When you check the list of symptoms for fibromyalgia, there are not many functions of the body, mind or emotions that are untouched by this syndrome. Widespread pain, disorientation, IBS, and numerous other health challenges seem to be part and parcel of the experience of FMS. Even your sense of balance and feelings of dizziness are attributable to fibromyalgia syndrome.
Clinical Study Proves What We Know
In a study done at the School of Nursing, Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon to determine whether fibromyalgia patients differ from healthy control subjects in clinical tests of balance ability and fall frequency, the results confirmed yet another symptom of FMS.
In this study, 34 fibromyalgia patients were compared with a control group of 32 healthy people of the same age. They were all administered the Balance Evaluation-Systems Test (BESTest), and were rated on their balance confidence with the Activities-Specific Balance Confidence (ABC) Scale, along with reported number of all in the previous six months. The Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire was used to determine the severity of fibromyalgia.
The results were no surprise to those who suffer with FMS. Fibromyalgia patients had significantly impaired balance in all of the components of the BESTest when compared with the control group. They also scored poorly on balance confidence. Again, it was no surprise when the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire correlated significantly with the BESTest and the ABC scale, both of which matched with the six commonly reported fibro symptoms outside of pain. When the number of falls by FMS patients (37) was compared to the healthy controls (6), the results confirmed again the balance issues.
The obvious conclusion to the study was that fibromyalgia is associated with balance problems and increased fall frequency. FMS sufferers were cognizant of their issues with balance. The results of the study indicate that fibromyalgia may affect the peripheral and/or central mechanisms of postural control. More research is intended in order to determine the connection of neural, musculoskeletal and other types of issues to postural stability.
As Usual, There’s No Clear Cause
The problem with balance and the often accompanying dizziness is that there is no clear cause – something that is very consistent with FMS. There are trigger points in the neck and jaw that can cause a feeling of dizziness and subsequent imbalance. It is thought that perhaps these trigger points affect the nerves that communicate the position of the body in space to the brain. If the eye signals don’t match up with the nerve impulses on space, dizziness and disorientation occur.
Another possible cause for dizziness and light-headedness is neutrally-mediated hypotension, which is also known as vaso-vagal reflex. This is a drop in blood pressure and heart rate that manifests in sweating, feeling faint (or actually fainting) and falls.
Neurally-mediated hypotension may occur at certain times:
- after standing for a period of time
- when the environment is warm
- after exercise
- after experiencing emotional stress
- after a heavy meal
Although some studies do not show a direct link between the Chiari Malformation and FMS, there seems to be a connection nevertheless, since it appears frequently in people with FMS.
Chiari Malformation or Medications?
Chiari malformation is a condition that causes brain tissue to settle into the spinal cord. It occurs at the juncture of the skull and neck where a part of the skull is may be too small or misshapen allowing for a part of the brain to settle into the large opening at the base of the skull.
The brain is not supposed to be there, only nerves should be going through that particular passage. If the brain is pressing there, it is called Chiari Malformation. It is a structural problem that is usually present at birth and isn’t usually caused by anything other than a congenital defect.
It is possible for medications to present a side effect of dizziness and accompanying balance problems. Since those with FMS tend to take more medications than most people, it is a consideration to talk with the doctor about the possibilities of medication induced dizziness.
Making Life Easier: Treat Fibro Dizziness and Balance
There are some things you can do to address the dizziness and balance issues:
- Make your home and workplace hazard free – especially removing tripping hazards and sharp objects and furniture that could injure if you fell against it.
- Be aware of standing or jumping up from a prone position too quickly. Bending can also cause dizziness or make it worse. Learn to squat rather than bend over if possible.
- Pilates, Tai Chi, Yoga, and dance are all good ways to improve balance.
- Exercise is an excellent way to gain strength as well as stability and balance.
- Walking poles are a great asset, especially on days when you’re feeling dizzy. Besides giving you confidence as you walk, they also contribute to a good cardiovascular workout.
Living with fibromyalgia is no picnic, but it is possible to have quality of life when you know what you’re dealing with and how to address the symptoms. Learn more about fibromyalgia dizziness.