14 'Triggers' That Can Cause a Fibromyalgia Flare
Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.
Some days it may feel like your fibromyalgia is totally unpredictable – like anything or everything could set off a massive flare at any given moment.
But if you’ve been living with the condition for a while, you may have noticed certain patterns or trends in your flares. Maybe you always get hit with intense pain on the days the temperature spikes, or perhaps certain foods or activities tend to ramp up your fatigue and other symptoms. Over time, becoming familiar with your fibromyalgia “triggers” may help you reduce your number of flare-ups. (Of course, some factors are easier to control than others. If only you could have power over the weather!)
For those who may be newly diagnosed or are still trying to understand their fibro better, we asked our Mighty community to share the “triggers” they’ve discovered that cause their fibro to flare. Everyone is different, so not everyone with fibromyalgia will have the same triggers (some may not even have any at all!), but if you’re wondering what types of things can set off others’ flare-ups, this might be a good place to start. And if you can relate to any of the following, know you are not alone.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
“Heat is one of the main causes. I hate summer because of this. It makes me dizzy and really sick and can trigger a general flare-up. I also get heat exhaustion and dehydration really easily.” – Cate N.
“My biggest trigger is heat. Summertime is the worst for me. I walk outside in this Georgia heat and it’s like insta-pain.” – Jennifer B.
“Heat. Showers, weather, etc. If I can stay in a cool environment it helps. My AC is on May-October with tons of fans on. In the winter, my furnace gets lonely.” – Amy R.
2. Sensory Overload
“Going to places that overstimulate my senses with noise, smells, lights, people, etc. trigger a fibromyalgia flare-up.” – Kristal K.
“Sensory overload – multiple people talking at the same time and crowded spaces. This usually ends up causing an exacerbation in my symptoms, especially if I’m without a friend or my husband.” – Jamie H.
“Things like going to the supermarket or hospital appointments don’t help. Loud noises, crowds, bright lights, etc. leave me feeling disoriented and fatigued.” – Sophie R.
3. Specific Colors
“The color red. It causes me to go blind temporarily, have a headache to the point where it makes me want to throw up. I have to avoid it a lot. While others thinks it’s funny as hell [and say], ‘oh, just don’t look at it.’ When it could be an important message. Even in video games I have to avoid seeing it when others in my home play. It’s frustrating [when] people [are] so insensitive.” – Miriam J.
4. Rain or Humidity
“Rainy weather. Makes my back muscles feel like they’re being peeled slowly from the bone. Makes my whole body throb down into the bone. Wipes me out completely.” – Diana P.
“The weather, I can sometimes predict the rain! When there’s no other explanation for a flare. Humidity, air pressure changes. I’ll get headaches and my joint areas will swell more than ever! The pain ramps right up.” – Rebecca M.
5. Emotional Stress
“When I get bad news I always get a flare-up. When I’m going through some really bad times in my life I experience severe flare-ups!” – Debbie G.
“Any sudden stressful event. I can normally handle finals week alright, but if anything extra comes up during that time it totally wipes me out.” – Miranda J.
6. Getting Sick or Injured
“The weather and stress, or if my immunity is lowered and I’m starting to get sick.” – Jasmine A.
“Other illnesses or getting sick with something else, like the flu, a cold or an infection… Injuries (which I’m dealing with now).” – Rachel P.
“Infections or injury.” – Carrie J.
7. Weather Changes
“Drastic weather changes trigger my fibromyalgia flare-ups.” – Kristal K.
“High humidity, severe air pressure shifts, severe temperature shifts affect my fibromyalgia and migraines. I have also noticed these flare the neuropathy I was diagnosed with recently.” – Sabrina H.M.
“Weather. I know a big shift in any direction will cause tremendous pain. I keep an eye on forecasts and try to plan around it. Thankful to live in mild CA. I can’t imagine how bad thunderstorms would feel, regularly.” – Krista I.
8. Sleeping Too Much or Too Little
“Sometimes, simply sleeping too long is a trigger for me. I find if I’m in a routine, and I have alarms to wake me up (as well as a reason to get up…) I am in less pain than if I sleep for longer. But on the flip side, sleeping too little is also a trigger. So it’s balancing on a knife edge.” – Amanda G.
9. Certain Foods
“Chinese food… I love Chinese but I’ve realized that I cannot eat it without hurting more than normal the next couple of days.” – Jennifer H.
“Sugary and fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate and gluten.” – Jo M.
“Eating unhealthy or processed foods triggers both a fibro flare-up and IBS flare-up.” – Kristal K.
10. Overdoing It
“The most common triggers for flare-ups are exhaustion and stress. If I push myself too much I may throw up or spend days in bed recovering.” – Cate N.
“The typical things like working long hours, overdoing it in the gym, etc.” – Andrea V.
“If I don’t give my body the rest it’s telling me it needs, I flare big time.” – Jamie H.
“Overdoing it and not pacing myself.” – Rachel P.
11. Driving or Traveling
“Driving is a huge one. I drive mainly with my left arm and if I drive too long my left shoulder feels like it’s burning and being yanked out of socket.” Faith M.
“Lack of sleep and traveling by plane always cause flares.” – Andrea V.
“Traveling in an airplane.” – Carrie J.
12. Cold Temperatures
“For me, it’s cold temperatures, no matter the humidity, if it’s cold, my pain goes up. This includes walking past the refrigerators at supermarkets, or walking into a building that has air conditioning set below 20.” – John R.
“Cold weather! Even rain, or a chilly wind causes a flare-up.” – Rai S.
“The cold is a nightmare for my back and joints.” – Kate C.
13. Menstrual Cycle
“Menstrual cycle! Every time my period rolls around I get a flare. I even call it Shark Week Flare.” – Siany J.
“Menstrual cycle affects it. One week out of a month is ‘normal’ pain and then two weeks of a flare and extra pain along with the week of the period.” – Carrie B.
14. Exposure to the Sun
“Being out in the sun for too long will trigger a massive flare that can last for days. Even just a half an hour can trigger it.” – Bonnie P.
“Extremes of temperature aren’t good for me. I’m on hydroxychloroquine which makes my already photosensitive skin even more delicate – going outside (even slathered in sunblock) can leave me with rashes and swollen muscles.” – Sophie R.
MORE ABOUT FIBROMYALGIA:
Fibromyalgia, a chronic illness with three main symptoms — widespread pain, chronic fatigue and cognitive trouble. Fibromyalgia is a complicated illness that’s not well understood. In the past, it was mischaracterized as a mental health disorder. Even today, some doctors wave off fibro symptoms as being “all in your head.” This isn’t the case. Read The Mighty’s comprehensive guide to fibromyalgia here. Click here to join our fibro community and connect with people who get it.
Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash