What Does 'Fibro Flare' Mean?

A 'fibro flare' is a flare-up of fibromyalgia symptoms.

It sounds simple, but the complexity of the term comes with its context. There is a long list of fibromyalgia symptoms, and they do not express the same way in everyone. They are not always present either, and even when they are, they can still increase in magnitude and severity.

Thus, when someone says they are having a fibro flare, the reality of that experience is dependent upon their expression of fibromyalgia syndrome.

In other words, my experience with fibro flares could be entirely different from someone else’s. The common denominator is simply that we’re experiencing an increase in - or a sudden onset of - symptoms.

Flares can last from days to weeks and range in severity.

Most common symptoms of fibromyalgia

  • pain

  • fatigue

  • lack of energy

  • trouble sleeping

  • depression or anxiety

  • memory problems and trouble concentrating

  • headaches

  • muscle twitches or cramps

  • numbness or tingling in the hands and feet

  • itching, burning, and other skin problems

A person’s expression of fibromyalgia also fluctuates, making it hard for themselves and those in their network to predict what the next flare will be like, when it will happen, or why. For example, some persons with fibromyalgia have one or a mix of symptoms every single day. Others may only experience symptoms during flares. Still, others may have lived experiences with both.

Temperature fluctuations and sensitivities, sensitivities to light / sound / smell / touch, and digestive challenges are not uncommon, either.

What causes a fibro flare?

While fibromyalgia can be unpredictable, there are ways we can reduce the likelihood or at least the severity of flares by knowing our bodies and our triggers (and acting accordingly). That last part is the hardest, I know.

Triggers for flares include:

  • Stress

  • Lifestyle (including diet, schedule, and sleep) changes

  • Weather changes

  • Hormonal changes

  • As a result of a specific treatment

Drug and alcohol use and abuse can also increase the likelihood of triggers and flares.

Again, triggers are a personal thing. For example, some people with fibromyalgia are more sensitive to weather and temperature changes than are others. Some people can work very hard and spend many spoons doing everything “right” when it comes to their health, and environmental or social factors like relationship breakdowns, job loss, or death can trigger them nonetheless. Some people may see marginal changes to their flares from any one reduction strategy, rather finding relief in many approaches combined.

Some unsolicited advice…

When you have a flare-up, try not to play the blame game, but do assess where things are at for you mentally, physically, and spiritually. What preceded this flare? Pinpointing is more productive than shaming. Acknowledge the potential trigger so you can work to reduce its likelihood (as best you can) in the future. Some things really are out of our control, though. Do not beat yourself up if you are in a flare and don’t know why or cannot immediately change your situation. For example, abusive relationships can create a flare-forward living environment. It’s not reasonable to expect yourself to curtail every flare in an already toxic environment.

Look around, look within, and remember to be gentle on your journey. A flare now does not mean a flare forever.


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