New Study : Nerve Damage Affecting the Lungs in Fibromyalgia

By: Cort,

The dysautonomia in FM patients can be characterized by unrelenting sympathetic hyperactivity throughout the day associated with a deranged sympathetic response to different stressors. The authors

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) appears to be the subject of the week for Health Rising. This study combines the autonomic nervous system with lung functioning – an issue that has not been talked in fibromyalgia that I am aware of.

People don’t typically tie fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome in with lung issues but they do crop up – particularly in ME/CFS – at times. Some people experience “air hunger” or difficulty breathing or difficulty taking deep breaths. Some studies suggest that ventilation – the movement of air in and out of the lung – may be reduced during exercise in some ME/CFS patient. Staci Stevens, an exercise physiologist, has wondered whether the small and highly active muscles involved in breathing could be impacted in this disease.

Lung issues may not be the major symptom associated with FM but problems with the lungs could be telling if they were a manifestation of another problem associated with the autonomic nervous system.

The authors got to the heart of matter in this paper quickly. They reported that the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) in fibromyalgia ) is hyperactive at rest but then folds or crashes when put under stress; i.e. you’re wired and tired at “rest” (some rest!) and then things tend to go haywire when you system is put under stress. (The same pattern is present in chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS))

How did they connect the lungs to fibromyalgia? They used diabetes. Diabetes is not mentioned much in connection with fibromyalgia, but the authors pointed to a similar ANS problem in diabetes which leads to problems with blood vessel filling in the very small (microvascular) blood vessels in the lungs. In diabetes this leads to a problem with carbon monoxide diffusion from the lungs.

That’s the same thing that appears to be happening in FM.

The Study

They took 45 FM patients and 45 controls and did a bunch of autonomic nervous system and lung volume and gas transfer tests including something called transfer factor which measures the capacity of the lung to diffuse carbon monoxide out of it. They also had them take a 31 question autonomic questionnaire called the Composite Autonomic Symptom Score or COMPASS.


FM patients have functional microcirculation and morphological abnormalities and the abnormal pattern of reactive hyperemia is due to greater sympathetic tone leading to increased vasoconstriction. The authors

They noted that fibromyalgia patients scores on the autonomic questionnaire (COMPASS) were highly correlated with those on the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (FIQ). That suggested that the autonomic nervous system problem could be contributing to many symptoms in FM.

The FM patients lungs didn’t look so good. Total lung volume was fine, but every measure of lung functioning (carbon monoxide transfer factor, carbon monoxide diffusion capacity, alveolar capillary membrane volume and pulmonary capillary blood volume) were significantly reduced in the fibromyalgia patients.

Further analyses found that the reduction in lung diffusing capacity was probably due to a significant reduction in lung capillary lung volume; i.e. the microvascular volume of the FM patients lungs had declined.

Both the smallest and most common blood vessels found, our capillaries are responsible for delivering blood to most of our tissues. They are so small that a red blood cell can just barely fit through them. As they are delivering red blood cells they are also allowing small molecules such as oxygen, CO2, sugars and amino acids to diffuse in and out of them. That diffusion part is apparently not working very well.

The authors suggested that damage to the cardiac autonomic nerves was causing problems with “the regulation of microvascular tone” and the distribution of pulmonary filling. They proposed that the receptors on our cells that cause FM patients blood vessels to dilate have been so overstimulated over time that they’re not responding to signals to dilate anymore. That leaves the blood vessels constricted, impairs blood flows and even (I believe) could reduce blood volume.


The authors ticked off a number of findings suggesting that circulation problems would be no surprise in FM. Reduced nitric oxide production prevents the blood vessels from opening sufficiently to move the blood vessels in FM patients from opening sufficiently to move the blood properly and causing arterial wall stiffness.

They also noted the high rates of Raynaud’s phenomena found in the FM participants in this study (1/3rd). Raynaud occurs when spasms in the arteries restrict blood flows usually to hands or feet causing the fingers or toes usually to turn white, then blue and then as the blood returns, causes them to tingle or burn. This is often caused by exposure to reduced temperatures. In some people being exposed to temperatures below 60 degrees can cause Reynaud’s.

The fact that the FM patients with Raynaud’s phenomena tended to have worse lung test results made sense given the similar sympathetic nervous system hyperactivity found in Raynaud’s. That, local hyperactivity, which affects the arteries not the smaller blood vessels found in the lungs, is so extreme that it causes the blood vessels become vasoconstricted or narrowed enough that the blood cannot get through.

Raynaud’s then appears to be another manifestation of a dysregulated autonomic nervous system in FM.

The authors didn’t spend any time on the clinical significance of their findings and it’s not clear from the paper what they are. Reduced carbon dioxide diffusion is found in many lung diseases (fibrosis, alveolitis, vasculitis, COPD, emphysema, pulmonary hypertension) as well as anemia (low blood volume). It’s not clear if they would contribute to shortness of breath or breathing problems sometimes found in ME/CFS or FM or if they reflect a problem which is present but which isn’t causing many symptoms.

This isn’t the first time that possible microcirculatory problems have popped up in FM, however. The authors of a 2014 exercise study proposed that microcirculatory problems could be contributing to the low VO2 max findings they found in FM patients. They argued that the next exercise study in FM should examine blood flows in the small blood vessels feeding the muscles.

  • See Lending a Hand: A Very Different Approach to Fibromyalgia for information on a machine that purports to increase the microcirculation in FM

Nerve Damage Proposed

These authors proposed that damage to the autonomic cardiac nerves was mostly likely to explain the blunted lung functioning. This, of course, is not the first time that damage to the autonomic nerves has been proposed or found in FM. Autonomic nerves are among the small nerve fibers that many studies have now found damaged in the skin of FM patients.


Last year that damage was extended to nerve fibers in the eye. Recently Sommers found such an unusual pattern of nerve damage in FM that she now calls it “small fiber pathology” to distinguish it from the more typical small fiber neuropathy found in other disorders. Caro and Winters have found damage to large nerve fibers in FM as well.

About a year ago a researcher suggested that the deep researchers look at nerves the more they are likely to find. Her prediction appears to be coming true. From the skin to the eyes to possibly the lungs nerve problems are cropping up in fibromyalgia.

What could be causing these nerve problems? If a Spanish group’s skin findings hold up then a brew of inflammation, mitochondrial problems and oxidative stress might fill the bill.



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27 Real Symptoms of Fibromyalgia That Aren’t Just In Your Head

Fibromyalgia is a widespread chronic pain syndrome that occurs mostly in women 20 to 50 years old. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Diseases estimates that five million people in the U.S. suffer from fibromyalgia. Even though it’s so wide-spread, the cause of fibromyalgia is still unclear, and fibromyalgia symptoms can be just as varied and complex.

A fibromyalgia symptoms list

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed as a syndrome–a collection of signs, symptoms, and medical problems–not just by one marker. The three fibromyalgia symptoms that point most directly to a diagnosis are:

  • Widespread pain on both sides of the body, and above and below the waist
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive difficulties

However, fibromyalgia is a complex chronic pain syndrome that affects every aspect of a person’s life. This post will go over all of these fibromyalgia symptoms in more detail, as well as specific fibromyalgia symptoms in women. A full fibromyalgia symptoms list varies from patient to patient, but it could include any of the following 27 fibromyalgia symptoms:

  • Widespread muscle soreness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tenderness
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Rebound pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Excessive gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Painful bladder syndrome
  • Increased sensitivity to pain
  • Pins and needles sensations
  • Increased overall sensitivity to cold and touch
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to concentrate, or “fibro fog”
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Nervous energy
  • Anxiety
  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Increased stress response
  • Sleep disorders
  • Joint stiffness
  • Menstrual pain or changes
  • Increased chance of other health conditions

Knowing these symptoms and if they affect you can help when it comes to diagnosis. It takes years for the average person to be diagnosed. This is because the symptoms of fibromyalgia overlap with many other disorders. The following video gives a bit more information about this pain syndrome.

Pain symptoms

Pain is one of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia, and it’s a required component of any diagnosis. But, as EverydayHealth explains:

“Fibromyalgia symptoms may fluctuate in intensity, and may improve or worsen over time. Factors such as stress, changes in weather, too much or too little exercise, and too much or too little rest can affect the severity of your symptoms.”

That means that an activity that caused you pain one day might be fine the next, and vice versa. Even so, here’s how fibromyalgia pain symptoms can affect your life.

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1. Widespread muscle soreness

The symptom that fibromyalgia is known for is most certainly chronic pain throughout the body. Specifically, the pain has to occur on both sides of your body as well as above and below the waist to be diagnosed as fibromyalgia. The pain can travel to every other part of your body and the intensity of the pain can vary. Fibromyalgia also has the tendency to wax and wane, so pain can vary on any given day and even during the same day.

The National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association reports that the following could all affect pain levels:

  • Cold/humid weather
  • Non-restorative sleep
  • Physical and mental fatigue
  • Excessive physical activity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Anxiety
  • Stress

Most patients describe the pain as a stiffness or aching starting in specific areas. Fibromyalgia tends to begin in the neck and shoulders area and spread out to the rest of the body from there. It is also common for pain to feel like it is coming from the joints even though inflammation or swelling is not present. Tender points are also common and generally produce a sharp pain when pressure is applied.

In order to be diagnosed as a chronic condition, this pain must be present for at least three months and be unresolved or recurring.

2. Muscle spasms

Muscle spasms may be a painful fibro symptom, or they may simply be an irritation as the muscle clenches and unclenches on its own. This can interfere with sleep and daily activity.

3. Headaches or migraines

Headaches are a common symptom of fibromyalgia. Some patients even experience extreme migraine pain. The intense pressure or throbbing from these migraines can extend further down the body into the neck, shoulders, and upper back. These headaches are often triggered by environmental factors such as:

  • Bright lights
  • Loud sounds
  • Powerful smells

These headaches can last for days and may be severe enough to disturb sleep.

4. Rebound pain

When fibromyalgia patients are pain-free, their first instinct may be to jump up and get things done. They may clean their house, meet friends for lunch, then go for a hike in the afternoon with their kids. While these are all wonderful things, the result of this increased activity can be even worse pain later that night or the next day.

5. Tenderness

Doctors diagnose fibromyalgia by 18 tender points on the body. These are symmetrical points located both above and below the waist. Fibromyalgia sufferers may experience increased tenderness in these areas when a flare-up is imminent, or they may feel these tender points nearly all of the time.

Gastrointestinal fibromyalgia symptoms

Many fibromyalgia patients also suffer from gastrointestinal issues.

6. Irritable bowel syndrome

Fibromyalgia and irritable bowel syndrome are closely linked, as pain and stiffness are frequent problems in both conditions. It is quite common for someone to have both of these disorders at the same time. IBS is another chronic pain condition that can lead to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Bloating

7. Nausea

Pain can be so severe as to make a fibromyalgia patient sick to their stomach. This may cause a change in diet that could lead to other symptoms.

8. Constipation

Some of those with IBS experience constipation as their primary manifestation of this syndrome.

9. Excessive gas

Excessive gas can either be a symptom of IBS, or it may occur as a result of dietary changes due to nausea or other causes.

10. Diarrhea

For those fibromyalgia patients who also experience IBS, if they do not suffer from constipation or excessive gas, they may find that their primary symptom of fibromyalgia is diarrhea.

11. Painful bladder syndrome 

Mayo Clinic reports that fibro often coexists with other conditions, such as interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome.

Sensory fibromyalgia symptoms

One of the strangest effects of fibromyalgia is its distortions of a patient’s sensitivity to pain, cold, touch, or even sensory inputs like smell.

12. Increased sensitivity to pain

Those people with chronic pain conditions experience changes in their brain that make their body more sensitive to pain over time. This is a common fibromyalgia symptom.

13. Pins and needles

Any involvement of the nerves may cause a tingling sensation in hands and feet, often referred to as feeling like “pins and needles.” SpineHealth notes that:

“Approximately 25% of fibromyalgia patients report ‘poor circulation’ or numbness and tingling which is not in a radicular pattern and typically involves arms and hands. However, a physical examination reveals normal muscle strength and sensory testing, with no inflammatory or arthritic features.”

14. Increased overall sensitivity 

In addition to increases in sensitivity to pain (which merits its own focus), many fibromyalgia patients also reportincreased sensitivity to:

  • Cold
  • Touch
  • Odors
  • Loud noises
  • Bright lights
  • Medications
  • Certain foods

Fibromyalgia patients are so sensitive at times over their whole body that even the slightest touch can cause them to flinch in surprise or pain. Nerve endings are hyper-aware and sensitive to even the slightest stimulation from seams and tags in clothing.

But, because of an increased sensitivity to cold, fibromyalgia patients may find themselves reaching for a sweater on the sunniest days.

Cognitive fibromyalgia symptoms

Fibromyalgia diagnosis tends to focus more on the physical symptoms, like pain and fatigue. This makes sense, as these are the easiest indicators to identify and measure. However, there are a number of mental and cognitive fibromyalgia symptoms that occur from this disorder that can also have a large impact on quality of life.

15. Forgetfulness

Fibromyalgia patients may find themselves forgetting everyday things from where they put their keys to what they were supposed to get at the store. Memory loss and decrease of verbal fluency are particularly severe fibromyalgia symptoms. While memory loss is common as a person ages, a study on cognitive function in fibromyalgia patients showed that those with fibromyalgia had the cognitive ability and recall of someone 20 years their senior.

16. Inability to concentrate, or “fibro fog” 

The most common mental fibromyalgia symptom is what is known as fibro fog or brain fog. This includes many different cognitive difficulties, such as:

  • Becoming easily confused
  • Lacking motivation
  • Feeling “hazy” or “blurry”
  • Difficulty focusing for extended periods of time
  • Being unable to focus or pay attention

This fibro fog is usually caused by overstimulation, high stress, lack of sleep, and some medications. This fog can feel like you are taking cold medicine. For many patient’s, it’s one of the most frustrating fibromyalgia symptoms on a day-to-day basis.

17. Problems with balance and coordination 

Many with fibromyalgia also report having trouble balancing upright, or maintaining basic coordination. This could be due to fatigue certainly, but is also a separate symptom of this syndrome.

18. Fatigue

Between the lack of sleep that is often a symptom of fibromyalgia and the amount of effort even the smallest task takes during a flare-up, fibromyalgia patients can be deeply fatigued. Many who have fibromyalgia experience sleep disturbances. The constant pain itself can be exhausting. Those who suffer from fibro tend to report that they have trouble obtaining restful sleep and feel tired when they wake up. Exhaustion is so synonymous with fibro that some experts believe that without sleep disruption and chronic fatigue, it cannot be considered a true case of fibromyalgia.

Fibro sufferers have a way to describe this. They call themselves “spoonies,” comparing the amount of energy they have each day in terms of the number of spoons they have. If a fibromyalgia patient has ten spoons for a day and they use eight getting ready for work, they know they have to make adjustments to rest of their day.


Mood disorders related to fibromyalgia

If you have fibromyalgia, you’re also more likely to experience mood disorders.

19. Depression

As with all chronic pain patients, fibromyalgia sufferers have an increased chance of developing depression as a direct result of their condition. Research has shown that those diagnosed with fibro are three times as likely to have depression compared to those without it. Depression is one of the most important symptoms to determine early as it can be difficult to self-identify. It can also lead to other negative effects that can exacerbate other fibromyalgia symptoms, such as:

  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Decreased energy
  • Persistent sadness or anxiety

In more advanced cases, it can lead to a sense of worthlessness and thoughts about death. This can be exacerbated by their inability to regularly attend therapy. In addition, when depression is comorbid with a chronic pain condition, the condition will generally not improve unless the depression is also treated.

20. Nervous energy

When fibromyalgia patients feel good, they may be almost frenetic in their desire to do things. Whether playing with their kids or simply getting household chores done without pain, this can result in rebound pain later on.

21. Anxiety

Waiting for the next painful flare-up can result in a constant low-level hum of anxiety. In some patients, this anxiety may begin to grow into a fear of leaving the house, just in case a flare-up should begin. This can also manifest as a panic attack if fibro symptoms flare-up suddenly far away from home.

22. Emotional sensitivity

As anyone might expect, having any chronic pain condition may cause the person suffering to feel irritable and short-tempered. However, for fibro patients it’s more than that.

Many patients have reported that their emotional reactions are much stronger and they have less control over how they express them. Irritability is one of the most common manifestations of this and this sensitivity can greatly increase with a lack of sleep. This sensitivity is true for negative and positive emotions alike.

Mood swings can also have a big impact on the everyday life of fibromyalgia sufferers. Many people diagnosed with fibromyalgia can go from happy to angry in a minute or less. Very often the sudden changes in mood are inexplicable, which is why it can have such a devastating effect on professional and persona life.

23. Increased stress

The stress of painful fibromyalgia flare-ups can cause sufferers to experience post-traumatic stress disorder type symptoms such as an inability to relax and hypervigilance. This high level of constant stress can lead to other health issues.


Other fibromyalgia symptoms

There are other fibromyalgia symptoms that are related to, but don’t directly fit in any of the other categories. Those include the following.

24. Sleep disorders

Chronic pain patients often experience sleep disorders, and fibromyalgia patients are no different. Pain may make it difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep, and the slightest movement may result in pain that jolts them awake.

OnHealth reports that:

“Normally, there are several levels of sleep and getting enough of the deeper levels of sleep may be even more important than the total hours of sleep. Patients with fibromyalgia lack the deep, restorative level of sleep, called non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. Consequently, patients with fibromyalgia often awaken in the morning without feeling fully rested, even though they seem to have had an adequate number of hours of sleep time.”

25. Joint stiffness

Especially in the morning, joint stiffness can be a common symptom of fibromyalgia. But it’s a double-edged sword: the more a patient moves the less stiff they will be, but pain often makes movement very difficult.

26. Menstrual pain or changes

Women may experience more pain during their menstrual cycle, including cramping and low back pain. They may also experience irregular menstrual cycles or changes in their cycle in duration and heaviness. Healthline reports that:

“In a report by the National Fibromyalgia Association, women with the condition have more painful periods than usual. Sometimes the pain fluctuates with their menstrual cycle. Most women with fibromyalgia are also between the ages of 40 to 55 years old. Research suggests that fibromyalgia symptoms may feel worse in women who are post-menopausal or are experiencing menopause.”

27. Increased chance of other health conditions

While not a direct symptom of fibromyalgia, fibromyalgia symptoms can greatly affect a person’s ability to participate in their normal routines and activities. If these include a regular exercise routine that is no longer regular or as vigorous, a fibromyalgia sufferer may find themselves with a higher body-mass index. This can lead to other health issues, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

MedicineNet also reports that: “Fibromyalgia can occur by itself, but people with certain other diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other types of arthritis, may be more likely to have it.”

Restless leg syndrome and vision problems are also related to fibromyalgia.


What are fibromyalgia symptoms in women?

While an accurate number is hard to gauge, an estimated 75 to 90% of fibromyalgia sufferers are women. In the U.S, this means that somewhere between five and six million fibromyalgia sufferers are women. This may be due to a combination of factors that include hormonal changes and genetics. Because of this, it’s important to look at specific fibromyalgia symptoms in women.

Why do more women have fibromyalgia? 

Women in peak childbearing years (20 to 40) are diagnosed with fibromyalgia at a much higher rate than any other segment of the population in the U.S. This has led researchers to study the role hormones might play in the development of this disease. Some hypothesize that an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone may be to blame, pointing to shifts in these hormones as women experience pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause.

Other causes of fibromyalgia in women can include:

  • Genetics: Women with a sibling or parent with fibromyalgia are more likely to be diagnosed themselves.
  • Viral infection: Viral infections such as the herpes simplex -1 virus, commonly linked to cold sores, have been connected to the development of fibromyalgia.
  • Trauma: Physical or emotional trauma also correlates with a rise in the incidence of fibromyalgia.
  • Dysfunctional pain processing: Many researchers agree that one of the key causes of fibromyalgia is dysfunction in the central nervous system’s (CNS) pain processing.

Fibromyalgia symptoms in women list 

Women experience some symptoms at a greater rate and frequency than men who are diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Women also experience more pain than men but often receive less treatment for it.

The main fibromyalgia symptoms in women that are different that cases in men are:

  • Amplified pain, for longer periods of time
  • Pain during sex
  • Painful menstrual cycle
  • Migraines
  • Greater feelings of fatigue and depression
  • Increased rates of irritable bowel and painful bladder syndrome
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Increased overall sensitivity to light, loud noises, smells, and temperature

Challenges for women with fibromyalgia 

Women face discrimination to the level of pain medication they’re prescribed as well as the manner in which they are treated when they report pain. The same study also found that:

  • Women are more likely than men to have their pain dismissed as psychological
  • They are also less likely to be prescribed opioids for pain
  • Women feel that that their pain is not taken seriously or believed when they report it

Women process pain differently than men, but discrimination in the doctor’s office when women report their pain is a big hurdle in diagnosis. This lack of understanding of women’s pain plays a big role in the amount of time it takes to even receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia. The average time for a fibromyalgia diagnosis is two years or more.

Fibromyalgia in women is a debilitating syndrome that affects our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, nieces, and aunts. Because one of the primary causes in women is hormones, it is crucial that researchers focus their efforts on treatment options that are designed for and tested on women. There is an historical research bias against women that affects the efficacy of medications for them. Research needs to recognize that this syndrome is female-focused and actively recruit female study participants for more effective treatments.

What about fibromyalgia symptoms in men?

With fibromyalgia in women being much more prominent, it would be easy to assume that men don’t experience it. They do, and their burden is just as difficult. While fibromyalgia symptoms in men tend to less severe, the assumption that only women suffer from the syndrome can stall diagnosis.

One man with fibromyalgia explains:

“It’s a tough deal for a man to have fibromyalgia. One of my best friends doesn’t believe I have it. His wife, who is a doctor, told him men can’t get it, that it is in my head. That kind of hurt.”

Men are diagnosed more infrequently with fibromyalgia, but diagnosis does occur. Injury and trauma to the body may be more likely to be the cause of fibromyalgia in men, but there may be a genetic link between mothers with fibromyalgia and their sons.

For men who suffer from fibromyalgia, finding a good support group is just as necessary as it is for women. The National Fibromyalgia Association gives great tips on finding the support you need near you.

What do your fibromyalgia symptoms mean? 

There is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are treatments that can help reduce these fibromyalgia symptoms. An earlier post on our blog discussed the common fibromyalgia treatments that are in use today for this syndrome. You can also watch our blog for any developments in fibromyalgia research or therapeutic techniques.

However, your best way to beat fibromyalgia starts with a diagnosis. By working with a pain specialist who has experience treating fibromyalgia, you can take the first step in getting your life back. Click the button below to find a pain doctor in your area.



7 Cool and Comfortable Clothing Choices for Fibromyalgia

By Wyatt Myers

Fibromyalgia Clothing

Living with fibromyalgia usually means coping with daily pain and fatigue. One common — and often overlooked — source of pain for people with fibromyalgia can stem from your clothing choices. As a result, you can help fibromyalgia simply by making better decisions about what you wear, says Nathan Wei, MD, a rheumatologist and director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, Md. “People who have fibromyalgia have a condition where even light touch can be perceived as being painful. This is called allodynia. As a result, clothes should be loose-fitting, lightweight, and non-constricting.” In other words, tight clothes are the enemy.

Bras and Underwear

With all the straps and wires, not to mention their close proximity to the skin, it’s no wonder that bras are high on the list of clothing that causes chronic pain among women with fibromyalgia. “Many women with fibromyalgia will actually not wear bras because of the uncomfortable feeling,” says Dr. Wei.

To make sure that bras and underwear help rather than harm, opt for loose-fitting, not constrictive styles that are easy to pull on and off. Also, choose bras and underwear that are made of soft cotton rather than harsh synthetic fabrics, suggests Stephen Soloway, MD, a rheumatologist in private practice in Vineland, N.J.

Socks and Pantyhose

Many newer types of socks are made from synthetic fabrics to help wick away sweator fight odors, but Wei says it’s important to stick with natural fibers like cotton when choosing socks. “It’s critical to avoid synthetics,” he says. “Some patients with fibromyalgia may be sensitive to chemicals.”

Most pantyhose are made from synthetics, so Dr. Soloway says it’s best to go with soft, loose-fitting, and non-constrictive choices if you have fibromyalgia — avoid control top designs, for instance. If hose still aggravate your chronic pain, you may want to try avoiding them entirely.Or try looser fitting, 100 percent cotton tights as an alternative to nylon hose.


Pants and Skirts

Skinny jeans, leggings, and miniskirts might be stylish choices, but if you have chronic pain from fibromyalgia, part of your fibromyalgia treatment plan might be to keep pant and skirt choices loose and comfortable as well. “My best advice is that pants and skirts should be easy to get on and off,” says Wei. “Also, it’s probably a good idea again to avoid synthetics in favor of natural fabrics like wool and cotton.

Shirts and Sweaters

For fibromyalgia help from shirts and sweaters, many of the same rules apply as to the other clothing categories. “I would opt for cotton or soft wool such as cashmeres,” says Soloway. Here’s another idea to try when choosing a shirt or sweater to avoid worsening chronic pain from fibromyalgia: Choose darker colors that will protect your skin from the sun. “You might want to consider something that is photo-protective,” says Wei. “Some patients may be taking medicines that sensitize their skin to sunlight.”


Our experts agree that dresses can often be an excellent choice for women with fibromyalgia. That’s because it’s easy to find a wide selection of dress designs that are stylish yet flowing and feel luxurious rather than irritating against your skin. “Just choose any dress that is made from natural fabrics, is loose-fitting and, of course, comfortable,” says Wei.

Hats, Gloves, and Scarves

Hats are in fashion — and you may want to try a big floppy hat to protect yourself from summer heat. In the wintertime, hats, gloves, and scarves are often essential to keep warm. But you’ll need to choose these tight-fitting accessories carefully when you’re battling the chronic pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia. While the same general rules of loose-fitting, natural fabrics apply, Wei says you shouldn’t be surprised if extreme sensitivity prevents you from wearing any of these items for a long time. “Patients with fibromyalgia may not be able to wear hats, gloves, and scarves because of the excessive sensitivity they feel,” he says. If this is the case for you, it may help your fibromyalgia to limit your outdoor exposure in the wintermonths.

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