Fibromyalgia Symptoms in Women and How To Handle it
Sometimes it feels like that being a woman takes a significant toll on your body.
It is not only that you have to deal with regular physical and psychological ups and down but also you have to deal with several illness and problems targeted toward women than anyone else.
Fibromyalgia is one of those chronic painful conditions which seems to affect women more than anyone else.
Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain in the muscles, tendons, including other nuances of life such as a headache, sleep disturbance, problem concentrating and depression.
As per the article by American Society for Pain Management Nursing, women suffering from fibromyalgia conditions were also found to have higher pelvic pain syndromes than women getting treatment for pelvic pain at an Urogynecology clinic.
No one knows what causes fibromyalgia, but several research have pointed out that it is primarily caused by the malfunction of the stress and pain response of the body.
In fibromyalgia patients, the central nervous systems misrepresent the signal body produces and often sends the false signal to the brain.
As per research, the ratio of women to men with fibromyalgia condition is 9 to 1, and even in men, they have milder symptoms of fibromyalgia with fewer trigger points and fatigue than women overall.
Fibromyalgia Symptoms in Women
- Painful mensural period
- Easily fatigued and feeling dizziness
- An unexplained rapid change in body weight
- Tingling and burning sensations in arms and leg
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Trouble in thinking clearly and forgetfulness
- Increased bladder pain and bowel problems
- Sensitivity to change in temperature, loud noises, and bright lights
- A headache, and migraine that can cause nausea and vomiting
Why Fibromyalgia Affect Women More Than Men?
There are several reasons why the women are more affected with fibromyalgia than men, and some theories suggest that hormones in women such as estrogen are part of the reason.
The low estrogen levels are found to be responsible for the development of fibromyalgia condition in women.
However, there are other factors which cause women to be more affected than men.
Some of the areas which researchers are looking are at
- Immune System and Inflammation
- Brain Chemistry
Men and Women have different hormones levels in the body.
Men predominantly have testosterone whereas estrogen is more profound in women.
These hormones play critical roles in our body as they control simple body functions like being hungry to a complex system such as reproduction, emotions, and mood.
Although both men and women have some level of testosterone hormones, men have a higher level than women. Testosterone helps to prevent muscle fatigues and speed up the repair of damaged tissue.
The lower level of testosterone in women means that women are more likely to have muscle soreness or fatigue than men.
Hormonal changes in women such as a decrease in the estrogen which typically happens after menopause may contribute the symptoms like anxiety, depression, and difficulty in concentrating.
Estrogen and progesterone, female hormones, have an important role in controlling the reproduction process in the women but they also have significant effects on the central nervous system and the pain management.
A higher degree of estrogen level makes the brain hyperactive to pain signals whereas a lower estrogen level can result in a brain to fail to activate the natural pain-control process.
Do Women Way of Handling Stress Triggers Fibromyalgia?
Men and Women react to stress differently. Men, when under stress, seem to disengage from others while women are more likely to remain engage with others and look out social support and empathy.
A study monitored male and females under stress, and then their hormone levels were measured.
It was found that men tend to behave differently than women when stressed. The part of the brain which recognizes face was less activated in men than in the women.
The recognition of face was correlated to distancing itself from the stress producers.
We can say that men were able to manage stress more efficiently than women by distancing themselves from stress-producing reasons.
Stress changes the serum level of many hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamine, growth hormone and prolactin.
These changes are helpful for our survival in flight or fight response, but it also takes a heavy toll on our body.
The continuous presence of stress causes the decreased level of growth hormones and serotonin level.
These hormones are necessary to bring the body back to the normal stage after typical fight or flight response. From the evolutionary point of view, the higher level of the stress response is considered to be a survival mechanism.
For women, it becomes more important as being the reproductive member. Protecting the vulnerable offspring needed a higher rate of stress hormones to make women be on guard from possible threats.
However, given the fibromyalgia condition, the heightened level of sensitivity can increase the fibromyalgia symptoms far longer in women than men.
The Gender and Brain chemistry difference between men and women also explains the reason why women get more fibromyalgia symptoms than men.
The human body contain chemical called Serotonin which carries signals along and between nerves.
Serotonin is also known as a neurotransmitter and mainly found in the brain, bowels and blood platelets. Serotonin maintains the mood balance and reduced level of Serotonin may lead to depression.
People with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndromes have a low level of Serotonin in their body.
The men and women have different serotonin systems. The brain scan has shown that men and women have a different number of binding sites for serotonin in certain parts of the brain. (Source)
The women have a larger number of serotonin receptors than men but have a lower level of protein that transports serotonin back into the nerve cell that secretes it.
This causes deficiency in the Serotonin level and the side effect becomes more amplified in women suffering from fibromyalgia or chronic pain syndrome.
Other studies have shown that low level of serotonin makes men more impulsive but doesn’t cause other mood changes, wherein women it causes worsening moods, increase in depression and anxiety and makes them more cautious.
Fibromyalgia Symptoms and Menstrual Cycle
A study published in Journal of Psychosomatic Res examined the mensural cycle on pain and emotion in women with fibromyalgia and compared the results to the women with rheumatoid arthritis and other healthy participants.
It was found that women with fibromyalgia condition experienced more pain, mensural cramps and higher negative emotions than other women. The mensural pain intensity level varied throughout the mensural cycle.
It is not uncommon for women with fibromyalgia to have heavier and more painful periods. During the mensural period, the women’s body start preparing for the possible pregnancy and the lining of the uterus begins to thicken.
The estrogen is a natural pain suppressor and peaks during the mensural cycle, but the brain also releases several other hormones which sometimes trigger fibromyalgia symptoms.
Before the start of the period, the estrogen level is at the lowest level and continues over the next few days.
It may explain the reason that many women are more sensitive to pain in general before and during their period.
The pain usually subsides as the period is over because the estrogen hormones come back to its normal level.
Women with fibromyalgia start menopause nearly ten years earlier than average women, and this chronic painful condition continues after it.
Where other painful conditions such as a migraine typically go down after menopause, for many women, fibromyalgia symptoms continue after menopause and into their senior years.
How To Reduce Mensural Pain With Fibromyalgia Condition?
There are several ways to cope with the pain and suffering caused by the mensural periods. Being better prepared for the next time will not permanently cure the pain but will help you to manage it better.
Some effective ways to control mensural pain in fibromyalgia condition:
Exercise: Regular exercise is not only helpful to your overall well-being but also helps you to reduce mensural pain.
Many fibromyalgia patients have reported that light, regular exercise before and after mensural period have increased their body’s capacity to handle the pain.
Exercise triggers the release of beta-endorphins, which are natural pain relievers and also helps to reduce the prostaglandins that are responsible for painful muscle contractions during mensuration.
Use Birth Control Pills: If you are not planning to have a baby soon then use of birth control pills can be effective option to manage the fibromyalgia pains.
The use of birth pills increases the estrogen level in the body which helps to control the pain and prevents the brain releasing hormones which typically triggers the fibromyalgia symptoms.
Yoga: There has been renewed interest in the use of yoga to reduce the fibromyalgia pains.
Yoga is also helpful in people who have chronic painful conditions such as joint and muscle pains which prevent them from doing rigorous physical exercises.
In a study, women with fibromyalgia who participated in 8-week yoga program reported significant improvements in the fibromyalgia conditions (Source).
The yoga is easy to do and consist of several body postures and movements which can be modified and customized as per need and the comfort level of the users.
Also, it was found that patients who participated in Yoga program had more positive energy and continued the Yoga practices even after the conclusion of the program.
They had developed more active pain-management strategies such as relaxation, spirituality, calmness and healthy attitude toward life.
Diet: What you eat have a profound effect on your body. Eating balanced nutrient rich diet can not only improve your overall health but also help you to curb triggering the fibromyalgia flares.
Some healthy foods are fruit and vegetables, eating more low-fat, high-fiber foods, and food rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
Keep yourself properly hydrated to improve your pain level and overall general fitness.
Higher Pain and Tender Points in Women
Both men and women can have fibromyalgia pain but many studies have shown that the pain intensity in men is lower than in the women. Women experience a higher degree of pain and for the longer duration than in the men.
Besides higher pain intensity, Fibromyalgia also causes tender points. Women tend to report two more tender points than in the main and sometimes they experience tender points around the pelvic area.
Fatigue and Depression
A study looked at the occurrence of depression and fatigue in men and women who have fibromyalgia. It showed that women reported significantly higher levels of depression than men.
The study also showed that women with fibromyalgia showed higher pain intensity, a greater number of tender points and more pressure points than men.
The increased fatigue and depression could not be just because of fibromyalgia, but also due to the overlapping condition with several other symptoms.
Women going through menopause typically in their middle age have reported having a higher degree of fatigue and depression which coincides with the fibromyalgia symptoms.
You can control fatigue and depression by taking full rest, having a good sleeping habit, maintaining and healthy and well-balanced diets and if the problem persists then talking to therapist or counsellor.
Are you a woman with fibromyalgia condition?
we would love to hear your fibromyalgia experience and how you handle it in the comment below.
You can also join the discussion at the Fibromyalgia Pain Cure Facebook page which is dedicated to a discussion of natural treatments for fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.
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