The overriding identification mark of fibromyalgia is pain – chronic, widespread pain. It is on either or both sides of the body and above and below the waist. It is there when you wake up in the morning and even keeps you company throughout the night.
It is stabbing, persistent, throbbing, radiating, gnawing, shooting, aching, tingling or burning – or any combination of these. It can start out in one place and move to another.
When FMS Hits the Muscles
Fibromyalgia symptoms can manifest in myriad ways. When they manifest in the musculoskeletal system they can show up as:
- Chest pain, also called costochondritis, which can mimic a heart attack with either dull and achy pain in the rib cage and breastbone, or sharp pains to the chest.
- Joint pain, even though there is no inflammation present.
- Leg cramps
- Morning stiffness that can last from 30 minutes to a full day, affecting range of motion and causing achiness and pain all over the body.
- Muscle cramps that occur most frequently in the legs and feet but can show up in the back and arms as well.
- Muscle pain, the trademark of FMS.
- Muscle twitches that feel like little electrical shocks. These tiny muscle contractions tingle and can eventually become painful if they go on for a long time.\
- Muscle weakness, which is different from fatigue in that even with all of your energy going into exerting your muscles, they still don’t do what you want them to do.
Conditons Related to FMS
Fibromyalgia sufferers usually also suffer from related conditions that compound the issues.
- Chronic myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) exhibits itself with pain that begins in a trigger point and then radiates out into other parts of the body. It is thought that some of the chest pain associated with FMS may be MPS rather than costochondritis. The trigger points are extremely painful and are different from FMS tender points. FMS can cause MPS to form and MPS can exacerbate FMS. They feed off each other.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is another situation that is common to FMS people and also involves the muscle contractions of the large intestine causing bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, and a feeling of malaise.
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS), a condition that affects more than half of all FMS sufferers, is a neurological condition that results in an uncontrollable urge to move the legs constantly.
Vitamins, minerals and muscle function
Although many people with fibromyalgia syndrome rely heavily on muscle relaxants and medications to deal with the pain and discomfort of musculoskeletal symptoms of FMS, there are other methods that can be extremely effective.
Ensuring your intake of specific vitamins and minerals is adequate can go a long way to relieving FMS muscle pains and to stop or at least minimize muscle cramping and twitching.
Magnesium, calcium, vitamins D, B12, and B6 are all important to muscle function and, as it turns out, most people with FMS are deficient in one or all of these minerals and vitamins, often because they are not absorbed well into the body.
Could It Be a Magnesium Deficiency?
In order for muscles to function properly they require adequate amounts of magnesium. Without the proper amount of magnesium, the body develops excessive muscle tension which manifests as twitching, muscle cramps, spasms, tics, and restlessness (especially in the legs).
The muscle tension is created by an imbalance of magnesium to calcium – calcium controls contractions and magnesium controls relaxation. Magnesium deficiency is also implicated in myofascial pain syndrome and may be a huge contributor for sleeplessness.
When you don’t get adequate sleep, your body depletes magnesium, which in turn affects the nervous system.
Since FMS is a central nervous system disorder, the lack of adequate magnesium triggers nerve malfunctions – now you have headaches, migraines, Reynaud’s phenomena, and hypersensitivity to sound and light.
Magnesium chloride is probably the best way to get magnesium in a form that can be absorbed adequately into the body.
The Role of Calcium in the Muscles
Calcium is necessary for proper muscle function, as well as for bone strength. It is a vital component of nerve conduction and muscle contraction control. Often, people with FMS have a challenge with absorption because the colon isn’t doing its job well.
A supplement that is high in calcium as well as magnesium and vitamin D can be very effective in treating the muscle twitching and cramping that accompanies FMS. Calcium carbonate is a form of calcium that seems to be absorbed relatively well by those with fibromyalgia.
Shedding a Little Sunshine on the Problem
Vitamin D regulates the calcium metabolism of the body which affects muscles and bones. The contraction and relaxation of the muscles occurs as a result of nerve firing that triggers the flow of calcium into the muscle cells.
When there is a vitamin D deficiency, the levels of calcium required to effectively regulate the muscles is depleted and the result is muscle twitching and musculoskeletal symptoms.
It is vitamin D that enables the body to absorb calcium from the diet. A low level of vitamin D means the body doesn’t absorb the minerals it needs, both calcium and magnesium, that work together for smooth and painless muscle contractions.
Vitamin D can be obtained through the foods we eat: eggs, salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, liver, fortified milk, cereal and fruit juices. Cod liver oil is still an excellent source of concentrated vitamin D and can greatly help FMS sufferers with twitching muscles and cramping.
Don’t forget the main source of vitamin D is still the sun. Getting outside in the sun regularly helps your vitamin D levels.
Learn more about muscle twitching and weakness for fibro sufferers in this section.