Fibromyalgia Awareness and Aggravating Conditions

By Celeste Cooper

May is Fibromyalgia Awareness Month.
And what a month it is! In many parts of the US, spring rains of April have brought an environment exploding with color and texture as saplings emerge, promising hope and feelings of rebirth.

All these things make May a wonderful month to raise awareness for fibromyalgia. We will see many campaigns across social media platforms, and we should all contribute in some way, if only to share it with someone else.  However, we should also remember, as the month begins to warm, other things need our attention.

As the season beacons us outdoors, our activity increases, as it should.  We will experience the reality of spring storms and, if we aren’t paying close attention, weather changes that can affect us. We may, and probably do, have overlapping or co-existing conditions that put us on red alert, but we must pay attention because while our emotional well-being often improves by getting outside, not all conditions bode well with sudden surges in physical activity.

Three reasons for us to remain aware:

  1. When our spirits are high, we tend to ignore warning signs of an impending problem.

  2. Managing all conditions, not just fibromyalgia, is necessary.

  3. Awareness of symptoms improves the likelihood that we get the right treatment for the right problem.

According to the American College of Rheumatology, having other rheumatic conditions increases the risk of developing fibromyalgia. Dr. Robert Bennett has suggested to me that fibromyalgia is usually accompanied by another painful disorder as outlined in the Alternative Criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia of which he is lead investigator.

While some of the following may not be directly related to FM, they should be considered as aggravating conditions if you have been diagnosed. 

Aggravating and Possible Overlapping Conditions

  • AIDS/HIV infection

  • Allergy

  • Autonomic nervous system problems (neurally mediated hypotension, loss of heart rate variability)

  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or RSD

  • ME/CFS or Gulf War syndrome

  • Headaches, severe

  • Hypometabolism – adrenal insufficiency, insulin resistance, reactive hypoglycemia, hypoglycemia, hypothyroidism, thyroid resistance

  • Infection – candidiasis (yeast), viral, or bacterial

  • Inner ear dysfunction

  • Irritable bowel syndrome or leaky gut syndrome

  • Mouth problems associated with fibromyalgia (dry mouth, teeth grinding, TMJ)

  • Multiple chemical sensitivity

  • Musculoskeletal problems – myofascial pain syndrome, piriformis syndrome or sciatica, plantar fasciitis, carpal or tarsal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis

  • Neurological disorders – costochondritis, degenerative spine and/or disc disease,

  • Multiple sclerosis, neuralgia (nerve pain), peripheral neuropathy, thoracic outlet syndrome, restless leg syndrome

  • Psychological distress – anxiety and/or depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seasonal affective disorder (SAD)

  • Urological problems – vulvodynia, impotence in men, chronic pelvic pain, irritable bladder, endometriosis

  • Raynaud’s phenomenon or disease

  • Rheumatic disorders – ankylosing spondylitis, bursitis,  hypermobility syndrome or EDS, polymyalgia rheumatic, post-polio syndrome, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Sjogren’s syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus

  • Sleep disorder

Other Aggravating Factors

  • Poor posture

  • Repetitive movement

  • Structural deformity, scoliosis, lordosis, kyphosis (one foot shorter than the other)

  • Overdoing and paradoxically under-doing – a really big one to consider as we emerge from hibernation

  • Disorganization and poor time management skills

  • Brainfog

  • Cold intolerance

  • Poorly identifying problems with medication and therapy

  • Ignoring diet

  • Thinking your symptoms will wait

While we may not be able to change overlapping or co-existing conditions, we can manage them better. After all, it is human to have room for improvement –  everyone does. And, be sure to report any new or escalating symptoms to your physician, as the treatment for other conditions are not the same as those for fibromyalgia.

We can do things to minimize the effects of a flare, such as taking it easy, avoiding known stressors, eating healthy, practicing mindfulness, moving, and identifying any important factors to avoid in the future.

I’m not going to vacuum ’til Sears makes one you can ride on.
Roseanne Barr ~

If you benefited from this information or have questions, please leave them in the comments below. I love learning from you.


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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