Fibromyalgia and Fatigue: How to Drain Your Energy
Fibromyalgia is strongly linked to fatigue and exhaustion. Here we take a closer look at the causes - and what can be done about it.
There is no doubt that fibromyalgia is a complex pain syndrome. But in addition to causing widespread pain in the body, it is also linked to possible effects on cognitive function. Fibrofog is the term used to describe the impact of short-term memory and mental presence. Such brain fog is also very exhausting. As many as 4 out of 5 people with fibromyalgia report that they experience fatigue - and unfortunately we are not surprised by that.
- Fatigue is not the same as being tired
Here it is important to distinguish between extreme exhaustion (fatigue) and being tired. Patients with fibromyalgia experience physically and mentally exhausting symptoms on a daily basis - often in combination with poor sleep - which can lead to deep-seated exhaustion. Therefore, it is extremely important that both patients with fibromyalgia and those around them facilitate an adapted everyday life with less stress.
Take Fatigue Seriously
We know you have a lot you want to do, and we know you'd rather do it today. But have we all gone on a rampage by burning all the gunpowder at once? The first step towards an everyday life that is less affected by fatigue and fibro fog is to take it seriously. Acknowledge that you are tired. Recognize that the physical and mental challenges affect you - it's only natural. By being open about how the diagnosis affects you, both to yourself and to those around you, it will be easier for all parties to show consideration.
With fibro, the energy level is often very unstable, which is precisely why - on good days - it can be tempting to do all the things you haven't been able to do before. One of the most important lessons is learning the importance of saving energy, and rather using it conservatively to get through today's smaller and bigger challenges.
- At our interdisciplinary departments at Vondtklinikkene in Oslo (Lambert seats) and Viken (Eidsvoll Sound og Raw wood) our clinicians have a uniquely high professional competence in assessment, treatment and rehabilitation training for chronic pain syndromes. Click on the links or here to read more about our departments.
Sleepless Nights and Fatigue
Fibromyalgia is often also associated with sleep problems. Difficulty falling asleep and restless sleep are both factors that mean you don't recharge your energy optimally for the next day. Extra bad nights can also cause you to wake up with a feeling of brain fog - which makes it easy to forget things and which can cause concentration difficulties. Earlier we wrote an article called '9 tips for better sleep with fibromyalgia'(opens in a new link - so you can finish reading this article first) where we go through a sleep expert's advice to sleep better.
The sleep problems in those with chronic pain syndromes appear to be linked to, among other things, pain sensitization. And this is negatively affected by stress. That is why it is so incredibly important, for everyone with chronic pain, that you find the personal measures and adaptations that suit you. Many people with fibromyalgia make use of daily self-time acupressure mat (The link opens in a new window) or trigger point balls. Using one like this before bedtime can be particularly effective, as it lowers both muscle tension and stress levels. The recommended time of use is 10-30 minutes daily, and can be well combined with meditation and/or breathing techniques.
- Read more about the acupressure mat via the image below:
Adapted Activity and Training
Unfortunately, exhaustion and lack of energy can lead you into a negative spiral. The doorpost mile will be at least a couple of miles higher if we have slept badly and feel directly exhausted. There is no doubt that it can be difficult to combine fibromyalgia with regular exercise, but it can become somewhat easier if you find the right forms of exercise and activities. Some like to go for a walk, others think exercise in a hot water pool is best, and others may like home exercises or yoga exercises better.
If you feel that you are too tired to train, this unfortunately leads over time to further muscle weakness and even more exhaustion. This is precisely why it is so important to find low-threshold activities even on the bad days. Many people with rheumatism and chronic pain syndromes feel that exercise with rubber band is both gentle and effective. Start calmly and work with a physiotherapist or modern chiropractor to find the right exercise program for you. Eventually you can gradually increase the training load, but remember to take it all at your own pace.
In the video below you can see a customized elastic training program for shoulders and neck - prepared by chiropractor Alexander Andorff in Lambertseter Chiropractor Center and Physiotherapy.
VIDEO: Strengthening exercises for the shoulders and neck (with elastic)
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- Save your energy and set intermediate goals
Do you often get frustrated by things you can't do? Try to make adjustments. Try to weed out less important things that steal your energy - so that you have more energy to do things that are important to you. Break larger tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. In this way, you will get a feeling of mastery as you gradually work your way towards the goal.
Take rest breaks throughout the day. Here we also recommend that you keep notes on what you feel works best for you. Remember to recognize that rest is good for you - and use the time to relax with something you enjoy, such as listening to an audiobook or meditating.
Make your day more Fibro-friendly
As mentioned earlier in the article, we know all too well that both physical and mental stress are linked to flare-ups (fibro flare-ups) of fibromyalgia pain. This is precisely why we are so incredibly keen to get the message across that you must take care of yourself. If you go and bite the pain today it will only build up more and more. If you are at work or at school, it is also very important to communicate with management about your needs.
Concrete ways to make your day less stressful can include:
- Taking more breaks (preferably with stretching exercises for the neck and shoulders)
- Get work assignments that better suit your abilities
- Communicate your needs outwardly to those around you
- Seek palliative physical therapy (fibromyalgia is a muscle sensitivity syndrome after all)
Be open about your ailments and pain
Fibromyalgia is a form of "invisible disease". That is, to the extent that you cannot see if another person is in physical pain. This is precisely why it is very important that you communicate with those around you and are open about the disease. It is, after all, a chronic pain syndrome that causes muscle pain, joint stiffness and sometimes affects cognitive function.
It may be useful to refer to studies that have shown that the brain misinterprets/oversensitizes pain signals in those with fibromyalgia (1). This misinterpretation of nerve signals in the central nervous system thus causes stronger pain than is normal.
Own measures for Relaxation
Earlier in the article we mentioned both acupressure mats and trigger point balls. But something that is as simple as it is ingenious is actually reusable multi-packs (can be used both as a heat pack and as a cooling pack).
Tips: Reusable Heat Pack (link opens in a new window)
Unfortunately, it is a fact that muscle tension and joint stiffness are two things that are directly linked to soft tissue rheumatism. You simply heat it up - and then place it against the area that is particularly tense and stiff. Can be used time after time… after time. A simple and effective self-measure for those who suffer a lot from tense muscles, especially in the neck and shoulder area.
Summary: Main points
One of the keys to avoiding extreme fatigue is to make changes in your everyday life. We hope that the article has given you inspiration to not always put yourself second in line. In fact, it is the case that by paying more attention to yourself and your own illness, others around you will also feel better. Also remember that it is permissible to ask for help - it does not make you a weak person, on the contrary, it shows that you are strong and sensible. Here we summarize our main points to avoid severe exhaustion:
Map which activities and events drain you of energy
Adapt your everyday life according to your own daily routine
Be open about your ailments and pains with those around you
Remember to take several breaks with your own time
We end the article with an apt quote from Finn Carling:
“The deepest pain
in your pains are
that they are not even understood
of those close to you"
Join our Fibromyalgia Support Group
Feel free to join the Facebook group «Rheumatism and Chronic Pain - Norway: Research and news» (Press here) for the latest updates on research and media writing about rheumatic and chronic disorders. Here, members can also get help and support - at all times of the day - through the exchange of their own experiences and advice. Otherwise, we would greatly appreciate it if you would follow us on our Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Feel free to share to Support Those With Rheumatism And Chronic Pain
We kindly ask you to share this article in social media or via your blog (please link directly to the article). We also exchange links with relevant websites (contact us on Facebook if you want to exchange a link with your website). Understanding, general knowledge and increased focus are the first steps towards a better everyday life for those with chronic pain diagnoses.
Sources and Research:
1. Boomershine et al, 2015. Fibromyalgia: the prototypical central sensitivity syndrome. Curr Rheumatol Rev. 2015; 11 (2): 131-45.