What Is A Fibromyalgia Flare? | Living with Fibromyalgia

The second most common question that people living with fibromyalgia (or any chronic invisible illness for that matter) get asked next to What is Fibromyalgia is What is a Fibromyalgia Flare?

If you know someone living with this illness then you’ve probably heard them tell you on one occasion or another that they are experiencing a “flare up”. Trying to articulate what you mean by a “flare” is perhaps one of the hardest things to do mainly because “flares” look so different for each person.

Surprisingly, attempting to explain a flare is just as difficult as trying to understand a flare and it is for this reason that so many of us living with the illness avoid discussing our symptoms altogether.

However, education, awareness, and knowledge are important when dealing with any chronic illness- fibromyalgia or otherwise and it is only through explaining that we help all people grasp the truly omnipresent nature of chronic invisible illness and help everyone to better understand what we live with day in and day out.

It is only through explaining that we  help all people grasp the truly omnipresent nature of chronic invisible illness and help everyone to better understand what we live with day in and day out.

To put it succinctly “Talking about our disease is the only way we can get the support, empathy, and understanding that we need from caretakers, health care providers, family and the greater public. 

That being said, the article below (taken from Arthritis.org) provides the easiest and most succinct explanation of fibromyalgia “flares” and I hope that everyone reading it can understand just alittle bit better what those of us living with the chronic illness experience each and every day.

What Is a Fibromyalgia Flare courtesy Arthritis.org

While a person with fibromyalgia might experience certain symptoms on a regular basis, when symptoms worsen or happen more frequently for a period of time, it is called a flare.

“A flare is the worsening or exacerbation of symptoms that already exist,” says Daniel Clauw, MD, professor of anesthesiology, rheumatology and psychiatry at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Patients use different timeframes for what they consider a flare, but it’s generally several days or weeks of worsening symptoms. Anything shorter is considered normal waxing and waning of symptoms that someone with fibromyalgia can expect.”

Symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  • Widespread muscle pain
  • Fatigue that makes completing daily activities difficult
  • Stiffness, especially in the morning or after a long period of inactivity
  • Cognitive difficulties, also known as fibro fog, including problems with memory, concentration and organization
  • Emotional issues, such as anxiety, sadness or depression
  • Sleep problems, such as taking a long time to fall or sleep, frequent waking or waking up and still not feeling rested

While these are common symptoms among people with fibromyalgia, everyone experiences flares differently.

“People with fibromyalgia do not all experience flares the same way,” Dr. Clauw says. “A good way to explain it is that every person with fibromyalgia has their Achilles heel – their ‘thing’ that really gives them trouble. When their fibromyalgia worsens, that particular thing really gets bad.”

A person’s predominant symptoms during a flare can change over time.

Triggers for Fibromyalgia Flares

One of the best ways to prevent a flare is to determine what might be causing it in the first place. These causes are called triggers. Like symptoms, triggers for fibromyalgia vary by person, but they can include:

  • Physical or psychological stress
  • Temperature and/weather changes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Traveling and/or changes in schedule
  • Changes in treatment
  • Diet
  • Poor sleep

“We know that any type of stress – not just psychological, but also physical, immune or anything that disrupts the body’s normal routine – can trigger a flare,” Dr. Clauw says. “Anything from a motor vehicle accident to surgery or another type of stressful life event can cause a worsening of symptoms. Flares can also be caused by behavioral triggers such as not sleeping well, suddenly stopping exercise or overdoing it on activity.”

Some flares are unavoidable, and certain triggers are beyond your control. You can try to identify what aggravates your fibromyalgia symptoms by keeping a log of your activities, what you eat, how you sleep and how all of those factors influence your symptoms. After logging these factors for several weeks, you might be able to see a pattern. This will help you know how to better manage the inputs that might trigger a flare.

To learn more click here

For the entire month of November, the blog will feature articles, features and information that is relented to chronic pain, invisible illness, and rare diseases in celebration of the U.S Pain Foundation’s annual KNOWvember campaign. 

Source: Arthritis.org (article) The Vanguard Clinic (image)




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