As if periods aren’t bad enough for some women, females with fibromyalgia experience even more aches and pains during that time of the month.
Women are 10 times more likely than men to get fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes fatigue and muscle and joint pain. And for some of these women, there’s one time each month when fibromyalgia symptoms and pain become worse — their period.
The part of your nervous system responsible for regulating your periods is sensitive to any changes that your body experiences, including symptoms associated with fibromyalgia and other conditions.
“Many women report an increase in fibromyalgia symptoms just prior to their periods and during menses,” says Sawsan As-Sanie, MD, MPH, assistant professor, department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. “Overall pain and sensitivity change during the menstrual cycle.”
Fibromyalgia’s effects on the menstrual cycle are individual, and not all women have increased fibromyalgia pain or other symptoms. However, any symptom that is really bothersome to a fibromyalgia patient, explains Dr. As-Sanie, may get worse during her menstrual period.
5 Fibromyalgia Symptoms That May Get Worse During Menstruation
Symptoms most likely to flare up during your period include:
- Widespread pain
- Memory problems
- Difficulty sleeping
Fibromyalgia patients may also experience an increase in mood swings and dysmenorrhea, menstrual pain strong enough to disrupt your day-to-day activities.
While fibromyalgia symptoms may worsen during your menstrual period, menstruation does not directly bring on a flare-up of fibromyalgia. There is also not just one cause. “Many underlying factors drive fibromyalgia symptoms, not just estrogen or progesterone but other hormonal variations in the brain,” says As-Sanie.
Does Menopause Worsen Fibromyalgia Pain?
According to As-Sanie, many women whose fibromyalgia symptoms worsen during their menstrual periods experience a steadier pattern of fibromyalgia symptoms after menopause, though not necessarily a lessening of them. “Some women’s fibromyalgia actually gets worse during menopause, and for about half of all women with fibromyalgia, their fibromyalgia symptoms will stay the same,” says As-Sanie. “Overall, women’s fibromyalgia symptoms do not consistently get worse or better following menopause.”
How to Get Fibromyalgia Pain Relief During Your Period
To treat fibromyalgia symptoms during your menstrual period, As-Sanie suggests that you continue following your fibromyalgia treatment. She also recommends that you do not change or stop your fibromyalgia medication over the course of your menstrual cycle. “For fibromyalgia medications to work, they must be taken on a consistent basis,” says As-Sanie.
Fibromyalgia medication and treatments that can help include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, exercise, and cognitive behavior therapy, says As-Sanie. These may help women whose fibromyalgia worsens before or during their periods.
Another possible treatment path is birth control pills. “For gynecological problems associated with periods, such as severe cramping, the Pill may be beneficial,” says As-Sanie.
Getting plenty of rest just prior to and during your period may also help your fibromyalgia symptoms. Other remedies that allow you to better manage pain and other symptoms include:
- Massage therapy
- Heating pads
- Whirlpool baths
- Pilates or yoga
It is also important to avoid stressful situations during menstruation since stress can increase pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms. Meditation, breathing exercises, and other relaxation techniques may help you get your stress level under control.
If your fibromyalgia symptoms worsen during your period, talk to your doctor about treatment options. Because fibromyalgia symptoms vary among women, a personalized approach to treating your symptoms may be just what the doctor ordered.
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