
- Sleeping worse than usual.
- Eating foods that don’t agree with us.
- Over-exerting ourselves.
- Stress (both mental and physical).
- Weather changes (changes in temperature or pressure for example).
- Hormonal changes.
- Changes in our usual routine.
- Trying a new treatment.
It can be helpful to know what these triggers are so that we can try our best to avoid them. However, personally, when I am suffering from a flare up I try not to focus too much on the cause.
Instead, I focus on what I can do to make myself feel better.
The reason for this is that I often find trying to figure out the reason for my flare ups stressful. And, as I’m sure you know all too well, stress just makes everything so much worse.
Experiencing a Fibromyalgia flare up
I have just experienced a Fibromyalgia flare up first hand. I was doing so well for so long and had reached a point where I knew it was definitely possible to live well with Fibromyalgia. I was feeling so strong that I made a return to work a couple of weeks ago.
This was something that I previously worried would not be possible for me. I expected it to set me back a little bit initially but I was honestly not prepared for the reaction my body had. Returning to work knocked me for six.
Pain, which had been so minimal, returned. Fatigue, which had also been manageable, floored me. Night sweats, chest pain, fibro fog, pins and needles and balance issues made an appearance. I had forgotten all about them for a while!
I then started to stress about it, which made the situation even worse. After the initial upset, I managed to calm myself down and look at the situation rationally. Yes, I was feeling pretty terrible but I wasn’t as bad as I was the previous time this happened to me.
I turned my focus towards getting myself better and I am pleased to say that after a week I am beginning to pick up again. This is a real positive as last time it took me weeks to see any improvement.
I have learned that how you handle a fibromyalgia flare up is incredibly important. Below are 5 tips that help me to get over a flare up.
5 Tips For Overcoming a Fibromyalgia Flare-up:
This is the most important thing that you can do for yourself but it is often the most difficult (due to pressures that you place upon yourself). By nature, we want to push and battle on through, especially when we are working.
While you may manage to do this from time-to-time, you are actually doing yourself no favours at all. Your symptoms may subside slightly but you will find that you don’t quite recover to the same level as before.
A flare up is essentially your body’s way of saying it is not coping. If you keep on pushing, which is what I did for a long time, flares will occur more often and eventually, your body will reach a point where it is in a constant flare.
At this point, your body is running on adrenaline and eventually, this will lead to collapse. This is exactly what happened to me.
Please take my advice; stop and rest. Allow your body the time it needs to recover when you experience a flare.
2. Listen to your body
As I mentioned, a Fibromyalgia flare up is your body’s way of saying it is not coping. You need to listen to your body and your intuition on what is right for you.
The aim is to minimise and overcome your symptoms. If you are tired, rest; sleep as often as you need to. I personally find that I sleep for hours on end when I am in a flare.
If you are in pain, make sure you take your meds, use heat pads, go for a soak in the bath, meditate or do anything that you know helps you. Personally, I have found the Oska Pulse by Oska Wellness to be invaluable for pain during a flare.
Be guided by what your body wants and needs. I have only one exception to this: food.
I used to be in the mindset that if you feel terrible then you should eat whatever you want as it will help you to feel better.
What I have learned since then is that comfort foods only help your emotional side to feel better. They actually do the complete opposite for your body, which means your symptoms are exacerbated.
When you are in a flare, you must view food differently. Certain foods, such as wheat, dairy and refined-sugar can increase inflammation.
When you are in a flare you are looking to reduce inflammation, not add to it. Be very careful about what you eat and choose foods that will nourish your body and help it to heal.
3. Remain calm and relaxed
Be vigilant about your breathing to ensure that you are breathing properly. If you are holding your breath or breathing rapidly then your pain will become worse.
Meditate or take time out just to focus on your breathing. You want to keep yourself calm and relaxed to minimise stress.
Stress should be considered the enemy as stress hormones wreak havoc on our bodies and make us feel so much worse. Try not to focus too much on your symptoms and distract yourself by doing activities you enjoy.
For example, I will put on Disney films when I am in the early stages of a flare as I am not able to do much and struggle to concentrate but these are easy to watch, cheer me up and take my mind off things.
4. Accept it for what it is
Flare ups happen to us all. They should be viewed as a temporary setback.
It is only natural to worry and question “is this what my life will be like from now on?” I have asked myself this exact question many times and even got to the point where I was ready to accept it.
The problem is that stressing about your flare up will lead to an increase in cortisol and adrenaline levels in your body, making you feel a million times worse. You need to remain calm and try to not focus on your symptoms.
Take on the attitude of “what will be will be” and trust that it can get better. Just look at my story as an example. I know with certainty that I will be able to get back to that point again.
5. Embrace change
I am going to give you a bit of tough love here. If you are finding that you are constantly experiencing setbacks or feel as though you are in a constant flare then you need to change your life.
The prospect of this is a scary one.
If you are anything like me then it is something you will be in complete denial about and be unwilling to accept for a very long time.
You will worry that change might not bring about any benefits. Pride will hold you back too as you don’t want to accept that you are no longer coping.
When work is involved, it’s natural to be concerned about losing part of your identity or to feel like you would be giving up too much. I am not saying you have to give up work, I’m just saying that work might have to be different.
I don’t have all the answers for you and I can’t tell you what you should do. Only you will know what’s right for you and you need to be guided by your intuition.
All I can say with certainty is that is is possible to live well with this condition but to do that life needs to be at a slower pace. It’s up to you to decide as to whether that’s worth it or not.
Do you agree? Would you add anything else to this? How do you cope with a Fibromyalgia flare up? Comment below and let me know.
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