Top Causes of Fibromyalgia Flares

Patient Expert
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A fibromyalgia flare is a temporary increase in the number and/or intensity of symptoms. Some flares only last for a day or two but others may continue for several weeks or even months. The best way to prevent fibromyalgia flares is to identify what causes them and, when possible, try to avoid the circumstances that trigger them. Keep in mind that a flare may not occur for up to 48 hours after the event that triggered it. Following are 10 common causes of fibromyalgia flares.

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Weather changes

Possibly the most common cause of short-term fibro flares can be attributed to changes in the weather. Whenever the barometric pressure changes and a new front passes through, many people with fibromyalgia experience an increase in their symptoms — particularly in their pain level. Fortunately, these flares usually only last for a day or two.

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Over-exertion

Any time we push ourselves too far physically, we’re in danger of triggering a flare. On those rare days when we feel pretty good, it’s so hard not to try to catch up with all of the chores and activities we’ve been unable to do for the past month or two. But overdoing, even when you feel good, will usually come back to bite you in the form of a fibro flare. It’s better to increase your activity level gradually so that hopefully you’ll have more good days with fewer setbacks.

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Stress

Prolonged stress can have a significant impact on fibromyalgia symptoms. When it comes to fibro-flare triggers, stress can be a particularly insidious culprit because it often sneaks up on us — our car breaks down, the economy gets worse, our child gets sick. Without consciously thinking about it, our stress levels go through the roof. Unfortunately, stress-related flares often last the longest because they can be the most difficult to identify and find ways to manage effectively.

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Illness or injury

Just as an illness or injury often triggers the onset of fibromyalgia, another illness or injury can trigger a flare of fibromyalgia symptoms. Even something as simple as the common cold may result in a fibro flare.

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Hormonal changes

A number of women report experiencing fibromyalgia flares related to their menstrual cycles and menopause. Whether or not hormone replacement therapy is appropriate or would be helpful in these cases is something that each individual should discuss with her doctor.

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Temperature changes

Many people with fibromyalgia find that they are extremely sensitive to cold or heat or both. Being exposed to those uncomfortable temperatures, even for relatively short periods of time, can sometimes trigger a flare.

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Lack of sleep or changes in sleep routine

Getting quality, restful, restorative sleep is an ongoing challenge for people with fibromyalgia. Whenever that sleep is disrupted or there are changes to an individual’s normal sleep patterns — particularly over a period of time — a fibro flare may not be far behind. It’s important to find a sleep routine that works for you and stick to it as closely as you can.

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Treatment changes

While changes to your medications or other treatment protocols are intended to bring about an improvement in your symptoms, sometimes those changes can result in a flare of your symptoms. It can be tricky to determine whether the flare was actually caused by the change itself or was coincidental. It may take a period of trial and error, working with your doctor, to figure out whether the treatment change is to blame or if some other factor triggered the flare.

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Traveling

Traveling is seldom easy for someone with fibromyalgia and even the best trip may be followed by a fibro flare. This probably happens because travel often involves other common flare triggers such as weather changes, temperature changes, stress and the disruption of sleep routines. Try to plan plenty of rest time during your trip as well as allowing an extra day before you leave and after you return to rest. While this may not completely prevent a flare, it may help minimize its severity.

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Individual sensitivities

Often people with fibromyalgia have a number of things they are particularly sensitive to, such as allergies or sensitivity to light, noise, and/or smells. Exposure to the things you are sensitive to — like bright lights or strong perfumes — may trigger a fibro flare.