Fibromyalgia fatigue feels like a constant state of weariness that diminishes your energy and mental capacity. The fatigue can be even more debilitating than the pain. The overwhelming tiredness makes our body feel heavy and weak. It contributes to brain fog increasing memory loss and forgetfulness. The fatigue can be all the time or last for months on end.
Fatigue is the second most prominent symptom of fibromyalgia, with pain being the first. When coupled with severe fatigue the pain is even harder to bear. Studies have shown that the amount of fatigue a person with fibromyalgia experiences directly impacts the amount of pain they have. Fatigue also has an impact on your emotions and is linked to depression.
The fatigue associated with fibromyalgia is similar to that of chronic fatigue syndrome (renamed “systemic exertion intolerance disease”). In fact, many people who have fibromyalgia may also have CFS/SEID as well. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that 50 to 70 percent of people with fibromyalgia also fit the criteria of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Why Are We So Exhausted?
For people with fibromyalgia and/or CFS, the conditions themselves cause fatigue. Other factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, lifestyle, and medications can make the fatigue worse.
Below are a few reasons you may feel exhausted:
Sleep Disorders – Lack of good quality sleep is a big part of the problem. Sleep problems are so common in fibromyalgia that symptoms such as waking un-refreshed, fatigue, tiredness, and insomnia are included in the diagnostic criteria for FMS.
Mitochondrial Dysfunction – Fatigue is a hallmark symptom of mitochondrial dysfunction. Mitochondrial inside our cells convert nutrients and oxygen to energy. With fibromyalgia, the mitochondria of many cells in the body have been shown to be impaired. This means we do not have enough energy to power our body.
Stress – One symptom of long-term stress is fatigue. Some experts believe chronic stress is a strong contributing factor for developing fibromyalgia. Many of us with fibro know that stress will trigger a symptom flare-up very quickly. Chronic stress is also a precursor to anxiety and depression.
Anxiety or Depression – Anxiety and depression can both cause fatigue and leave you feeling drained. People suffering from depression are 4 times more likely to suffer from fatigue. People who suffer from fatigue are 3 times more likely to become depressed. People with fibromyalgia are likely to suffer from anxiety and/or depression. It all becomes a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.
Poor Nutrition – Experts say poor nutrition is a big culprit when it comes to fatigue in general. We know there are several nutritional deficiencies involved with fibromyalgia so eating healthy and getting the proper nutrients is extremely important.
Medications – Many prescription and nonprescription medications can cause weariness and fatigue. A few examples are anti-anxiety medications, antidepressants, high blood pressure medications and statin medications for high cholesterol. The more medications you take the more likely you are to feel fatigued.
Studies published earlier this year, help explain why individuals dealing with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) and Fibromyalgia have poor response to physical activity and poor energy production.
Ways To Fight Fibromyalgia Fatigue
Fibromyalgia fatigue is not that easy to treat. On good days, the fatigue can be tolerable. However, on bad days ordinary activities seem virtually impossible.
Here are some tips that can help deal with fatigue:
Use Your Energy Wisely – Take breaks and pace yourself. Even if you are having a good day don’t try to do too much, it will only cause a setback. So keep your schedule simple, know your limitations and rest when you need to.
Exercise – I know the thought of exercising can be overwhelming, but the lack of exercise can make your muscles stiff and more painful, which also contributes to feeling fatigued. Start slow and pick a time of day that works best for you.
Eat Well – Eating a nutritious diet is good for your overall well-being. Avoid sugary, fried and processed food which can leave you feeling bogged down. Cooking can make me feel exhausted. On days I have more energy, I either make meals ahead or at least do some of the prep work to make it easier.
Reduce Stress – Fibromyalgia can be stressful and stress can leave you more fatigued. If you can learn to manage your stress, you will have more energy. Deep breathing, meditation, yoga and listening to music are a few stress management techniques that help me.
Prioritize Sleep – Sleep disturbances are common with fibromyalgia. The lack of quality sleep can cause fatigue and worsen fibromyalgia symptoms. Some experts believe that disordered sleep is the most important symptom to treat when you have fibromyalgia. I know that when I sleep well I feel better. When I can’t sleep I feel worse all the way around.
Talk To Your Doctor – If your medications are making you even more tired, talk with your doctor. He or she may be able to prescribe an alternative, lower your dosage, or have you try taking your medicine at a different time of day.
Energy Boosting Supplements – Four supplements that help your body produce more energy are Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), D-Ribose, Magnesium and Vitamin B. It is important to keep in mind that supplements can negatively affect certain health conditions and interact with certain medications. Please do your research and check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure they are safe for you to take.
Fibromyalgia fatigue can be crippling. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting. On bad days, you can barely drag yourself out of bed. You feel drained. The overwhelming tiredness will not go away. You can’t concentrate, remember things or stay focused. Believe me, I know how it feels. I can’t remember the last time I felt full of energy or haven’t felt exhausted at some point in the day.