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It’s a Battlefield: Fibromyalgia and Bruising

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By Celeste Cooper

Though a connection between bruising and fibromyalgia is lacking in scientific evidence, the battlefield of bruises is a frequent complaint I hear from my fibro friends. So, what is a bruise, what makes us more vulnerable to them, and is there anything we can do?
What is a bruise?
A bruise is a discoloration of skin that occurs when small blood vessels on the surface are injured. Bruises are usually caused by some type of physical injury, a contusion.
Easy bruising sometimes occurs from a seemingly insignificant event, such as merely pressing on the skin. This occurs when blood vessels are weakened by disease.
A bruise will change color related to its stage of healing.
Causes of bruising
Are your arms and legs like battlefield magnets? Do your extremities look like a world atlas? For those of us with fibro, there might be an explanation to why that is. We feel tender and bruised most of the time. So when a bruise appears, we can’t relate it to any specific event even though there is one. Maybe it’s not easy bruising, but instead repeated contusions from what I call the fibro effect.
The fibro effect
Things that might lend to bruising because we have fibromyalgia: 

  • Loss of proprioception – proprioception is a sense of where our body is located in relationship to the space around us.
  • Comorbid myofascial pain syndrome – trigger points (TrPs) are knotted up pieces of skeletal muscle fiber that shorten the muscle and cause restriction of movement. Development of TrPs in the neck can cause us to walk into things, drop things without warning, become dizzy, have visual disturbances, experience headaches, and more. When they develop in our extremities, the muscles involved interfere with normal tandem function with other muscles and with joint range of motion. 
  • Neurological problems – Nathaniel Watson, et al. found that individuals with FM exhibited abnormalities of cranial nerves IX and X, sensation, strength, and gait as compared to pain-free controls. (2009)
  • Fibrofog – cognitive dysfunction is a primary symptom of FM and can cause us to be easily distracted.
  • Dysfunctional sleep – poor sleep quality, another primary symptom of fibromyalgia, not only delays mental awareness, it also impedes micro healing. 

Other causes 

  • Age
  • Family history
  • Underlying health problem that affects normal clotting factors
  • Recurrent physical abuse
  • Medication side effects
  • Medication interactions
  • Nutritional deficiencies 

According to Mayo Clinic, easy bruising can indicate a serious underlying condition. They suggest we see our doctor if we:
Have frequent, large bruises, especially if your bruises appear on your trunk, back or face, or seem to develop for no known reasons
Have easy bruising and a history of significant bleeding, such as during a surgical procedure
Suddenly begin bruising, especially if you recently started a new medication
Have a family history of easy bruising or bleeding
Things we can do 

  • Protect – wear protective clothing, use foam kneepads when kneeling, and wear sunscreen when exposed for more than twenty minutes.
  • Report symptoms to our doctor
  • Improve balance by participating in T’ai Chi or yoga.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Manage underlying disorders that can contribute to loss of balance, such as chronic sinusitis, inner ear problems, arthritis, myofascial pain syndrome, sleep apnea, etc.
  • Minimize the risk of a fall, such as clear walk areas and proper lighting.
  • Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible medications that can cause easy bruising, both prescription and over the counter.
  • Acute treatment – if you are aware you hit something, as soon as you can, apply cold compresses, 20 minutes on/20 minutes off, and elevate the injured area.
  • Be kind to your body. 

It’s not much of a stretch (pun) to say it seems door jams reach out and grab our fibro legs and our arms hit door casings full throttle. Mysterious bruising is not new to us. But if you are in question, please follow the advice from Mayo Clinic and discuss it with your doctor.

“When you get into a tight place and it seems you can’t go on, hold on,
for that’s just the place and the time that the tide will turn.”
~Harriet Beecher Stowe~

Celeste Cooper, RN, is a frequent contributor to ProHealth.  She is an advocate, writer and published author, and a person living with chronic pain. Celeste is lead author of Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain and Broken Body, Wounded Spirit, and Balancing the See Saw of Chronic Pain (a four book series). She spends her time enjoying her family and the rewards she receives from interacting with nature through her writing and photography. You can learn more about Celeste’s writing, advocacy work, helpful tips, and social network connections at CelesteCooper.com.

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