Stress and Fibromyalgia
People who have fibromyalgia deal with a lot more than the stress of constant pain and fatigue. Experts believe that people with FMS actually suffer from a malfunction in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the body's primary communications channel for dealing with stress. Research has shown that people with fibromyalgia have much higher ongoing stress levels than normal people. As a result, they secrete hormones in the HPA axis differently, which can deplete their levels of essential stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These reduced levels contribute to the chronic stress and ill feeling that's common among people with fibro.
Stress Aggravates Pain
Virtually any kind of pain is worse when it's accompanied by stress. Premenstrual cramps are more aggravating when you're stressed out at work. A backache is more painful when you're having problems getting along with your spouse. Arthritis typically hurts more when you're dealing with holiday preparations. The same is true for people with fibromyalgia. In fact, stress is one of the triggering factors that can set off a bad flare-up.
Stress Inhibits Sleep
One reason your pain may worsen when you're stressed out is that chronic stress makes it hard to sleep. Your mind is busy dwelling on your lengthy to-do list, your new assignment at work, or the argument you had with your husband. If you have fibromyalgia, you may be fretting about what you can no longer get done or how you're going to handle your pain. As a result, you cannot relax, and so you toss and turn.
Stress Worsens Fibro Fog
When stress is chronic, you lose the ability to concentrate. Your memory falters, and you're not as sharp as you might have been. For people with fibromyalgia who are already vulnerable to fibro fog, stress only makes matters worse. Add sleep deprivation and the side effects of some medications, and you can see how fibro fog can become a serious, debilitating problem. You may find yourself at a loss for words, unable to focus even on simple tasks, and incapable of remembering anything new.