Fibro’s Unwelcome Friends

Fibro’s Unwelcome Friends

Through the Fog

I know that I’m not alone in the fact that FMS is not the only thing I deal with. How about you? Let’s look at some of those unwelcome friends and how they impact our journey, shall we?

Irritable Bowel Syndrome, aka IBS. This can result in various symptoms: diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramping, sweating, and nausea. The symptoms are intermittent and can be brought on by stress or certain foods. Anyway you look at it … it’s no fun!

Debilitating chronic fatigue. This is the most difficult symptom for me to deal with, and the most frustrating! I have to plan my day and activities outside the home very carefully. Even a two-hour dentist appointment will do me in for days. Thanks to this unwelcome friend, I spend most of my time in bed. Even sitting for a couple of hours will cause me to hit the proverbial wall, and I HAVE TO lie down.

Costochondritis. Initially, when I first experienced this, I thought I was having a heart attack. The cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone becomes inflamed and causes a lot of pain. It often resolves itself in a few hours or days, but if you’ve never experienced it before, it can be really scary. If you think you might be having a heart attack, go to the ER. Better to be safe.

Muscle weakness. My thigh muscles are weak and keep me from walking longer than five minutes at a time, unless I have a shopping cart to help support me. It gets much worse if I push myself and walk too far at one time. My arm muscles are also weak. That prevents me from holding a book, carrying anything heavy, or spending too much time typing. Well-meaning people tell me that if I exercise more, it will get better. I’ve not found that to be true.

Lack of quality sleep. If I have a hard time falling asleep, I put a drop of lavender essential oil on the pulse point of my wrist and rub my wrists together. It really helps me fall asleep. According to the National Institutes of Health (, we usually pass through five phases of sleep: stages 1, 2, 3, 4, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. These stages progress in a cycle from stage 1 to REM sleep, then the cycle starts over again with stage 1. We spend almost 50 percent of our total sleep time in stage 2 sleep, about 20 percent in REM sleep, and the remaining 30 percent in the other stages. Infants, by contrast, spend about half of their sleep time in REM sleep.

The NIH continues:

During stage 1, which is light sleep, we drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily. Our eyes move very slowly and muscle activity slows. People awakened from stage 1 sleep often remember fragmented visual images. Many also experience sudden muscle contractions called hypnic myoclonia, often preceded by a sensation of starting to fall. These sudden movements are similar to the “jump” we make when startled. When we enter stage 2 sleep, our eye movements stop and our brain waves (fluctuations of electrical activity that can be measured by electrodes) become slower, with occasional bursts of rapid waves called sleep spindles. In stage 3, extremely slow brain waves called delta waves begin to appear, interspersed with smaller, faster waves. By stage 4, the brain produces delta waves almost exclusively. It is very difficult to wake someone during stages 3 and 4, which together are called deep sleep. There is no eye movement or muscle activity. People awakened during deep sleep do not adjust immediately and often feel groggy and disoriented for several minutes after they wake up. Some children experience bedwetting, night terrors, or sleepwalking during deep sleep.

When we switch into REM sleep, our breathing becomes more rapid, irregular, and shallow, our eyes jerk rapidly in various directions, and our limb muscles become temporarily paralyzed. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises, and males develop penile erections. When people awaken during REM sleep, they often describe bizarre and illogical tales — dreams.

Research suggests that people with fibromyalgia are constantly aroused by bursts of “awake” brain activity, which limits the amount of time they spend in these critical deep stages of sleep. “On EEG studies, fibromyalgia patients in deep-sleep stages have been found to have alpha waves, which are signs of arousal or wakening,” says Patrick Wood, MD, chief medical advisor for the National Fibromyalgia Association. One study found that fibromyalgia patients experience at least twice as many arousals per hour as people without the disorder.

Foggy thinking. Difficulty concentrating and remembering. Seriously, in a matter of seconds, I completely forget what I was going to do. It’s like your brain has taken a vacation to a cloudy island. Have you ever had so much on your mind that you put the milk in the cupboard and the cereal in the refrigerator? Put you ATM pin on your microwave and stand there waiting? It is normal for people to occasionally misplace their keys, struggle to pay attention during conversations, or have difficulty concentrating on paperwork. For those of us with fibromyalgia, problems with concentrating and remembering happen more frequently, and can definitely be more severe.
It helps to have a good sense of humor with fibro fog.

What are your thoughts?

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.