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23 'Red Flags' That Might Mean a Fibromyalgia Flare-Up Is Coming

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A fibromyalgia flare-up may consist of widespread pain, extreme fatigue or difficulty with memory and concentration, commonly known as “fibro fog.” But many with fibro may notice other “red flags” that often appear in the hours or days leading up to a full-on flare. Sometimes a flare can be triggered by your external environment, such as a change in weather or a stressful situation, but other times you may only notice internal signs, like stiffness, pain or a sudden shift in mood.

These “warning signs” vary from person to person, and some don’t get any “warning” at all. So we asked our Mighty community to share their “red flags” that might mean a fibromyalgia flare-up is coming. Some of these may be signs you notice, too.

Here’s what the community told us:

1. “If I overdo it. If I do too much and I start to hurt really bad at the end of the day, then I know I am going to be down at least the next two days.”

2. “I get very, very cold and can’t get warm no matter how many layers I put on or how many blankets I pile on top of me.”

3. “My body feels like it’s systematically shutting down. I get ‘fibro fog’ and my muscle tone weakens. I start to drop things. I can’t get a good night’s sleep. I lose my balance more. I become more anxious because I know what’s coming. And then the waves of pain and agony start to set in and I pray I won’t be entirely bedridden.”

4. “My skin. My scalp. Everything hurts. Wearing a bra or even a loose-fitting shirt becomes almost unbearable. I also become even more sensitive than I already am to heat and cold.”

5. “If I don’t get enough sleep, I get intense pain all over my body and it lasts for days.”

6. “My fingers tingle. They start to burn like they’ve been dipped in acid, and it spreads into my hands and up my arms. Other times I just feel lightly sunburnt. My skin everywhere just feels a little too tight and sensitive to touch. It all goes downhill from there.”

7. “Feeling pressure all over my body. It honestly feels like an elephant is sitting on top of me.”

8. “Usually, two things happen. First, my arms flare from my shoulders to my fingertips. It’s flu-like aching with the extra intensity of nerve pain. Secondly, I get oddly shaped red spots between the knuckles on top of my hands and feet. Usually the brighter they are, the more I hurt.”

9. “My flares always start with trouble concentrating and forgetting things as they happen, which brings on extreme irritability.”

10. “Usually I get tinnitus and a migraine, and my ears get really red and hot.”

11. “I don’t always get warning signs but when I do I get very moody and have to be alone.”

12. “When I have a good day, am pretty high energy and get lots of little things done, I start to feel in my muscles and head that the rush is too unusual, and know that in just a few hours I will feel like I’ve run a marathon up Mt. Everest.”

13. “I start feeling stiff or I eat something and I get nauseated. Then I know it’s going to just get worse from there.”

14. “My legs ache from my ankles to my knees. Sometimes my feet swell.”

15. “Hormonal or seasonal changes, whether period flares or temperature difference flares. However, I always notice I wake up feeling like I’m fighting the flu: I have major body aches, everything hurts including hair follicles and scalp and my lower back/hips will lock. This normally tips me off to an oncoming flare.”

16. “Nausea and body aches that always start in my hips, upper back and hands. Hot flashes and exhaustion. I’ll sometimes get a red flushing color across my face.”

17. “For me it starts with feeling tired, which quickly turns to exhaustion. I become extra sensitive to temperature and get dizzy whenever I move around. I start to feel weak and then my ‘normal’ pain goes from bad to worse really quickly.”

18. “Swollen glands and a tender scalp. Weird, right?”

19. “I start getting blisters in mouth on my lips and tongue. L-Lysine does help with these, but they’re my first indication of a flare.”

20. “Moderate surprise pain coming and going in one place, like a hand or even a fingertip! Tender points get worse. I get very lethargic. Lifting or carrying things can produce undue pain.”

21. “I start twitching or get tics. Really strange!”

22. “Mine are so unpredictable. I don’t get that warning.”

23. “For me, it’s having an even further decrease in appetite, days of insomnia and trying to convince myself I can ‘keep up the mask a little longer and push through.’”

What are some of your “red flags” that might mean a fibromyalgia flare-up is coming? Share in the comments below!


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.

Originally published: May 26, 2017
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