Fatigue, feeling tired or exhausted, is a common symptom of fibromyalgia. Our fatigue could stem from a number of potential sources.
It is very common for fibromyalgia to be accompanied by a sleep disorder, such as insomnia. Many with fibromyalgia can also tell you about countless nights of tossing and turning, being unable to sleep because of the pain they are in, and this is generally referred to as painsomnia.
It has also been found that people with fibromyalgia frequently do not have a good quality of sleep. This is due to bursts of brain activity that interrupts the deep sleep and REM cycles. That is what accounts for the mornings that you wake up after a full night’s sleep, but rather than feeling rested, you feel like you have been awake for days.
There is also the issue that pain itself uses up energy and can leave you feeling exhausted and worn out. It has also been suggested that fatigue is merely an inherent symptom of fibromyalgia itself. This could be due to the immune system working overtime trying to fight off fibromyalgia, and it’s many symptoms, but it is not known for sure at this time.
Along with feelings of physical fatigue, there also comes mental or cognitive fatigue, known as brain fog.
Most of us can attest to being forgetful, having periods of confusion and being unable to concentrate, and the difficulty is remembering commonly used words.
Cognitive fatigue is aptly called brain fog because that is exactly what it feels like. It is like being outside on a very foggy day, you may be able to make out shapes in the distance, but you cannot clearly see them.
Some possible causes of this may stem from lack of adequate sleep, from being in chronic pain, or because of a decrease of oxygen to the brain due to a central nervous system disturbance.
Joint and Muscle Stiffness
Feeling stiff and having difficulty moving, is another common complaint. This stiffness in our joints and/or muscles seems to occur first thing in the morning upon waking up typically. But it can happen other times, such as after sitting in one position for too long, or possibly even at random.
The reason we mainly experience stiffness in the morning, is likely due to reduced blood flow to the muscles, leading to a buildup of lactic acid, thus causing stiffness.
Some may find they begin to loosen up after a few minutes, but for others, it may take hours.
Stomach and Digestive Problems
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other stomach and digestive problems are commonly seen in those with fibromyalgia.
Many with fibromyalgia report having stomach pain, excess gas, bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
While the exact connection between fibromyalgia and IBS is not fully understood, it is clear there is some link between the two. “In general, it is likely that they coexist for years, but they can flare at the same time or at different times,” according to Lin Chang, MD, co-director of the Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress.
Depression and Anxiety
It is not difficult to understand why a person living with the many symptoms of fibromyalgia may also develop depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition. That said, depression and anxiety disorders are so closely linked in many cases that it is possible these are symptoms of fibromyalgia itself.
There is also a possibility that depression and certain anxiety disorders may be the cause of fibromyalgia in some instances. The way mental illnesses affect our brain and body can affect our nervous system and may result in developing chronic pain and fibromyalgia.
In many instances, women with fibromyalgia have abnormally painful menstrual cramps and other menstrual related pain. Many can also link an increase in their fibromyalgia symptoms to their menstrual cycle.
Woman with fibromyalgia frequently experiences a change in their symptoms, for the better or the worse, during pregnancy or after menopause.
One study found that two out of five people with fibromyalgia also get headaches regularly. Some have tension headaches, and others experience migraines.
In some cases, tension headaches could be directly connected to tense muscles in the neck and shoulders.
It is believed that migraines are caused by an abnormality in the central nervous system, leading to a narrowing and inflammation of the blood vessels in your head. Migraines generally cause severe headaches, but they may also cause a variety of other symptoms, like visual disturbances; nausea and vomiting; dizziness; and more.
Fibromyalgia can also cause excruciating muscle spasms called muscular rheumatism.
A muscle spasm is a contraction of the muscle, and it is sudden and painful. A spasm may last only a few seconds, but can last for several minutes and may happen repeatedly. These spasms tend to occur in one particular muscle group, occurring most commonly at night.
This could be caused by many reasons, including micro blood circulation changes, resulting in constriction of their capillaries in the tissues where the muscle spasm occurs; myofascial trigger points; overactive nerves; or nutrient deficiencies, to name a few.