A common complaint from women with fibromyalgia is abnormal or severe menstrual periods, and fibromyalgia flares that appear to be triggered by the menstrual cycle. We don't know a lot about this issue through research, so comparing notes with each other can help us understand what's going on with our bodies.
I wrote in my blog about my own experience and a lot of women commented about their experiences as well. My story and a selection of comments are here, so you can see whether your own issues are similar to others.
After several months of fibromyalgia flares that came on like clockwork, I realized that the flares hit right about the time I was ovulating. Symptoms would then get worse until my period started. I had some lingering symptoms during the week of my period, then I felt great the week after it ended. Then I'd ovulate and get bad again. On top of that, my periods were heavier and far more painful than ever.
My rheumatologist said all that was common in women with fibromyalgia but didn't offer any solutions.
My OB/GYN was a different story. He said it sounded like my flares were triggered by hormones released by the uterus when the lining began to thicken. He recommended a procedure called endometrial ablation, which cauterizes the uterine lining and keeps it from filling with blood. He said that would make the periods lighter or non-existent plus put an end to the suspect hormones.
The procedure seemed to work – my flares became fewer and farther between as well as milder, and periods were all but wiped out. I do have a mild increase in symptoms at that time of the month, but it's nothing compared to what I used to endure.
Some women have experiences similar to my own, while others see symptom flares during their periods.
"My fibro symptoms definitely flare the week before my period. In addition to the premenstrual headaches/migraines, my body feels pounded on – like I have the flu. Fibro symptoms ease up a bit after I start but the headache continues." –Kim
"I have always secretly wondered if I've been misdiagnosed, because my symptoms have always, without fail, greatly increased right before my period. No doctor has ever taken me seriously, even the women. But now I see I'm not alone, there are lots of us." –Beth
"I always get a big increase in my fibro symptoms with my period. My periods aren’t too bad … but the fibro pain escalates from a week or more beforehand and just builds and builds, also covers more and more of my body until everything is hurting or aching, then after the first couple of heavy days of my period the pain drops back to bearable level again. Something I have noticed since fibro is that my period starts with spotting for a few days, then heavy for 2-3 days, then it just stops for 2 days completely, then starts again not very heavy and fades away over 3-4 days. It seems very weird to me and never happened before fibro." –Claire
"I'm 35, have FM, and take continuous birth control pills to stop excessive bleeding (past anemia) and because it tends to flare up my fibro. So, my periods come every 3 months. However, 2 days ago I got my first one since May. I have never … experienced the pain as I have the last 2 days, especially yesterday. It felt like I was passing kidney stones or something." –Maggie
For a look at what research says about menstruation and other women's-health issues, see: