Fibromyalgia is a complex and complicated disorder. If you or a loved one are suffering from this condition, you know just how difficult it can make every day, normal life. It is a pain disorder that affects the muscles and bones and causes pain and tenderness all over the body.
Fibromyalgia is also typically associated with extreme fatigue, sleep issues, and mood imbalances. What makes understanding this disorder so challenging is the fact it remains unknown what the true cause of fibromyalgia is. However, some do believe it may be caused by genetics, emotional or physical trauma, or some types of infections.
Women are more likely to develop this type of pain disorder than men. If you have a family member with the condition, you are more likely to develop it at some point as well. Fibromyalgia is often associated with numerous other conditions as well. These conditions include:
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Tension headache
- Painful bladder syndrome
- Sleep disorders
- Brain fog/difficulty concentrating
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can come and go for many people. Sometimes the pain might feel unbearable while other times it is manageable or perhaps pain feels non-existent. The pain associated with this disorder typically does not get worse as time goes on. These ups and downs can feel frustrating and defeating.
The complications of fibromyalgia make your day-to-day life feel much more challenging than it should be. With widespread pain, fatigue, anxiety, or other mood issues, getting through the day can more often than not feel impossible. From general lifestyle issues to depression and anxiety to severe sleeping issues, complications are challenging.
In this article, we will explore what the most common complications of fibromyalgia are and what some of the best ways to manage these complications are. You can lead a normal and healthy life even if you suffer from this disorder.
Perhaps the most common complication seen in fibromyalgia patients is depression. Due to the constant battle of widespread pain, ups and downs in pain level, and inability to function the same as healthy friends and family, depression often develops.
Studies have found that there is a mutual predisposition for FM and depression, meaning when there is one condition the other condition is also likely. It is believed this connection exists due to environmental factors and genetics.
In the presence of FM, examination questions have revealed that people with FM feel that having pain is depressing in and of itself. But compounded with the feelings of pain-reducing or eliminating activity and social interaction depression becomes worse and mood levels drop even more.
When depression and FM happen together, it is a combination that is challenging but can also become dangerous. If someone falls into a deep depression while also experiencing extreme pain, suicide may become a risk factor.
Similar to depression, anxiety is another common complication for FM sufferers. In fact, about 20% of people with FM also have anxiety. Anxiety is a mood disorder that is generally associated with excessive fears, worries, ruminating thoughts, sleep issues, gut issues, and hundreds of other symptoms.
Anxiety often develops in FM patients because of negative mood and worry about physical symptoms and pain can cause the patient to develop a “poor perception” of their physical health, leading to feelings of anxiety and anxious thoughts. It is also believed that someone with anxiety can develop extreme negatives feelings and moods and develop widespread pain.
Anxiety can be a debilitating mental disorder that makes everyday life exhausting and difficult. Constant fear and worry can lead to isolation, extreme fatigue, depression, and many other unpleasant physical symptoms.
A patient with FM, who also suffers from extreme depression and fatigue, may be at much higher risk for suicide than your average healthy person. A study found that the risk of suicide in FM patients was high compared to normal healthy individuals and those who suffer from chronic low back pain.
The study also found that depression was the strongest factor for suicide among FM patients. They suggest that FM is not an indicator of suicidal thoughts or actions, however, when it is coupled with depression, suicide risk rises. It is imperative that someone with FM and depression and/or anxiety seeks medical and emotional assistance from both medical doctors and psychiatrists to greatly reduce the risk of suicide and to manage depression in a safe and healthy way.
Trouble sleeping at night is another common complication of FM. When chronic pain is bad and little relief is found, sleeping becomes difficult. Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and insomnia are the most common sleep disorders associated with FM.
Lack of quality sleep can actually make the pain symptoms of FM worse. Poor sleep or little sleep can also increase feelings of depression and anxiety. Widespread pain already causes a patient with FM to feel tired and fatigued all of the time. When the patient can also not sleep at night, it becomes a recipe for even more complications or worse complications.
A study in the UK found that “pain status (some pain or no pain), anxiety, physical health-related quality of life, having some form of cognitive complaint and non-restorative sleep were linked to increased risk of developing widespread pain.” This study also suggests that someone may actually develop widespread pain, like with FM, in the presence or poor sleep patterns and habits. It shows a strong connection between poor sleep and worsening widespread pain.
When someone with FM is experiencing widespread pain, particularly when it is more severe, concentrating becomes increasingly hard. People with FM often complain about brain fog and the inability to focus on tasks at work, in school, or in everyday life. Many people with FM are not able to work due to their pain and inability to focus on simple tasks and can receive disability benefits from the government.
Even for those who push through the pain and are able to get to work and school, they report feeling much less productive than their counterparts, which tends to cause feelings of frustration and inadequacy.
Overall Lifestyle Complications
All of the above complications in combination with each other, whether it is all or a few, create a cycle of pain and isolation from social interaction. It is very common for patients with FM to withdrawal from family, friends, and social activates when they are experiencing a painful flare-up.
A once normal, healthy, and happy social life can easily veer towards unhealthy levels of depression and complete withdrawal. Such isolation will only make the symptoms of FM worse. It will also make the symptoms of anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, and the ability to focus and concentrate even harder as well.
Even though FM itself and managing the complications associated with FM is challenging, it is not impossible and there are many ways you can improve FM complications.
When it comes to depression and anxiety, making sure you get medical and/or emotional help is key. There is no reason to suffer from these mental disorders alone and in silence. There are many medications that help manage depression and anxiety.
Therapy sessions are also a great tool for coping with depression and anxiety. Often opening up to someone and talking through issues with professional guidance goes a long way in coping and recovery. A therapist can also give you tips and techniques for coping with anxiety.
When you can effectively manage your depression and anxiety, the risk for suicide and suicidal thoughts will decrease or be eliminated as well.
There are also many ways to improve sleep or treat sleep disorders as well. Both prescription sleep aids, over the counter sleep aids, and natural remedies and supplements can all help you sleep better. For example, melatonin is a natural substance found in the body and a melatonin supplement can help you fall asleep and stay asleep during the night.
When it comes to managing and treating brain fog, there are some great options. Getting enough regular exercise can help. Going slow and steady is the best option as high-intensity workouts may make matters worse. Being more organized, planning specific things you need to do, and breaking down larger tasks into smaller more manageable chunks often helps as well.
The key is not to overwhelm yourself with tons of tasks and activities because if you feel like you have so much to do and you try to power through it, chances are you will not be able to complete the tasks and you will feel defeated and inadequate.
In the end, fibromyalgia is a complex disorder that can be hard to manage, but it is possible. Once you find the right things that work for you, you can find yourself on a path to recovery and a rich and full life. Identify your trouble areas and your triggers and then find the best ways to combat those issues. Going to a chiropractor can be very helpful, and don’t worry about the chiropractor cost. They are very affordable, and many will work with you. If you’re looking for a chiropractor for fibromyalgia, check your local area for payment plans.
About Dr. Brent Wells, D.C.
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. has been a chiropractor for over 20 years and has treated thousands of patients. He founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in Alaska in 1998 and is a member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe and Lifehack. He continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.