It is difficult to understand why fibromyalgia can cause fatigue in some sufferers. The symptom could be a side-effect of the chronic pain experienced by some patients. A lot of energy is directed towards trying to fight the syndrome, which can leave the sufferer drained and exhausted. Here, our muscle and joint expert Earle Logan talks about how fibromyalgia can cause fatigue and what herbal and self-help solutions are available.
Fibromyalgia shares many of its symptoms with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so logically, fatigue is one of the most common symptoms. Fatigue is the feeling of debilitating exhaustion, both mentally and physically. Often a fibromyalgia sufferer will struggle to get through a day without having to spend hours sitting or lying down.
The causes of fibromyalgia itself are still largely being researched. This means that it is still not fully understood why fibromyalgia causes fatigue. However, several theories have been put forward, and it seems that all may have their part to play in causing fatigue.
The symptom that springs to mind when considering fibromyalgia is chronic widespread pain. Aside from this continual pain being mentally very draining, it can have an impact on other areas of your lifestyle.
Being in pain can make it difficult for you to switch off and sleep at night, and it is not uncommon for fibromyalgia patients to experience some form of sleep problem. However, with poor quality and quantity of sleep, the body does not receive the required rest time. Anyone can tell you about the feelings of fatigue after a night of poor sleep, but when this occurs night after night, symptoms of fatigue become very troublesome.
Additionally, it is common for fibromyalgia patients to become stressed or anxious, usually because of their trying lifestyle. This can dissipate energy from recovering and repairing muscles, making it harder for you to summon energy for physical movement. It also leads to muscle tension which in turn can worsen pain, and so the vicious cycle continues.
Fatigue results in decreased activity levels. However, this means that any exertion will be a much greater effort, and so you are likely to tire very quickly. Fibromyalgia is sometimes described as a ‘push and crash syndrome,’ where sufferers make a physical effort, even if it is just working for an hour or two, or going for a walk to the post office, but afterwards have to spend several hours lying down recovering.
When fatigued the instinct is to get some rest, and in fact, it is often worth listening to your body and following this advice. However, you should try to teach your body to settle into a routine so that you sleep well at night and have more energy during the day. If you are spending a large proportion of the day resting, the chances are high that you will struggle to gain restful sleep at night.
Even though it is easier said than done, keeping stress to a minimum is important. Being stressed can sap energy, causing more fatigue. Often fibromyalgia patients suffer from stress and low mood due to their troublesome symptoms, but find that having something to focus on, such as learning a language or musical instrument, or even keeping in contact regularly with close friends, helps to reduce stress levels.
Additionally, it is also important to eat a healthy diet, and to stay hydrated. Consuming the correct nutrients each day aids muscle function and is the most important source of energy. Taking energy boosting supplements such as caffeine or refined sugar, may help in the short-term but will reduce energy in the long-term. They also have a dehydrating effect, and so it is better to drink plenty of water.
The herb Eleutherococcus, also known as Siberian Ginseng, has a traditional use as an adaptogen, a substance which helps the body to adapt to unfavourable physical or mental stress. For this reason, if you feel that your fatigue has been worsened by stress, this herb may help. However, you should check with a doctor before taking this herb, as it cannot be taken along with certain medications, including blood pressure or heart medications.
If you are struggling to sleep at night, and feel that it may be contributing to your fatigue, then the herb Valerian may help. It is a herbal alternative to sleeping pills, which does not involve the typical side-effects of conventional sleeping pills. It can be found in the licensed herbal remedy Dormeasan® Sleep Valerian-Hops oral drops.
If you have not found home and herbal remedies to be effective, it is worth consulting your doctor, as he is likely to suggest an alternative form of treatment. Although there is no magic cure for fatigue, many people find treatments such as cognitive behavioural therapy help to manage their symptoms.
A doctor may also encourage you to track your activity levels throughout the day, and from there help you to structure your day so that you incorporate enough hours of activity, balanced with periods of rest.
If pain is causing you to feel more fatigued, your doctor may be able to recommend an effective painkiller for your symptoms.
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