Frustrating Fibro Fog
Fibro fog, also known as brain fog, is something that is both frustrating and difficult to deal with for people with fibromyalgia. While we associate pain and fatigue with the condition, and we’re glad to talk about that, almost as common is the lack of clarity and mental confusion that can be a daily occurrence for some.
Some Possible Reasons for Fibro Fog
Several reasons have been postulated as to why people with chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia suffer with this maddening symptom. Cognitive difficulties that make remembering things, staying focused, and using speech appropriately a challenge, have been attributed to a number of concurrent physiological processes. It was long thought that fibro fog was a psychological problem; however, several research studies and much speculation have turned up other possible causes. What we know now is that fibro fog has nothing to do with a person’s mental capacity, although it may be influenced by a lack of oxygen to the brain. Below is a list of possible causes for fibro fog:
· decreased oxygen flow to the brain
· certain medications
· poor nutrition
· changes to the Central Nervous System
What the Experts are Saying
In fact, fibro fog is a type of mental exhaustion and it is exacerbated by pain and lack of restorative sleep. One of the more popular theories has been that fibro fog is caused by sleep deprivation. At the deepest level of sleep, delta wave sleep, a person’s mind is able to sort data, file it appropriately and discard unnecessary information. The inability to get sufficient delta wave sleep – a real issue for fibromyalgia sufferers – causes impairment of the ability to recall information at a normal level of mental efficiency.
Brain scan studies have indicated that at times people with fibromyalgia suffer oxygen deprivation to various parts of the brain, possibly due to central nervous system malfunctions that cause changes in blood vessels in the brain. Recent research shows that the brain may be affected by chronic pain. Using functional MRI technology researchers discovered that the parts of the brain most associated with emotions fail to shut off when they should in people in chronic pain. In other words, their brains are running all of the time and become exhausted. Neurons are wearing out and the balance of the brain is disturbed. It’s little wonder that people with FMS who deal with fibro fog feel like they are mentally exhausted so often. It appears that physiologically, they may well be. Research is ongoing and a wide variety of theories are coming to the surface.
What You Can Do to Get a Good Night’s Rest
In the meantime, there are things you can do to diminish the impact of fibro fog. Since it does connect directly to non-restorative sleep, it is important to do what is necessary to address the sleep issue. Along with a high quality mattress and pillow and a sufficiently dark and comfortable room, some of the following suggestions may be useful:
· stay on a routine, retiring and rising at the same time every day
· make sure the atmosphere around bedtime, both going to sleep and during sleep is relaxing
· no caffeine before bed
· if you must eat, eat lightly
· listen to white noise prior to sleep and keep it on during the hours you sleep
· natural sleep aid (talk with your doctor)
Living with Fibro Fog – Helping Yourself
According to the Arthritis Foundation, there are some things you can to do help yourself lessen the negative impact of fibro fog through the day:
· Repeat yourself. Repeat things to yourself over and over again. Repetition will keep thoughts fresh in your mind.
· Write it down. Whether you write in a calendar, a notebook or on sticky notes, if you’re afraid you’ll forget something, write it down.
· Pick your best time. If there is something you need to do that requires concentration and memory, pick your best time to do it. Many people with fibromyalgia find early in the day to be their best time.
· Get treatment. Depression, pain and sleep deprivation can influence your ability to concentrate and remember. Getting your medical problems treated may indirectly help your memory.
· Engage yourself. Reading a book, seeing a play, or working a complex crossword or jigsaw puzzle can stimulate your brain and your memory.
· Stay active. Physical activity, in moderation, can increase your energy and help lift your fibro fog. Speak to your doctor or physical therapist about an exercise program that is right for you.
· Explain yourself. Explain your memory difficulties to family members and close friends. Memory problems often result from stress. Getting a little understanding from the ones you love may help.
· Keep it quiet. A radio blasting from the next room, a TV competing for your attention, or background conversation can distract your attention from the task at hand. If possible, move to a quiet place and minimize distractions when you are trying to remember.
· Go slowly. Sometimes memory problems can result from trying to do too much in too short a period of time. Break up tasks, and don’t take on more than you can handle at once. Stress and fatigue will only make the situation worse.
Fibromyalgia does not have a magic pill or a shot you can take to deal with the flow of symptoms and challenges. Fibro fog is but one of many things people with fibromyalgia have to contend with – but using a combination of treatment disciplines seems to help.
Learn more about fibro fog, the possible causes and more ways to deal with it in our article on this site.