Fibromyalgia and itchy skin

What’s to know about itching in fibromyalgia?

Experts do not know why itching occurs with fibromyalgia, but several factors may play a role.

Central nervous system

Share on PinterestChanges in the CNS may lead to itching in fibromyalgia.

The central nervous system (CNS) comprises the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. The CNS communicates information all around the body through a network of nerve cells.

Scientists think that people with fibromyalgia experience changes in the way that the CNS processes their pain messages.

These changes may develop because of high levels of certain brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which signal pain.

Researchers also believe that the pain receptors in the brain can develop a muscle memory of the pain, which can cause them to become more sensitive and overreact to pain signals.

Itching may occur because fibromyalgia activates certain nerve fibers. Itching and pain share a common pathway that runs through the spinal cord. Pain and itchiness also activate the same sensory brain areas.

A person who is sensitive to pain may also have a sensitivity to itchiness.

Constant itching may set off a “scratch-itch cycle.” Initially, scratching relieves the itch, but continual scratching damages the skin. This damage makes the itching worse, so the person scratches more, resulting in increased itchiness.

Chemical imbalances

People with fibromyalgia have unusual levels of the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin in the brain. These substances play a role in regulating pain, sleep, mood, and thinking.

Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that control communication throughout the brain and body.

Research into serotonin’s role in the skin found that abnormal levels of serotonin caused itching in mice.

The researchers also noted that when the body releases serotonin in response to pain, this activates certain receptors that cause itchiness. Scratching the itch causes the release of serotonin as a pain reliever, which activates the receptors again and causes more itching.

Treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may help reduce skin itching. Examples of these drugs include sertraline (Zoloft) and fluoxetine (Prozac).

Side effects of treatment

Medications for the treatment of fibromyalgia can cause itching in some people. These drugs include pain relievers, antidepressants, and antiseizure drugs.

For example:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol): This drug can cause skin rash, hives, or itching in rare cases.
  • Ibuprofen (Advil): Itching is a common side effect of ibuprofen.
  • Naproxen (Aleve): Many people who take this medication experience itching as a side effect.
  • Tramadol (Ultram): Itchy skin is a common side effect.
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella): Some people experience sensations of burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, “pins and needles,” or tingling.
  • Pregabalin (Lyrica): Itching is a rare side effect of pregabalin.

If a person notices itching after starting to take fibromyalgia medications, they should speak to a doctor. The itching could be a sign of an allergic reaction.

In some cases of itching, the doctor may adjust the dosage or recommend an alternative medication.

Fibromyalgia

People with fibromyalgia are often told that since they look well and their tests are normal, they are not suffering from a real disorder. Their family and friends as well as physicians may doubt the reality of their complaints, increasing their feelings of isolation, guilt and anger.

You and your family should understand that fibromyalgia is definitely associated with chronic pain and fatigue and must be dealt with as with any chronic illness. Yet fibromyalgia is not life-threatening and causes no deformity. Although symptoms may vary, the overall condition rarely worsens over time.

Often just knowing fibromyalgia is not a progressive crippling disease allows people to stop additional expensive testing and develop a more positive attitude toward their condition. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, visual imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga or biofeedback may also be helpful. You should examine your own sleep patterns and avoid aggravating factors, such as excess caffeine and alcohol. If you feel depressed or very anxious, it is important to get help from a mental health professional. The more you learn about your condition and the more you take an active role in finding the best means to lessen your symptoms, the better the outcome.

Condition research

Much research is now being done to try to understand both the psychological aspects and biological aspects of fibromyalgia with the hope that a holistic understanding will lead to a holistic treatment approach. Certain brain chemicals and pain receptors have been found to be altered in people with fibromyalgia and chronic pain in general. Research is being directed toward trying to modify these abnormalities to relieve the pain and fatigue.

Credits

Some of this material may also be available in an Arthritis Foundation brochure.

Adapted from the pamphlet originally prepared for the Arthritis Foundation by Don L. Goldenberg, M.D. This material is protected by copyright.

6 Ways to Soothe Fibromyalgia Skin

This is only part of the explanation for the pain you may feel in your skin. People with fibromyalgia know that often they feel pain with no apparent cause – there’s no pin pricking the skin to blame. Fibromyalgia is a complicated condition that Dr. Natelson and colleagues are trying to unravel through National Institutes of Health-funded studies.

Fibromyalgia and Skin Conditions: A Link?

Dermatologists are equally challenged by the connection between fibromyalgia pain and skin care, in part because people with fibromyalgia may also have chronic skin conditions, such as rosacea.

“The relationship between fibromyalgia and skin conditions is not well-understood,” says David E. Geist, MD, a dermatologist at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. “Fibromyalgia syndrome may involve dysfunctional signaling leading to pain.”

Dr. Geist points out that although there are no hard data showing a higher prevalence of skin disorders in people with fibromyalgia, there may be some overlap in these conditions. Areas of consideration include:

  • Nerve-based conditions. Fibromyalgia seems to have its roots in an unusual response to pain, probably because of atypical nerve signaling. “Urticaria (hives), dermatographism, and notalgia paresthetica (itchy areas on the back) may have underlying neural causes” as well, says Geist. Researchers from the University of Parma in Italy looked at 126 people with chronic hives and found that a surprisingly high proportion – 70 percent – also had fibromyalgia, a link they theorize may be due to nerve dysfunction.
  • Overlapping diagnoses. “Studies have shown that female psoriasis and lupus patients may more frequently meet the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia,” Geist notes.
  • Chronic inflammation. When researchers tested skin samples from 63 people living with fibromyalgia and compared them with samples from 49 people who did not have the condition, they found elevated levels of inflammatory markers in the skin of those with fibromyalgia. Their report, published in Clinical Rheumatology, suggests that inflammation could explain why people with fibromyalgia report such sensitive skin.
  • Patient profile. Many people with fibromyalgia also have rosacea, but there’s no evidence directly linking the two, says Geist. Since rosacea and fibromyalgia are each most prevalent in women 30 to 50 years old, their coexistence seems more related to patient profile than to a physiologic connection.

Skin Care With Fibromyalgia

Though everyone could benefit from a pampering, healthy skin care routine, when you have fibromyalgia pain, a little extra tender loving care just makes sense. “For fibromyalgia patients, the best approach is to use good skin practices,” Geist advises. He offers these suggestions:

  • Limit time in the sun. “Avoid excessive sun exposure and sunburns, which can be that much more painful in fibromyalgia patients,” he says. Always wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30, and try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most direct.
  • Be gentle. Use cleansers designed for sensitive skin and avoid abrasive scrubs.
  • Go lukewarm. Hot water – even if it feels good at times – is actually very harsh and drying to the skin. “Bathe in lukewarm water and apply minimal soap with a soft cloth only to those areas that get dirty,” advises Geist. You don’t need to scrub every inch of skin every day. Pat dry after a bath or shower instead of rubbing.
  • Moisturize. “Use moisturizers right after bathing, when you are still damp, in order to trap moisture in the skin,” says Geist. Go fragrance-free if you really want to avoid all possible irritants.
  • Purge your makeup cabinet. If your skin is easily irritated, minimize your use of cosmetic products. Geist suggests picking products that work well but don’t contain too many harsh ingredients.
  • See a dermatologist. Ongoing pain, rash, irritation, and changes in your skin all call for a trip to the dermatologist. Just as you work with your fibromyalgia doctor to manage pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms, talk with a dermatologist if you’re concerned about a skin condition in addition to fibromyalgia.

Untangling the mystery of your skin’s sensitivity may require some changes in your skin care routine as well as several discussions with your fibromyalgia doctor and your dermatologist. With a little work, though, you should be able to get comfortable in your skin again.

Did you know that fibromyalgia is becoming more common in the world?

Those who were diagnosed with similar illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis and the like are now showing more signs that point to Fibromyalgia.

Due to the number of new people who are being diagnosed with this issue, more research is being done. However, even with the research that is being done on this issue, there are still tons of questions that people have.

What makes fibromyalgia so unique is that it affects people in different ways. There are those who have the textbook characteristics of this illness, while others may not show the same typical signs.

One of the signs that are often associated with fibromyalgia is extreme itching throughout the entire body.

Fibromyalgia and Itching: Is there a Connection?

For those who do suffer from fibromyalgia, they often wonder if the intense itching they feel is associated with this illness.

The answer is yes! In fact, many people call this the dry, itchy skin of those who suffer from fibromyalgia. So why is it that the skin itches?

Basically, this is due to the nerves in the body. Fibromyalgia is an illness that attacks the nerves. And when these nerves are attacked they start to become inflamed.

When the nerves become inflamed they may begin to itch. It is important to note that the itch that you feel is not going to be relieved by itching this. In fact, this can result in the skin becoming broken and then itching worse.

However, does this mean that proper skin care couldn’t help this? Not necessarily as many fibromyalgia patients are finding.

Treating Extreme Itching

If you do suffer from extreme itching, there are a few things that you can do in order to treat this at home and hopefully get these issues to downgrade. These suggestions include:

1- Take a cool shower as this can help downgrade the itching. However, for many fibromyalgia patients, this becomes a slippery slope as they find that the cool water may make them ache more.

It is all about getting that medium temperature of the water that offers comfort and does not make the pain worse.

2- When drying off after getting the skin wet, use gentle pats to get your skin dry. Do not rub as this sensation can make the itching worse!

3- Consider what type of laundry detergent that you are using. Many people with fibromyalgia find that their skin becomes very sensitive.

Utilize a laundry detergent that is free from perfumes and dyes. This could be just one small step to stop the itching from being too much.

4- Utilize oils to help keep your skin hydrated as many people find that lotions do not help. If you are going to use a lotion or oil apply this while your skin is rather damp as this can help this to absorb into the skin better.

5- Watch what sheets you sleep on. Many people find that they need a more breathable and cool sheet set in order to keep this itching at bay while trying to sleep. Many sufferers suggest bamboo sheets.

6- Watch what clothing you are wearing. Tighter clothing is going to give the skinless room to breathe. And also wear breathable clothing.

7- Hydrocortisone cream can be a great way to stop those small patches of skin that are seeming to itch out of control.

8- Capsaicin cream can be given to help with the itching as this goes into the nerves. However, be sure that you do this sparingly at first as this cream can burn and will hurt worse when you put this onto broken skin.

9- Ice packs on the skin where the itching is occurring can be great for relieving this. You may find that rotating between ice and a heating pad will be beneficial.

10- Be aware that several medications that you can take are going to result in itchy skin. Zinc is one of those supplements that has been shown to cause an increase in itchy skin.

11- Be sure to limit your time in the sun, as a sunburn for fibromyalgia patients is often much worse than for someone else. This does mean that you should be wearing sunscreen each time you go out.

12- Super-hot water is dehydrating to your skin, so try to avoid this as much as possible.

13- Consider talking with a dermatologist as he or she may have more options that you could try and have some insider knowledge of new products on the market that could work great for you.

Brain Re-Training: Is this an Option?

One of the more newer methods on the market for helping a patient to deal with the itching and the pain of fibromyalgia is known as brain re-training. This is a long-term solution as it will take time to succeed. So, what is this?

Brain re-training for this illness is meant to rewire the brain to adapt to the pain and itching differently than it has. Needless to say, this type of treatment will take a while to see results from.

In addition, this method has not been studied intensively for fibromyalgia patients. However, the program is seeing a lot of improvement in those who have other issues and who are undergoing brain re-training.

This is something to talk with your doctor about as many of the issues you suffer from will need to be evaluated to determine if you are a good candidate for this program or not.

Therapy for Stress and Anxiety

The stress and anxiety that a person feels can actually make this itching worse. This is why dealing with these underlying issues could be one of the best ways to get rid of the extreme itching. Talking with a therapist is one option.

However, there are other ways of relieving stress and anxiety. These methods include:

  1. Meditation as this can help you to get to a point that you are relaxed and your fibromyalgia symptoms simply do not bother you.
  2. Yoga can be a great stress reliever.
  3. Exercise can be a great way to get rid of stress and anxiety, plus this can help with other issues associated with fibromyalgia.
  4. Certain medications can be given to help with these feelings and this is going to help your itching.

If you do find that your skin is itching, you can try to deduce why this is happening on your own. However, you should really report this to your doctor. Your doctor will have a better idea of what to try and what may help.

Extreme itching with fibromyalgia is not unheard of. However, many patients often think that this itching is not associated.

They often fear that this is something that they are thinking, but this itching is real and it can become a really hard problem to deal with.

Many people report this itching so bad that it affects sleep, their ability to eat and go anywhere.

For those who scratch excessively, they are going to find that this can lead to scarring and skin infections from open sores. Therefore, it is imperative that you get help with this issue.

Can fibromyalgia cause itching all over? Yes, it absolutely can. It’s not one of the fibromyalgia symptoms we hear about very often, but it’s one that can drive you crazy if you have it.

Fibromyalgia itching, also called pruritus, is actually more common than most people realize. According to a 2016 Turkish study, “We found pruritus as a symptom in 69.5% of the FMS patients in our study.”

It should be noted that a 2014 Mayo Clinic study only reported finding itching as symptom in 3.3% of fibromyalgia patients. However, that study did not talk to or even survey FM patients. Instead, it simply reviewed the charts of 845 patients with a fibromyalgia diagnosis to determine common dermatologic manifestations. Since itching is not one of the primary fibromyalgia symptoms most people see their doctor about or even mention during a regular visit, the results are not surprising. I suspect if the patients had been asked specifically about itching, the final tally would have resulted in a much higher percentage.

Despite the fact that we don’t hear a lot about fibromyalgia itching, you might be surprised to learn that itching is actually one in a very long list of possible “general” fibromyalgia symptoms included in the 2010 Fibromyalgia Diagnostic Criteria proposed by the American College of Rheumatology.

What Causes Fibromyalgia Itching?

A single cause for the itching many fibromyalgia patients experience has yet to be identified. There are, however, a few possibilities:

• Hypersensitivity (central sensitization) – It is well known that fibromyalgia causes a sensitization of the central nervous system, resulting in a hypersensitivity to pain. In addition to being hypersensitive to pain, most fibromyalgia patients find themselves to be hypersensitive to other stimuli as well, such as smells, noise, light, chemicals, and even foods. (Hence the large number of people with fibromyalgia who suffer with a variety of allergies.) It’s possible that hyperactive nerve fibers could be causing an itching sensation in some fibromyalgia patients.

• Serotonin – A 2014 study, published in the journal Neuron, found that abnormal levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin caused mice to itch. They also discovered that the release of serotonin in response to pain activates receptors that cause itchiness. Therefore, when the body releases serotonin in response to fibromyalgia pain, it could be activating receptors that result in itching.

• Medication side effects – Unfortunately, many of the medications most frequently used to treat fibromyalgia have itching as a common side effect. Some of those medications include:

  • All three FDA-approved medications for fibromyalgia treatment: Lyrica (pregabalin), Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Savella (milnacipran).
  • OTC pain relievers like ibuprofen, naproxen sodium and sometimes even acetaminophen.
  • Tramadol and other opioid pain relievers.

How to Make the Itching Stop

Regardless what’s causing the itching, all you really want is to make it stop. If you think your itching may be caused by one of the possibilities discussed above, here are some suggestions to talk to your doctor about:

  • If hypersensitivity and activated nerve fibers are the problem, an anti-seizure drug like gabapentin or pregabalin may be helpful. However, keep in mind that pregabalin does have itching as a possible side effect.
  • If you think abnormal serotonin levels are causing your problem, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) may help. Some commonly prescribed SSRIs include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft) paroxetine (Paxil), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluvoxamine (Luvox) and citalopram (Celexa).
  • If you’re taking one of the drugs for which itching is a common side effect, the obvious solution would be to stop taking it. But if the medication is helping to improve your other fibromyalgia symptoms, that may not be a trade-off you’re willing to make. Warning: if you’re taking one of the three FDA-approved drugs for fibromyalgia, tramadol or another opioid, DO NOT suddenly stop taking it. Abrupt discontinuation of these medications can result in severe withdrawal symptoms. If you want to quit taking any of those drugs, talk to your doctor first and work out a plan to gradually taper off.

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OTC Medications and Natural Remedies for Itching

Additionally there are a number of OTC medications and natural remedies that can help reduce and even eliminate itching.

  • Antihistamines – OTC antihistamines like Benadryl, Claritan and Zyrtec can often help relieve itching.
  • Anti-itch creams – Topical anti-itch creams or lotions containing at least 1% hydrocortisone, calamine or capsaicin are often recommended. Personally I’ve found Florazone cream, a homeopathic anti-itch cream, to be even more effective at relieving itching.
  • Oatmeal bath – Grind plain, unflavored oatmeal into a powder or purchase colloidal oatmeal, and add one cup to lukewarm bath water. Make sure the oatmeal is mixed in well, then soak in the tub for 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Ice packs – Since scratching can make itching worse, sometimes temporarily numbing the area that itches can ease the itch and help break the vicious scratch/itch cycle.
  • Leaf gels and oils – Aloe vera gel or diluted peppermint essential oil may help bring some cooling itch relief.

Preventing Fibromyalgia Itching

In addition to treating the itch once it begins, there are some preventive measures you can take to help minimize the changes of it starting at all.

  • Drink lots of water to keep your skin well-hydrated. Dry skin is more likely to be itchy.
  • Avoid taking steaming hot baths or showers as they will dry out your skin and make the itching worse.
  • Use only unscented skin care products and detergents to prevent skin irritations and sensitivities.
  • Moisturize your skin at least once a day with an unscented lotion or a natural oil like coconut, argon or jojoba.

When Itching Becomes a Serious Problem

If you are experiencing extreme itching to the point that it interferes with your sleep or causes you to scratch so hard that your skin bleeds and/or becomes infected, it’s important to discuss it with your doctor.

Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) in 1997 and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, then worked for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network before coming to ProHealth. To learn more about Karen, see “Meet Karen Lee Richards.”

Resources:

Wolfe F, Clauw DJ, Fitzcharles MA, et al. The American College of Rheumatology preliminary diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia and measurement of symptom severity. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2010 May;62(5):600-10. doi: 10.1002/acr.20140.

A list of articles involving FM

At first, neither Karen nor Antonia linked their skin problems to fibromyalgia. “I had so much wrong with me and when you think of pain in your joints and muscles, well you don’t really associate it with skin do you?” says Antonia. “But I guess we are so sensitive in every other area of our body that I suppose we can’t expect our skin not to be affected too!”

Our skin is in fact the largest organ of our body whose primary function is to act as a protective barrier against foreign invaders. It is made up of two layers, the epidermis and dermis, with a layer of cushioning fat underneath. The epidermis provides an outer protective layer of dead skin cells formed by an active band of cells beneath the surface, that constantly divide and move upwards to replace the dead cells as they are repeatedly brushed away. The next layer, the dermis, consists of collagen fibres and elastin giving strength and flexibility to the skin. It is well supplied with blood vessels, sweat glands, white blood cells and contains millions of tiny nerve endings that relay messages to our brain. It is the hypersensitivity of these nerve endings that is primarily responsible for our abnormal skin sensations.

“Studies show overactive skin pain receptors1,” explains Pellegrino. “So the skin can indeed be painful and hurt at the lightest touch. The hypersensitivity of the autonomic nerves result in the symptoms of itching, numbness, tingling, burning and crawling sensations, as well as neurovascular changes leading to cold, dry, sweaty or mottled skin. There is also a phenomenon known as dermatographism where scratching your finger along the skin will cause a raised red mark welt or rash to form,” he adds. “This is most pronounced in the skin overlying painful muscles and thought to be due to dysfunctional autonomic nerves overreacting to the pressure and causing a low-grade skin irritation.”

A Swedish study published in 1997 in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology2 also suggests immune system involvement. The researchers took skin biopsies from 25 patients with FM and compared them with healthy controls, patients with rheumatoid arthritis and patients with local chronic pain following whiplash injury. They found that the biopsies from fibromyalgia patients had significantly higher values of immunoglobulin G deposits in the dermis and blood vessel walls and a higher number of mast cells. Mast cells are white blood cells that release histamine, which is known to cause itching, allergies and rashes. Increased mast cell activity indicates that the immune system is overactive and is likely to be adding to the oversensitivity of the skin nerve endings increasing the overall dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system responses.

Mast cells also release another major chemical called heparin, an anticoagulant that thins the blood. “Mast cells release heparin to thin the blood around mosquito bites, for example, so that the swelling doesn’t cause a clot,” explains Marek. “Increased heparin release from overactive mast cells explains why you see little bruises when you scratch your skin as the capillaries break and leak more easily.”

Easy bruising could also result from nutritional deficiencies often associated with fibromyalgia. “Vitamin deficiencies, like vitamin C, can also increase blood vessel friability, making the vessels more likely to collapse under pressure,” adds Pellegrino. “It also reduces the ability of the skin to restore and repair itself leading to an increased vulnerability to bruising.”

Intense itching and rashes can also be a reaction to prescribed medications or yeast infections. “Yeast infections can cause rashes due to toxins released by the overgrowth of Candida in the intestines,” says Pellegrino. “These toxins circulate in the bloodstream and irritate the skin, probably due to the body trying to remove the toxins through the skin. Prescribed medications, such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants, can cause dry skin, increased sweating and make people more sensitive to sunlight leading to sunburn,” he continues. “The patient needs to work with their prescribing physician to determine if skin reactions are occurring and how to tackle them.”

Andrea has a vivid red rash that spreads across her chest that other people often attribute to sunburn, but she is not convinced. “My chest area can look red and purple, so when I wear a v-neck top people often comment that I have caught the sun,” she says. “I think, yes, very likely in the middle of winter!”

Surprisingly, these vivid red rashes can also result from a reaction to what own bodily secretions. “All bodily secretions are acidic and can burn,” explains Marek. “It’s common especially in the areas where you perspire to see red irritated spots. These usually occur on the forehead, under the arms or breasts, and behind the knees, especially if you wear nylon stockings. The lining of the nose, bronchial tubes, vagina and rectum all produce mucus that may be acidic and irritating. Women may notice red, chemically burned areas on their inner thighs from their vaginal secretions following intercourse, for example.”

Itching without a visible rash may be a sign of subcutaneous trigger points (small lumps under the skin) or dysfunctional pressure-plate receptors called Merkel’s discs creating a sensation called sensory itch. “Merkel’s discs translate the tactile messages received by the skin to the brain.” explains Dr Devin Starlanyl in her book The Fibromyalgia Advocate. “When they don’t know what message to send, they have a default mechanism. Unfamiliar sensations are translated as itch. Cold helps to numb the itch because it numbs the pressure plate receptors. Dryness makes it worse because it creates an enhanced pressure reception by the discs. Some itches specifically follow trigger point referral patterns,” she adds, “in which case the trigger point must be broken up. There is a maddening, inner ear itch which is often on the masseter trigger point.”

With your skin driving you mad, you can end up spending a lot of time and money shopping around for that magical skin lotion that will soothe your skin and make it baby soft once more. We are endlessly bombarded with amazing new skin products in magazines and on the TV, which promise all kinds of miracles. The most important thing is to treat your skin gently and use skin products with only a few ingredients as there is less chance they will contain something that will irritate your skin. For very dry flaky skin a preparation that contains lactic acid (often represented as alpha hydroxyl on skin product labels) or urea is a good choice, for example, cocoa and shea butters. It can be a process of trial and error to find out what works best for your skin, but remember the most expensive option is not always the best.

It is essential to keep your skin well hydrated and Karen finds that the best time to apply skin lotion to achieve this is straight after a warm bath. “I put the tube of lotion in the water while I am in the bath so that it is warm when I come to put it on,” she explains. “This makes it sink in very well, and the effects last a lot longer, making my skin lovely and smooth. I have found that doing this routine about three times a week has made a big difference. If I try and skip it for any reason, I soon regret it and the itching becomes unbearable again.”

Here are some other tips on what to avoid and how to soothe sore, itchy, dry skin:

What to avoid:

  • harsh toners, cleansers and alcohol
  • commercial wipes loaded with chemicals and fragrance
  • irritating plant extracts such as mint and citrus
  • skin peel treatments
  • a hot bath (makes itching worse)
  • the temptation to pick, squeeze, scratch or rub
  • nylon stockings
  • tight bras
  • tight clothing, especially in warm weather
  • synthetic fabrics and wool
  • prescription medications with skin side effects
  • any medical advice given at cosmetic beauty counters!

What to try:

  • a warm (not hot) oatmeal bath
  • a cold compress to help numb the area
  • antihistamine medications
  • cortisone sprays or creams
  • keep skin clean and well hydrated
  • moisturise regularly
  • clean skin gently, don’t scrub
  • fragrance free baby products
  • loose fitting cotton underwear
  • light cotton bed clothes
  • a cooler bedroom at night
  • wash clothes in a mild detergent
  • a good sun cream

Useful Supplements:

  • Vitamin C-bruising
  • Vitamin A-skin irritation
  • Vitamin D-skin inflammation
  • Zinc-skin repair
  • Colostrum-body repair

You are certainly not alone if you struggle with intense itching, red rashes or look down in perplexity at a huge bruise that you have no memory of creating. These are not symptoms that you would naturally link to fibromyalgia syndrome, but it may be a relief to know that it is all interconnected and not yet another medical mystery. If you work at controlling your overall symptoms of fibromyalgia then it is likely that these symptoms will also subside.

  1. Kim SH, Jang TJ, Moon IS. Increased expression of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor subunit 2D in the skin of patients with fibromyalgia. Journal of Rheumatology 2006; 33(4):785-8.
  1. Enestrom S, Bengtsson A, Frodin T. Dermal IgG deposits and increase of mast cells in patients with fibromyalgia-relevant findings or epiphenomena? Scandinavian Journal of rheumatology 1997; 26(4):308-13.

14 Types of Fibromyalgia Pain – as Told by Memes

One of the most characteristic symptoms of fibromyalgia is “widespread musculoskeletal pain” – but if you live with the condition, you know the pain can be so much more complex than it sounds. Fibro pain can manifest in a wide variety of ways (burning, aching, stabbing) and affect just about any part of the body.

In a recent essay published on The Mighty, contributor Jo Moss described 18 different types of fibromyalgia pain she experiences and how each affects her. Her breakdown of pain as something that is complex and multifaceted was highly relatable for many in our community. We wanted to keep this discussion going and help others better understand the realities of chronic pain, so we rounded up 14 memes that nail what various types of pain feel like, based on our community’s descriptions of fibro pain they experience. If any of the following sound familiar, know you are not alone.

1. Burning Skin Pain

“Burning skin. Sometimes my skin feels like it’s on fire, it feels raw. Imagine spending hours in the hot sun without any skin protection. Then you take a dip in the sea and the salt water burns your damaged skin. Then you get dressed for a night out and your clothes rub against your skin raw. When you have fibromyalgia, clothing alone can cause this pain, no sunlight is required.” – Jo M.

“The pain on my shoulders and skin where I can’t even let my husband gently rub them in affection because it hurts too much… or hug me because it feels like my body is going to break. It’s like having the worst case of sunburn imaginable on my skin. The physical isolation from touch is horrible.” – Rachel M.

“My arms and legs feel like they’re on fire. Like I have the worst sunburn in the world. Where even the ceiling fan on low feels like fire is engulfing me. And nothing provides relief.” – Amber G.S.

via @chronicallygrateful Instagram

2. Chest/Rib Pain

“Costochrondritis – intense, smothering pain in the rib cage. The first time it happens, you’re sure you’re dying and end up in the ER. After awhile you realize it’s just your ‘normal’… how screwed up is that. Oh, and there’s really no meds that help. You mostly just have to ride out the flare-ups.” – Kirsten E.B.

“I get chest wall pain that’s worst in my lower ribs. It’s like a runner stitch or when you’re pregnant and the baby wedges their foot up under your ribs. There’s no stretching or breathing that helps ease the pain.” – Krista I.

via Pinterest

3. Electric Shock-Like Pain

“Like sticking your finger in an open electrical socket. Tingly and pin-prickly. Like white noise but a feeling, not a sound. It starts in my fingertips and spreads through my whole nervous system.” – Corlissa J.

“It feels like electricity in my nerves. Like I’m fire or being shocked. Then my back stiffens and then I can’t stretch or move without feeling like my lungs constrict and not let me breathe. My hips, legs, back, neck and right elbow don’t allow me to sleep throughout the night as it just is always shooting down pain. It’s really hard to cope with some days. Today being one of those days.” – Erin A.

via Imgur

4. Muscle Tightness

“My neck gets so tight it feels like a giant fist is squeezing, twisting and pulling it. The pain this causes gives me migraines and locks my neck and shoulders up so tight that even the smallest movement is excruciating.” – Jennifer N.H.

via memegenerator.net

5. Aching, Throbbing Pain

“Today, I feel like I have the flu. Entire body aches, every muscle, every joint, and I’m exhausted from that alone. I’ve been on the couch with an electric blanket and heating pads all day.” – Sharaya L.

“A very deep ache that starts in my shoulders and arms and then into my hips, legs and feet. It’s such a deep ache, it feels like it’s beyond muscle and into my bones. My joints will throb and my hands will become puffy, as will my feet. To the point that it hurts too much to walk or grasp anything. Sitting or laying down does not make it ‘feel any better.’ Nothing helps, not soaking in a hot magnesium bath, being wrapped in an electric blanket, or medication.” – Tiffany M.

“A dull constant ache over my whole body… absolutely nothing relieves it.” – Bay H.

via The Mighty

6. Bruise-Like Pain

“Bruised. My body feels like I have dozens of bruises all over, but there aren’t any visible on the skin. It’s days like those that even holding or hugging my babies makes me cry or simply having clothes or blankets brush against your body make you wince because it hurts so much.” – Amy D.

“Feels like permanent bruising where even the slightest touch is ! Even down to the wind blowing, it’s like someone has a million needles sticking them in you!” – Emma T.

“Bone deep aching that feels like my bones are constantly bruised and never heal.” – Lori A.

via memegenerator.net

7. Stiffness

“One of the types I get is a stiffness followed by extreme ache/throbbing in my knees especially. Sometimes in my hips when I first wake up as well. This is especially bad after sitting for awhile. For instance, the other night I was at a meeting and had my legs crossed. When I uncrossed them, I felt like my knee was locked in place. Then, when I finally was able to move it again it was an intense ache that radiated all over my knee, throbbing. That’s the best I can describe it.” – Shelby C.

“Lower back pain and stiffness that renders me almost immobile, compounded by occasional burning on the soles of my feet.” – Bernie L.

“Stiff joints that hurt every time I move.” – Kirst F.

via @chronicpainmemes Instagram

8. Needle-Like Nerve Pain

“Needle stabbing pain. Some people call it the voodoo doll. It’s a sudden stab like someone injecting you, it comes on suddenly and can be anywhere. Usually my chest or legs. It really feels like someone is sticking a hyperdermic needle into me.” – Carrie B.

“The hot needle into various spots of my body and the electrical charge from my upper back/neck shooting up into my head are the two worst ones lately.” – Sarah N.

“Nerve pain like glass needles coming out of your bones.” – Daniel P.

via me.me

9. Cramping

“The ‘fire/cramping’ pain I get in my shoulders on either side of my neck. They’re two very distinct spots that cramp and ache but also feel like they’re on fire. Nothing seems to relieve them and I usually get them when I’m working and sitting at my desk. I try to massage the area myself but it doesn’t go away until I can completely relax – which sometimes doesn’t happen at all.” – Melissa M.

“I explain it to my friends like this: it feels like you ran an Ironman marathon the day before with no training or prep and then passed out right after without food or water. The muscle cramps are almost unbearable but you wake up and move because if not it gets worse.” – Shannon C.

via fitnerdphysios.com

10. The Sensation of Bones Cracking or Grinding

“Foot pain, like my bones are all breaking and moving over each other. This is how it feels when my feet swell and I try to put shoes on that aren’t wide enough.” – Carrie B.

“Aching and cracking in joints, especially jaw, neck, back, hips and ankles. Like bone grinding against bone. Always worse in cold or hot humid weather…” – Julie M.

via @dogluvr42 Twitter

11. Allodynia (Sensitivity to Touch)

“When the water from my shower feels like nails being pounded into my body, I can barely breathe.” – Ashley C.

“Allodynia. This is one of the types of pain I feel during a flare-up, when even a light brush of the skin can hurt.” – Kristin S.

via Fibromyalgia Awareness Facebook page

12. Trigger Points

“There’s the sharp, deep, holy @#$^% pain when someone hugs me or rubs my arm and accidentally hits one of my tender points. There’s about two to three seconds there when I’m so stunned by the pain, I can’t talk or move.” – Naomi B.

via unmutedlark Tumblr

13. Stabbing Pain

“I would describe my pain as stabbing, throbbing, shooting. It feels like I’m having the muscles torn out of my neck with a hot knife. There is no escape from that pain when I’m not in a flare of the pain in my calf and back – it’s a constant aching pain. I just become used to it, it’s just background music. I have to distract myself.” – Kristopher T.

“Deep, stabbing pain in joints. Nothing helps and I can barely walk some days.” – Mackenzie P.

“Feels like the pokey things at the top of a fence stabbing my legs and my arm and back.” – Renay G.

via @dailymemeking Instagram

14. Itchy, Tingling Pain

“Itchy, numb tingle.” – Kelly D.W.

“Have you ever had a heat rash after spending too long in the sun? That’s what it feels like. Sore, burning and itchy.” – Jo M.

via Meme Creator

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