Be Aware of Triggers That Worsen Your Fibromylagia

Be Aware of Triggers That Worsen Your Fibromylagia

Through the Fog
Triggers are those things in our environment that increase our fibromyalgia (FM) pain, and they are not our friends. Some triggers are unavoidable like changes in weather, and some triggers can be avoided or changed, like the chemicals we use to clean. Let’s look at a few of these triggers for FM.

Weather: I always seem to know when bad weather is on the way because my pain increases, sometimes it increases very dramatically. Personally, it is the cold, snow, and rain that wreaks the most havoc with my pain and fatigue levels. Those are the days I get out my heated blanket and take more pain meds.

Chemical Cleaners: Many years ago I switched to natural cleaners because the smell of products such as bathroom cleaners, dusting sprays, floor cleaners, etc., really bothered me!! I couldn’t deal with the smells. Natural, citrusy-smelling cleaners were pleasant, as well as effective. Even my bathroom spray is a natural orange-scented spray. J.R. Watkins makes great cleaning products that work well and have a mild fragrance.

Perfume: I purposely stay away from those stores that spray you with perfume when you walk in. Ugh! Strong perfumes and aftershaves just make me nauseous. I haven’t worn perfume in many years because of that.

Overexertion: Why is it we push ourselves to do things that we know we will pay for? Overdoing it is never good for us, but it’s hard sometimes to listen to our bodies. Walking too far at one time, doing too many errands in one day, doing too much on those days when we feel pretty good. All of those are triggers to more pain and exhaustion. It’s really not worth it.

Food: I know this is a touchy subject, because let’s face it, who wants to give up certain foods when we already give up so much, right? But I find certain foods caused me more pain, and maybe they do you, too.  Foods such as: Gluten, MSG, sugar, dairy, simple carbs like cookies and some breads and crackers, food coloring, corn and other starch vegetables, nightshades like peppers, potatoes, and mushrooms, processed foods, caffeine, and fast foods to name a few. Be aware of how your body responds to what you’re eating, and be sure to drink lots of water.

Lack of Sleep: One thing I’ve found helpful for me is listening to quiet instrumental music at bedtime. I put it on a sleep timer on my phone and listen to it for about a half-hour. Or I listen to an audio book and put it on a sleep timer. It really relaxes me so I can fall asleep. Lack of sleep is definitely a trigger that needs to be addressed. Pain can keep us tossing and turning. Talk to your doctor about possible sleep medication, and increased pain meds at bedtime if you feel you need them to get a better night’s sleep.

Sensory Overload: Loud noises, bright lights, too many people talking, and strong odors all can be triggers. They can bring on cluster headaches, and just plain make me feel overwhelmed. I can’t stand the smell of nail polish, gasoline, or strong scented candles. I use lower wattage lightbulbs or dim the lights. I enjoy using essential oils in my diffuser as they can be calming as well.

What are some of your triggers? What changes have you made to accommodate them? Please share so  others may benefit.

Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.


  1. Serena says:

    I was originally dx’ed with Lupus in Nov of 2014. Or, ‘lupus-like symptoms.’ (The day after I told my boss at the time, he fired me – no notice, nothing “GET OUT!” – for “not taking the cart into the court room.” (Thanks for adding to the stress & pain).
    I went to another rheumy for a 2nd opinion & she dx’ed FM.
    Anyway, I’ve been a cop since 1991 (reserve, full-time, part-time, etc., currently reserving) and am on the volunteer fire department going on my 2nd year.
    Stress is funny. I don’t seem to have the FM type flares after stresses of the job (& they can certainly be traumatic and shocking), but more so – what I call – ‘unnecessary stress.’ Such as being fired on the spot; internal issues at work; back-stabbing, all including family (my mom, sister, bio-father’s inconsistency and often time verbal abuse) and in-laws (back to the back-stabbing); as well as my husband’s verbally abusive son from his first marriage. Etc., etc., etc. THOSE are the stressers that lead to a flare.
    I can say, as my Lord as my witness: I’ve NEVER been into drama, gossip, etc., even as a teenager. In fact as a teenager (sports, cheer, etc) I was the one the others came to when they knew they couldn’t trust anyone else.
    Funny – now, I’m a chaplain/minister 🙂
    Anyway, when I get “drug” into dramatic situations, it hurts — physically hurts. My social circle is TIGHT (always has been, but that is even more important with FMS). Including my FB – I don’t ALLOW junk as it is not entertaining to me, but draining. I’ve also learned that, in Christ like manner, I’m an empath. THIS is NOT the best thing when one has FMS. Ugh.
    Anyway…I was wondering if anyone else has the stresses that cause flares as well as stresses that do NOT cause flares?

      • Serena says:


        What makes it worse is that I tend to be a “people pleaser” so conflict among peers, family (outside of my home – thank goodness) really gets to me. Just count on a flare within about 12 hrs.

        I can’t take Excedrin for Migraine or anything bec, now, my liver enzymes are elevated, ALT, AST, and low blood sugar.

        Going for more labs this week since the sonogram was clear of possible liver cancer or disease.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Yes, hun I do. I get hives and rashes after a simple talking about a simple issue. I am venting, but still stress. I can not get emotional with out flares. It’s crazy!
      Doctors don’t help and a SSA case pending for benefits don’t help.
      I was fired for my job for being slow and in pain. My job was trying to get rid full time workers, and my illness gave them an excuse.
      Yes, FM is from compress immune system from stress and bad diet. Mostly stress, I think.

  2. Sandra Wallace says:

    Stress for me is the biggest trigger. Putting too much on my calendar, being under financial stress, having family problems. These are all things that trigger my symptoms. The next would be the weather. I look forward to spring and summer months. I live in the most sunny city in the U.S which helps because most days are warm and sunny. I live in Northern CA which helps to live in a warm climate. I am highly sensitive to chemicals as well like you said, I too get migraines from certain smells and chemicals.

  3. Ana Cea says:

    Thank you Robin for this article, after 7 years with FM, I’m so happy that I am not alone! It is crazy, don’t get me wrong, but read this give me some relief.

  4. Jenny says:

    Robin, all of these are triggers for me also. I just moved from Western CO (cold snowy winters) to warm and sunny AZ. My pain levels this winter have been noticeably reduced. I would definitely suggest moving to a warmer climate if able!

  5. Linda says:

    I was diagnosed 13 years ago with secondary progressive ms and fibromyalgia, arthritis and constant headaches including migraines.
    I have been taking 4.5mg of low dose naltrexone to help with fatigue.
    My question, is there anythingcan I take for pain relief, I’m in pain 24/7. I was taking morphine based patches but had to stop them as they would not be beneficial while taking low dose naltrexone. Can anyone suggest any other form of pain relief.
    In Scotland it’s not legal to buy cannabis.
    Sativax is available but at a high cost, most people cannot afford this.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Joan Baxendale says:

      I read combinations seem to work best for Fibro. I found 25mg of Amitriptyline and Celexa (not sure but think it’s 25 or 30 mg) at bedtime gave me tremendous relief with occasional flare ups from the usual stressors. Recently though I went off of the Celexa because of the weight gain associated with it. Within abou 2-3 weeks my pain level shot up substantially. I use my heating pad to help calm it and it does help some. Best to you.

  6. Kristina Vukanovich says:

    Hi, my name is Kristina and I am new to this but I wanted to share. I was recently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia/nerve pain. I wanted everyone to know to get there Vitamin D level tested. The subject of weather related triggers was brought up. Since I live in a rainy area, I just learned my Vitamin D was severely low and now I feel better since I am on a prescription for it for a little while. I had no idea, it would make a difference. Hope this helps.

  7. Irma says:

    My first diagnosed was lupus from my family practitioner, he referred me to a Rheumatologist who diagnosed me with RA, I was put on Methotrexate, and Prednisone, which did not work on me, and was sick all the time. I was so sick that when I went for a scheduled appointment, the PA walks in and immediately saw the distress I was in, I was in so much pain, exhausted, and I began to cry, I even thought to myself I didn’t want to live anymore. I felt I was not getting the care I should have, it was my third visit before I realized i was seeing the Nurse Practioner, and not the physician. The meds that my current Rheumatologist had me own, Lyrica, Cymbalta, Lefludemide, two others were not working, the fatigue, pain was unbearable. I have completely taking myself off all meds. The pain is there, but the drugged up feeling is gone.
    Does anyone also have the “Brain Fog” horrible.

    • Robin Dix says:

      Irma, wow, that was a horrible experience! My brain fog comes and goes. It’s worse if I take meds during the day or I’m super tired. I might suggest looking for a functional medicine doctor in your area – they don’t just treat symptoms, but get to the root of the issues and work with you to feel better

  8. J. M. Schull says:

    Hi all, I’m a 68 y.o. male and have had FM for most of my adult life, since around 30. I wasn’t actually diagnosed until 2006 when I found a Dr. that would listen to me. I emphasize with all of you, been there done that bought the T-shirt. I have been on every drug possible and nothing lasts or works for very long. Guifenisen maybe the only thing that inhibits the symptoms of FM. I am also taking Lortab 7.25. It’s not supposed to be effective on FM, but for me it helps. As you all have noted weather and weather changes seem to be the most common trigger for me especially if it’s windy. I can feel the wind in my body even when inside. I believe that its creates a vibration in the environment and house that non-FM people don’t feel. To me it hurts. Brain fog was a problem for years, but seems to have lessened overtime. I once spent over an hour wandering in a grocery store trying to figure out where pickles were. I walked by them 4 or 5 times. An elderly lady noticed my confusion and helped me, I was standing right next to the pickles at the time. I finally realized the problem was that they were on and end of an aisle next to the dairy case and the cold air from there was causing me to become confused. Plus it was summer and the A/C was chilly in the store. Long story short, I called my wife when I got outside and told her I was sorry, but I couldn’t complete my shopping trip. She was sympathetic and worried that I might not be able to get home. I assured her that once outside the store and in the sunshine I was back on track. The brain fog seems to have lessened over the years and was replaced by insomnia. It’s 5:51 a.m. and I’m still not sleepy. I wish I could give you all a magic bullet cure and advice, but there doesn’t seem to be one in my experience. LOL one of my favorite pieces of advice from my Dr. and many websites is, exercise. In my case exercise make me feel like hell. The pain is bad enough already why would I make it worse on purpose? I’ve probably gone on too long so I will shut up. If anybody knows where you can get the CBD patches I’d love to try it. I’ve used Hemp Oil before, which is CBD, and it does help. The price for a quart is pricey and taking it is like drinking butter flavored lawn clippings, very green tasting. TTFN

    • Robin Dix says:

      First J. M., let me say how sorry I am that you are suffering from this dreadful disease. I enjoyed reading your post and hope you will continue to offer insights in the future. I don’t know where to get the CBD patches but I’d love to try them

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