Fibromyalgia is a complex disease that involves physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Many of these symptoms have stress as one of their triggers.
Stress can cause increased pain symptoms and irritability in just about anyone. In fibromyalgia patients, the experience of stress can be very debilitating.
What Is Stress?
Stress is the experience of increased anxiety and agitation when exposed to certain triggers. Stress can involve just about anything that is triggering, including financial stress, work stress, physical stress, and relationship stress. Stress induces the “fight or flight” response in the body and also stimulates the release of stress hormones like cortisol that cause pain causing inflammation and reduce the body’s ability to focus on healing.
These are things that can affect individuals on a daily basis, leading to mental, emotional, and physical symptoms that can cause debility in healthy individuals.
Stress In Fibromyalgia
In fibromyalgia patients, stress can cause an increase in the perception of pain. Fibromyalgia patients suffer from chronic pain that can be stressful in and of itself but when associated with other life stressors, fibromyalgia patients can decompensate and can experience an exacerbation of all of their symptoms.
This includes the pain symptoms and the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and cognitive disturbances that plague the fibromyalgia patients.
Because stress can be so triggering to fibromyalgia patients and can exacerbate the pain, it is natural to assume that stress reduction techniques will reduce the perception of pain and can help fibromyalgia patients feel better.
Stress Reducing Techniques
In order to reduce the perception of pain, those with fibromyalgia should adopt whatever stress relieving techniques that they can to decrease the pain associated with being under stress. Here are some stress relieving techniques you can try:
- Meditation. People with fibromyalgia can reduce stress and the perception of pain by engaging in meditation. This involves no physical activity whatsoever, but instead relies on the power of the mind to reduce stress. In meditation, you lie down or sit up. The focus is on breathing slow and deep breaths while progressively relaxing the muscles. The person doing the meditation exercise can say a mantra or syllable to produce a greater degree of relaxation or can do guided imagery, in which a serene place is imagined as part of the meditative process. Meditation can be practiced by fibromyalgia patients regardless of their fitness level and can experience pain reduction after practicing the skills regularly.
- Relaxation. Taking time off work, and relaxing activities such as spa days, vacations, even a simple picnic in nature all reduce stress.
- Yoga. Yoga is an ancient form of exercise known to reduce stress and improve flexibility in anyone who practices it. It involves performing certain poses or “asanas” in tune with focusing on breathing techniques. When practiced by those who have fibromyalgia, yoga can induce a state of relaxation and can help the fibromyalgia experience pain to a lesser degree. Gentler forms of yoga, such as Hatha yoga, can be performed by those suffering from increased stress and can improve their balance and coordination. Yoga is an excellent stress reducer and form of exercise for those who suffer from fibromyalgia because it is a relatively easy form of exercise to follow.
- Tai chi. Tai chi is an ancient form of Chinese martial arts that has become one of the best ways in Western medicine to induce relaxation and relieve stress in patients with chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia. It involves standing and performing fluid, graceful movements in tune with breathing exercises. People who practice tai chi have better balance, better coordination, and a reduction in the feelings of stress when compared to those who do not practice Tai chi. Tai chi can be done in patients with fibromyalgia because it doesn’t make the muscles or joints sore and can be done in those with even poor fitness levels. When practiced by a fibromyalgia patient, tai chi can reduce stress and the perception of pain.
- Music therapy. Listening to soothing music has been known to reduce stress in fibromyalgia sufferers. Music requires no physical activity so it doesn’t injure the muscles or the joints but instead relaxes the individual and reduces stress levels, thus decreasing the perception of pain in those who are suffering from pain disorders.
Stress is definitely related to the perception of pain in those suffering from fibromyalgia. By practicing stress-relieving techniques, fibromyalgia patients not only experience less stress in their lives but also feel pain to a lesser degree.