Living with Fibro

Migraines in Women & Fibromyalgia

fibromyalgia and Migraines

The condition of fibromyalgia is a considered to be a chronic pain condition. This condition affects around three to nine million adults in the United States.

Of course, you should be aware that this condition is not so much a specific disease, but is considered a syndrome. This means that it describes a specific pattern of symptoms that cluster together.

The most common symptoms in the condition of fibromyalgia are widespread pain through the body and sensitivity to any pressure at all on specific points in the body.

These are referred to as tender points. The weird part is that these particular points are sensitive to pressure in those who have the condition of fibromyalgia- while other, similar spots on other body parts are not.

In addition, there are those individuals who have other chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis or lower back pain that do not have pain when pressure is placed on these same spots.

Believe it or not, until 1990, the term “fibromyalgia” was actually used to describe a wide variety of completely unrelated chronic pain conditions.

However, in 1990, the American College of Rheumatology took initiative and established some very specific diagnostic criteria, which allowed for the correct identification for those individuals with this condition.

In order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the individual must have pain occurring on both sides of their body, as well as both above and below the waist. In addition, individuals must perceive pressure on the tender points as painful.

In addition to this body pain, individuals with this condition must experience a variety of other signs and symptoms such as disturbances in sleep, fatigue, stiffness upon waking, and abnormal sensations in their body, including tingling/numbness. Over half of these individuals report experiencing migraine headaches.

Individuals who have the condition of fibromyalgia also have many of the same signs and symptoms that those with chronic headaches do.

Migraines are very similar to this condition, in that they most commonly occur among women who are of child-bearing age.

In fact, women are affected around 7 times more often than men. In addition, as mentioned, the two often occur together.

One study of around 100 individuals with migraine revealed that around 36 percent of individuals had also been diagnosed with the condition of fibromyalgia.

Those who had fibromyalgia and headaches reported feeling much greater severity of pain and increased depression.

One other smaller study took around 70 individuals with the condition of fibromyalgia and compared them with individual who had chronic headaches.

Around 35 percent of the individuals with fibromyalgia also reported experiencing tension or migraine headaches.

In addition, around 42 percent of the individuals with migraines also experienced painful tender points throughout their bodies- similar to those present in the condition of fibromyalgia.

Other findings were very similar to the other study in that individuals with both conditions reported increased disability, more pain, and more depression than those who only had migraine headaches.

Researchers state that the general touch sensitivity on the tender points, which was found in about 40 percent of the individuals, suggests that the nervous system has become more sensitive or activated.

Basically, this means that around 40 percent of individual reported an increase in sensitivity throughout their entire body- including their head- which is very similar to what is felt in those individuals with the condition of fibromyalgia.

Of course, these studies explain to us that the condition of fibromyalgia, which is similar to some forms of chronic headache, could possibly be associated with an increase in excitement in the nervous system.

This means that it is overly responsive to stimulation that is typically not painful.

Very similar to migraine headaches, an increase in serotonin levels, which is a chemical in the brain that helps to fine-tune your painful experiences, is involved in the condition of fibromyalgia as well.

In addition, another substance, known as Substance P, is a chemical in the brain that is known to be part of pain sensation, is increased in those individuals who have the condition of fibromyalgia.

Finally, those individuals who experience painful chronic migraine headaches as well as fibromyalgia typically respond in very similar ways to stress- which is much different than those individuals who do not have either of these conditions.

Unfortunately, the medical experts are still not quite sure of the exact causes of the condition of fibromyalgia.

There are some individual that develop the signs and symptoms after a specific illness or trauma. On the other hand, there are others that develop this condition without any specific event triggering it.

The condition of fibromyalgia is not a progressive or degenerative one. This means that it is not likely to develop into something more serious such as memory loss, paralysis, or even a loss in overall functioning.

Some research has found that there are some migraine headache treatments that are also quite effective for reducing overall symptoms of the condition of fibromyalgia.

  • Antidepressants: these often have pain-relieving effects
  • Tizanidine: this is a muscle relaxer that also relieves pain
  • Pain management skills such as learning to manage stress, learning to cope, and learning to relax
  • Exercise

Of course, just like chronic migraine headaches, you must learn more about the condition of fibromyalgia and how you can manage the pain and other symptoms as well as keep them from having too much of an effect on your daily life.

Individuals with both of these conditions should start by using treatments that are known to be effective for both conditions.

The standard headache acute care/preventative techniques should be used when the headache persists after a particular fibromyalgia treatment has been completed. In addition, headache treatments should be used when that is your primary complaint.

If you are experiencing body pain across your entire body, it is critical that you speak with your physician about it.

If you have been diagnosed with the condition of fibromyalgia, you should be aware that you are at an increased risk for anxiety and/or depression. Individuals with fibromyalgia and chronic migraine headaches report more disability from their pain than those who have headache without the body pain.

If you do not recognize and treat your fibromyalgia, you may have an increase in your pain, anxiety, depression, and disability.

In addition, you must be aware that there are some therapies that are available for this condition that will offer a significant improvement in the headache as well as the widespread body pain.

Sources:

http://womenandfibromyalgia.com/2009/11/07/fibromyalgia-numbness-tingling-pins-and-needles/

http://chronicfatigue.about.com/od/whyfmscfsarelinked/a/Headaches-and-Migraines-In-Fibromyalgia-and-Chronic-Fatigue-Syndrome.htm

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Living with Fibro

5 Comments

  • This is a serious issue and should be treated as such. we (women) are more at risk of migraines related to fibromyalgia . however some fibromyalgia related migraines can run in the family, thereby making it herrideotry. I had a friend who was suffering from migraine related to fibromyalgia, it started after she gave birth, stress and insufficient sleep was the caused, but the main thing that triggered it was change in lifestyle, which occure after giving birth.
    Since one of the main causes is stress, we should learn to relax, make time for ourselves. we all know how hard it is to overcome something like this, but instead of looking at what caused it, we should look forward to getting rid of it, at first it might hurt and feel difficult but as time goes on, the pain will go away.

    • I have to wonder about that. I think finding out what caused it or what triggers are there (better or worse) can greatly help dealing with the condition. For example, some migraines are triggered by certain foods. Even tho we don’t know why someone with that trigger has chronic migraines to begin with, we at least know that certain foods cause the onset of said migraines. Thus that person knows to avoid those certain foods.

  • Nice article! I have a few questions.

    1. The article says fibromyalgia “could possibly be associated with an increase in excitement in the nervous system. This means that it is overly responsive to stimulation that is typically not painful”. So does this mean that pain felt doesn’t have to be because of tenderness? I have joint and muscle pain (low back pain, neck pain, ankle pain etc) as well as chronic migraines that the doctors are ready to diagnose as fibromyalgia. The trouble is that the spots that I say are in pain are not tender to the touch. Since they aren’t really tender points like in the article, is this still considered fibromyalgia?

    2. The article says, “there are some therapies that are available for this condition that will offer a significant improvement in the headache as well as the widespread pain body pain”. What types of therapies are helpful? Do any of them have significantly higher success rates than others? I’m looking to start treatment and reduce this pain.

    Again, great article. Any knowledge or advice you can impart would be appreciated!

    • My doctor put me on a combination of supplements. For me it’s made a huge difference in the headaches. The combo is as follows: vitamin d – 5000 ui daily, vitamin b2 – 200 mg twice daily, magnesium – 250 mg twice daily (magnesium citrate is best for pain), vitamin b 12 – 1000 mcg once a day

  • I have a family member who has fibromyalgia. This is interesting to hear that many sufferers also experience migraines. And it’s so common! I think said family member did say they experienced migraines now and then. There wasn’t a pattern that I noticed in conjunction with their symptoms but then again I was younger and didn’t pay as much attention. I’ll be keeping and ear out the next time I see them and start looking for this symptom.

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