The connection between leg pain and fibromyalgia
The defining characteristic of fibromyalgia is widespread pain, including pain in the legs . Leg pain and fibromyalgia can vary from person to person, but can present as a sharp ache, a dull ache, a deep ache, or more of an aching sensation. If you are suffering from this type of pain, there is hope. This is what you should know about its treatment and management.
What does fibromyalgia leg pain feel like?
If you are suffering from fibromyalgia leg pain, you may experience throbbing, shooting, aching, or burning sensations in your legs. Often you will feel the pain in the tender points of your fibro, especially inside each knee and in the hip just behind your hip. Pain may radiate from these points, and may also be accompanied by numbness, stiffness, or tingling.
This pain is also often related to restless leg syndrome. If you suffer from leg pain due to fibromyalgia, there are treatments that can help you find relief. We will discuss that later in this post.
What causes leg pain in fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia leg pain can develop in the tendons, muscles, or ligaments that surround the joints. Although pain manifests in these areas, the sensations are amplified by problems in the nervous system ‘s processing of pain , according to the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association.
Other symptoms that cause fibromyalgia-related leg pain include restless leg syndrome and numbness or tingling in the extremities. Fibromyalgia affects between 2% and 4% of US adults, mostly women.
Fibromyalgia is not well understood and there is no cure, although its symptoms can be managed through a variety of traditional and alternative therapies, along with lifestyle changes. You can learn more about fibromyalgia in the following video.https://www.youtube.com/embed/vwzXsE0ACXI?enablejsapi=1&wmode=opaque
Restless legs syndrome and fibromyalgia
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that people with fibromyalgia are more likely to develop restless legs syndrome , a neurological disorder characterized by palpitations or other difficult-to-manage sensations that create an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. The sensations are usually worse at night and dissipate in the morning. They can occur in one or both legs.
By moving their legs, people with restless legs syndrome can find relief from their fibromyalgia leg pain and other unpleasant sensations. However, lying down also tends to aggravate sensations in the legs, making it difficult to sleep , according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
The researchers found that 33% of study participants with fibromyalgia also had restless legs syndrome, while only 3% of those without fibromyalgia had the syndrome.
Disturbed sleep marks another common symptom of fibromyalgia, and the researchers said many people with fibromyalgia may attribute the disruption to restless legs syndrome.
Most treatments for restless legs syndrome are aimed at relieving symptoms, according to NINDS. Lifestyle changes that can alleviate fibromyalgia-related restless leg syndrome may include:
- Limit the consumption of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
- Take supplements such as iron, magnesium, and folate.
- Adopting a regular sleep pattern.
- heating pads
neuropathic fibromyalgia leg pain
Neuropathy causes tingling or pain in the extremities, including the feet. According to a study presented at a meeting of the American Neurological Association, some fibromyalgia patients may have a related disorder known as small fiber polyneuropathy (SFPN).
The researchers found that 46% of fibromyalgia patients had SFPN, which is a type of peripheral neuropathy that is sometimes treatable. Anne Louise Oaklander, an associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and an author of the study, notes :
“This provides some of the first objective evidence of a mechanism behind some cases of fibromyalgia, and identifying an underlying cause is the first step toward finding better treatments.”
SFPN causes widespread pain, similar to fibromyalgia, but has tests that can offer a definitive diagnosis, which is not the case with fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia tender points on the legs.
People with fibromyalgia often develop tender points of pain, also known as trigger points , which are located in the legs. Each person has nine pairs of points on the body that can cause pain when pressed, according to WebMD. On the leg, tender points can develop on the inside of each knee and on the hip, just behind the hipbone.
A clear diagnosis of fibromyalgia occurs when a person experiences pain in a minimum of 11 trigger points, although in practice, that number is sometimes less, according to WebMD. Fibromyalgia-related leg pain can occur when trigger points cause pain in the area.
Leg pain and fibromyalgia treatment.
Treatment for fibromyalgia leg pain typically requires a comprehensive approach, with a combination of medications and lifestyle changes designed to reduce pain and improve quality of life.
Fibromyalgia leg pain treatments may include:
- Promoting a more restful sleep
- Working out
- Eating a fibro-healthy diet
- Undergo physical therapy
- Trying interventional therapies
- taking medication
Changes in lifestyle
Lifestyle changes are one of the best ways people with leg pain and fibromyalgia can manage their pain. Management issues, such as restless leg syndrome, are critical to ensuring quality sleep.
Ways to encourage restful sleep include:
- Establish a regular sleep schedule
- Exercise early in the day.
- Keeping the bed only for sleeping.
- Creating a relaxing route before bed
Browsing the Internet or reading a book in bed can keep your brain awake and make it hard to sleep. Taking a bath or listening to relaxing music helps the day fade into the background and the mind relaxes.
According to NIAMS, making sure you get enough exercise is another important lifestyle factor, possibly the most important in managing leg pain and fibromyalgia. Fighting pain and fatigue to get your heart pumping, walking or biking can help you sleep well and relieve pain as well.
Since fibromyalgia has an inflammatory component, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce symptoms. Many people with fibromyalgia have food sensitivities , whether to gluten, dairy, eggs or preservatives, according to WebMD. Keeping a food diary to identify any foods that trigger leg pain can help manage symptoms.
To make cooking with healthy foods easier, buy fruits and vegetables that are already chopped or washed. Buying prepared foods from a natural or health food store can also be an alternative to cooking. Be careful to read ingredient lists because sometimes prepared foods have ingredients that can cause pain, even if they are considered healthy.
Cooking with herbs, such as powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ginger and turmeric, can also help reduce fibromyalgia-related leg pain.
fibromyalgia leg pain medication
Recommended medications for fibromyalgia include pain relievers like Tylenol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil. NSAIDs work by reducing fibromyalgia-related inflammation and relieving aches and pains. However, prolonged use of pain relievers can cause physical side effects, such as fluid retention, high blood pressure, and stomach, kidney, or heart problems.
Narcotics are sometimes prescribed, but there is no evidence that the drugs ease fibromyalgia-related leg pain , according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). In addition, narcotics carry significant risks of addiction and abuse.
Other options may include muscle relaxants if you are experiencing muscle spasms.
If you’re experiencing severe pain and home treatments haven’t worked, talk to your doctor. They are likely to start by prescribing physical therapy. This can help correct imbalances in your muscles and stretch them.
For some, physical therapy may be too painful. In these situations, the combination of physical therapy with epidural steroid injections can help you get the therapy you need to correct the underlying problem, while managing your pain during the sessions.
Other options include:
- TENS unit therapy
- radiofrequency ablation
- biofeedback therapy
- spinal cord stimulation
If you are suffering from fibromyalgia leg pain, there are treatments that can help. Always work with a doctor who is willing to look at all possible treatment options to find the best fit for you and your lifestyle. You can find even more suggestions in our post, “ 25 Fibromyalgia Treatment Options to Beat Your Pain” or “ 31 Tips to Get Rid of Leg Pain ”.