With Fibromyalgia, probably one of the most defining traits of this condition is our ability to “flare”.
Our already chronic condition becomes worse for a time, symptoms become more pronounced and this then triggers a whole host of accompanying issues from migraine, muscle & joint pain, fatigue……..the list goes on.
But what actually is a flare? What causes it and how can we move past it?
The Collins English Dictionary states that the definition of flare is:
- to burn or cause to burn with an unsteady or sudden bright flame
- to spread or cause to spread outwards from a narrow to a wider shape
- (transitive) to make a conspicuous display of
- to increase the temperature of (a molten metal or alloy) until a gaseous constituent of the melt burns with a characteristic flame or (of a molten metal or alloy) to show such a flame
- (transitive) sometimes foll by off (in the oil industry) to burn off (unwanted gas) at an oil well
- an unsteady flame
- a sudden burst of flame,
- a blaze of light or fire used to illuminate, identify, alert, signal distress, etc
- a spreading shape or anything with a spreading shape ⇒
a skirt with a flare
- a sudden outburst, as of emotion
- the unwanted light reaching the image region of an optical device by reflections inside the instrument, etc
- the fogged area formed on a negative by such reflections
- (astronomy) short for solar flare
- (aeronautics) the final transition phase of an aircraft landing, from the steady descent path to touchdown
- an open flame used to burn off unwanted gas at an oil well
Nowhere in their definition or any other that I can see contains the word Fibromyalgia. Yet for us sufferers, Fibro and Flare go together like Yin & Yang, strawberries & cream, Jekyll & Hyde – there is no one without the other.
Interesting then, that I have highlighted words in the definition that could be used in the same sentence as Fibromyalgia Flare up, it could almost be a symptom list.
Words like burn, distress, spreading, emotion, unwanted, fog, sudden can all be associated with Fibromyalgia and therefore it is no surprise that this is the word used to describe those periods of discomfort, pain and distress.
To try and describe a Fibro flare to anybody who has not experienced it is pretty much impossible I think. I have tried but am normally greeted with blank stares when you say your are in pain but then say well it’s not pain as such, more of a burn or an ache. It’s in my muscles but could it be my joints? No a painkiller won’t make me feel better. Sound familiar??
I am currently being held hostage by a fairly vicious flare, that I don’t seem to be able to get past. I have been feeling the effects for the past month, some days feeling worse than others. I honestly cannot remember a time where I felt so awful and wracked with pain. I am sure that I have had worse but I do tend to be grateful for the good days and do not dwell on the bad, so possibly they are erased from my memory.
This flare came without warning just before a holiday, I didn’t pay too much attention as I was convinced a week in the sun just chilling would soon have it heading for the hills; but my flare had other plans. Whilst it didn’t diminish the enjoyment of my time in Ibiza, it did see me collapsing into bed on the last day overcome by the heat and fatigue.
There are a number of reasons why our Fibromyalgia can flare:
- Stress – Probably the biggest cause of flare ups. I think this is definitely a factor in most of my flares. This is probably also the sneakiest of all the contributors as it usually sneaks up on us without our even knowing. Many issues can arise which by themselves aren’t necessarily a big deal but put them altogether and you can be faced with a major stress induced flare up.
- Changes in Weather – In England at the moment, our weather is currently fluctuating between cold, wet days and hot & humid. We can have all the seasons in one day. I think that barometric pressure is all over the pace and again I know that my headaches can come as a result of the weather changes. I can spot a thunderstorm coming a mile off. Thankfully flares as result of the weather changes are generally short lived, last just a day or two.
- Over-exertion – I have to say that this is the part of my condition that I struggle with most, given that I refuse to give in to Fibromyalgia and therefore, do tend to overdo things most of the time. For any of us, pushing ourselves too far is likely to result in a flare up. It is very easy when we feel good, to go like a bull at a gate to get all the those little jobs done and invariably, we do too much and end up paying for it later. Pacing is so important but I if I am honest, I really do find it difficult to practice what I preach here.
- Illness – If we are feeling a little off colour anyway, then even a slight cold or sore throat can cause of Fibro symptoms to flare. So it is important to listen to our bodies and rest before the additional flare symptoms kick in.
- Hormones – Fibro flares can result from changing hormones related to puberty, menstrual cycles and the menopause. If there is a pattern occurring that you flares do coincide particularly with your periods or you have seen them become more frequent or severe as result of the menopause, then it is probably a good idea to discuss this with your GP and see if they can help.
It is sometimes like fighting a losing battle but the reality of our flares is that they do ease off eventually be it in days, weeks or months. But how?
For me personally, I have never rolled over and given in to a flare but I am gentle with myself, I listen to my body and treat it accordingly. I will say at this point that I do still work full time during a flare, so I most likely prolong my symptoms but as with everything on this blog, this is my personal experience and I am not suggesting that any body does anything that may prove detrimental to their health.