How to Manage Unique Menstrual Symptoms in Fibromyalgia

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The Menstrual Cycle and Fibro Pain

The menstrual cycle and fibromyalgia combination tends to lead to an increase in pain and inflammation due to the levels of hormones in the body that have to do with serotonin and dopamine. If you are in a state of hyper-arousal, you will also feel greater Pain. Through a process that is not yet fully understood, the pain and inflammation associated with fibromyalgia can increase during this time as well.

Part of it is attributed to the body’s natural tendency to retain water during the menstrual cycle. This water retention can increase pressure on inflamed tissue and cause greater pain, which may be experienced with more sensitivity do to the increased hormone levels in the body.

I attended my first national fibromyalgia seminar at age 47 after experiencing its symptoms since childhood. There, I learned my unusual menstrual symptoms were not unique, even though they never were described in any of the literature I’d read. Fellow patients reported having symptoms similar to mine and completely unlike those of their healthy friends or relatives.

Every month several hours before my cycle began, I became one big mass of muscle tension. I was manic; I wanted to scream for no reason at all. It felt like I had two internal rubber bands, one connected from my abdomens to my toes, the other from my abdomen to my fingers, and they were being pulled simultaneously. My toes curled and my fist clenched. I would sweat profusely and moan involuntarily. No amount of Midol or anything else relieved this agony. Only sleep (even if only for a few minutes) would ease the tension and the telltale sign would appear in my underwear upon awakening.

Endometriosis, Illness, Disease, Menstruation, Female

via Pixabay

How to manage pain during the cycle

There are many ways that you can help to manage your menstrual cycle and fibromyalgia. Many doctors recommend an SSRI to help maintain an even serotonin and dopamine reaction in the body. You may also want to try a diuretic during the menses stage.

Eating a diet that avoids foods that can increase water retention and inflammation-such as foods that are too high in salt and that have been cooked at very high temperatures can help to regulate symptoms and pain as well. Exercise is considered to be under-prescribed for fibromyalgia and is one of the most effective ways of managing the condition, and hormone production in the body. Many of the alternative exercises, such as yoga or tai chi, teach a form of breathing that aids in pain management as well.

Why doesn’t it affect all women in the same way?

Not all women experience menstrual cycle and fibromyalgia symptom increase. Science is beginning to think that the levels of progesterone produced during the leuteal phase are what determine a flare up in symptoms but that since these levels are not going to be the same in every woman, the change in symptoms won’t be as well. It is not a case of an increase in progesterone being, the problem, but the amount of the increase as compared to the base level of homone in the body. The more dramatic the increase, the more a woman may experience increased fibromyalgia symptoms. Another aspect of the complications of the menstrual cycle and fibromyalgia symptoms lies in the mood difficulties associated with the cycle.

The role of estrogen in mood

Many woman experience a form of pre-menstrual syndrome that is marked by a change in mood stability. This is due to the increased levels of estrogen that occur on or near the on-set of menses. Estrogen is related to how the body and mind controls and processes serotonin and dopamine.

The influx or depletion of the hormone can cause mood swings that can make you over-reactive compared to how your emotional state is during non-hormonal cycles. With women who have dramatic increase in progesterone during the leuteal cycle there may be higher levels of estrogen produces on or near the time of menses, leading to greater mood disparity.

Tips for how to keep yourself going

Dealing with your menstrual cycle and fibromyalgia can seem like a very unfair hand to have been dealt in life. There are many ways to manage the symptoms of both so that you don’t lose your quality of life while experiencing each. One of the best ways to damage fibromyalgia symptoms is to create a bedtime routine that will help keep your body and your cycles on track. A healthy diet and lifestyle is also recognized as essential to pain and inflammation management.

Your doctor may also prescribe SSRI and anti-inflammatory medication to help you to be able to learn new lifestyle habits more easily. There are also many alternative and complementary treatments that women with fibromyalgia have had great success with in controlling their symptoms.


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