Fatigue

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

We have all had that conversation when we have mentioned to someone, we have chronic fatigue and they have replied, “Yeah I know, I’m tired too, I didn’t get much sleep last night either!” Internally, we have just given an eye roll and a disappointed sigh because we just haven’t got the energy to explain.

Fatigue is different than being tired. When you are tired, you know that you will feel better after some quality sleep. However, with fatigue, exhaustion is still there when you wake up and often stays for longer periods of time. It is a lack of energy, a feeling of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion.

So what are the differences between Fatigue, Chronic Fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Fatigue VS Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What is Fatigue?

Fatigue refers to a sensation of exhaustion during or after usual daily activities or a lack of energy to begin these activities. Most people have fatigue at one time or another in their lives. Fatigue may result from exertion, lack of sleep, or acute illnesses (such as colds). Fatigue is not extreme or persistent, in such cases. Instead, it generally goes away after getting more rest or recovering from the acute illness.

What is Chronic Fatigue?

Symptoms of exhaustion or lack of energy over the last 6 months.

Chronic fatigue is a symptom of many chronic conditions

Including rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, or lupus.

Certain factors can play a role

Such as infection, hormone level changes, and stress.

Chronic fatigue often results from sleep disturbances, usually insomnia, in combination with chronic pain and depression.

In addition, other factors that may contribute to chronic fatigue symptoms include:

Physical inactivity and lack of exercise

Poor diet

Certain medications

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is also known as:

  • ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis)
  • SEID (systematic exertion intolerance disease)

CFS/ ME is the closest chronic condition to Fibromyalgia and often known as the sister illness. There are so many overlapping symptoms with Fibromyalgia that many sufferers and GP’s regard the two conditions as the same thing with Pain being the predominant symptom with Fibromyalgia and Fatigue the predominant symptom with CFS/ ME.

PEM – Post Exertional Malaise

PEM is a key part of CFS/ME. Using pacing techniques is crucial to staying within your baseline limitations and the limitations differ for everyone. Furthermore; the baseline can change too.

There is usually a delay of PEM of 1 to 2 days after you have exerted yourself, no matter how minor the activity. This can have a severe debilitating effect on our daily lives depending on the severity of cases and ‘crashes’ can last up to weeks.

Identifying what has caused symptoms to exasperate is also key to managing your condition. For some it could be just taking a shower and for others it could be a gym session.

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Are you unwittingly going to the gym 3 times a week and then finding you have flu like symptoms? You then take a break and start again but the flu like symptoms return?

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Do you come home from work knowing that the rest you need to recover for the next day is not enough?

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Is it difficult for you to concentrate or find the right words?

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Do you just hit the wall when a deadline is looming?

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Do you feel exhausted preparing for a holiday and then return unrefreshed and in fact feel worse than before you left?

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Does everything you do need extra effort?

According to NIAMS, to have a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, a patient must have severe chronic fatigue for 6 months or longer with other known medical conditions excluded by clinical diagnosis.

At the same time, the patient must have four or more of the following symptoms:

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Substantial impairment in short-term memory or concentration

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Sore throat

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Tender lymph nodes

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Muscle pain

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Joint pain in multiple joints without swelling or redness

N

Headaches of a new type, pattern or severity

N

Unrefreshing sleep

N

Discomfort after physical activity that lasts more than 24 hours

Is there a cure?

Sadly, there is currently no cure. However, there are measures and changes in lifestyle that can help reduce the ‘crashes’ or ‘hitting the wall.’

Along with Fibromyalgia you cannot fight this! You have to respect it, understand it, accept it. It’s a long road, it may be a life you hadn’t planned for and every time you deny it, you will pay the consequences.

Look at it as you have an alien inside you. You do not want to wake the alien or it will punish you, so you have to tread softly and slowly and not wake it up.

If you find your fatigue increases on a regular basis, familiarising yourself with the Spoon Theory and staying within your baseline limitation as best you can, will help you manage your symptoms.  You may want to further your understanding about mitochondria here.

In all cases, doing these may help with your symptoms:

Rest for as long as it takes to recover

Identify and stay within your baseline limitations

Pace your daily activities

Avoid sugar and processed foods

Practice relaxation regularly

Keep moving

Keep moving gently to ensure your muscles stay strong and healthy. For mild to moderate sufferers, we recommend gentle movement such as Tai Chi, Yoga, Pilates, Gentle Walks and Swimming.

Avoid over stimulation

Eliminate environmental factors such as stress and multiple chemical sensitivities.

Seek emotional support

A good support system is beneficial to help your emotional wellbeing. You can join a support group or self-refer to a counselling service.

Self Checks

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How long have you had these symptoms?

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How do the things you are able to do now differ from what you were able to do before you began to have these symptoms?

Do your symptoms prevent you from doing certain activities?

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How do you feel if you try to do activities that now feel difficult?

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What specific activities make you feel worse?

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Do you have any sleep problems?

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What helps you the most when you feel fatigued?

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Do you have any problems thinking clearly?

A person may be diagnosed with ME/ CFS if they meet all of the following criteria:

Six months of profound, unexplained fatigue

Post-exertional malaise

Unrefreshing sleep

Either cognitive problems or orthostatic intolerance

Other symptoms frequently experienced include:

  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
  • Feeling of generally being sick

If you are finding that your symptoms are still flaring into unmanageable episodes, you could be being triggered without realising by a Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is one of the primary co-conditions to Fibromyalgia and CFS. Symptoms often flare due to the toxins in the environment such as smells and toxic chemicals that are used on everyday products from laundry detergent, new upholstery to petrol and exhaust fumes. Many of us are unaware that our symptoms are constantly triggered by these toxins, and we continue to surround ourselves in toxic environments at home, at work and outside and by the products we put on ourselves or consume.

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Home

Air fresheners, carpet cleaners, wash powder/ liquid, cleaning products, new carpets, new furniture, new mattress, wifi radiation as well as family members fragrances

Work

Plastic lunch boxes/ soup containers, industrial cleaning products, co-workers’ fragrances, clean clothing smells, fresh, stale tobacco smells on others, body products used in changing rooms and even wifi radiation

Outside

Plants, car exhaust fumes, petrol fumes, smells from shops and businesses and smoke

Body

Shower gel, shampoo, body cream, face cream, talc, hair spray/gel/ mousse, perfume, aftershave, toothpaste, make up and processed foods

Almost all the above examples we would use or be exposed to without a second thought each day, however, we are putting our bodies into toxic overload. People suffering from fibromyalgia detoxing chemicals from the body. We can help reduce these symptoms by making conscious choices about the products we buy and use. Research natural alternatives that are scent free and have a smaller amounts of ingredients in.

Furthermore, when choosing new products, be aware of Formaldehyde, a carcinogenic chemical found in new car smell, new clothing, carpets and body products.

Overstimulation can have a wide range of effects on the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which is responsible for thousands of automatic processes your body does every day from passing wind to regulating blood pressure. Damage to the ANS can cause medical conditions known as Dysautonomias. It can also cause a delay to stress responses. You may find yourself with unexplained anxiety symptoms a couple of days after being exposed to the offending toxins. You may also be being treated for an anxiety disorder when it could be an environment toxin!

Not every product may trigger you. It’s a good idea to eliminate one product at a time. Keep a diary of how you feel and which symptoms you may be experiencing and when and then match it to the potential offending products.

Programmes and activities that Fibro Active offer to help manage your symptoms

Fibro Active have several programmes and activities that can help you with your symptoms of Fibromyalgia.  We focus on a healthy lifestyle, gentle exercise and sharing information whilst supporting it's members to accept and manage their illness in a positive and friendly atmosphere.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi for Arthritis is designed to enable people to be active when they are unable to participate in other forms of exercise. For more information as well as times and dates please visit our Tai Chi page.

Space to Think

We offer funded 1 to 1 emotional support sessions with a facilitator from Open Minds, a local Nottingham based charity. These sessions are open to group members and our Tai Chi students. 

ActiveAte

A new and fun interactive educational nutrition programme that aims to support those with living with Fibromyalgia and other related health conditions.