Pain is a normal protective mechanism that helps in preventing the risk of injuries and ailments, but what to do if your body is aching for no reason? How does it feel when your sensitivity and perception to pain is abnormally high? It definitely becomes difficult to maintain productive and functional lifestyle. Unfortunately, for those who are suffering from fibromyalgia patients, there is a lot more to manage besides pain and discomfort. One of the most challenging symptoms is memory loss in fibromyalgia patients.
What Should You Know About Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that is characterized by musculoskeletal pain, severe muscular rigidity, fatigue, sleep dysfunction, tingling sensation in upper and lower limbs, morning stiffness and impairment of psychological functions. In poorly managed cases of fibromyalgia, a variety of complications are reported, such as:
- Fibro fog
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome
- Recurrent attacks of migraine and tension headaches
- Frequent episodes of painful menstruation in females
- Vestibular disturbances
According to latest estimates reported in peer reviewed journal Arthritis Care & Research, more than 6.4% of the entire US population is living with fibromyalgia. It has been observed that females are 7 times more likely to develop fibromyalgia as compared to males.
What Is Fibro-fog?
Fibro fog (also referred to as fibromyalgia fog) is an umbrella term that denotes:
- Changes in the normal neurological functions.
- Abnormal thought processing.
- Impairment of nervous processes responsible for memory formation, consolidation and recall.
- Inability to perform executive functions like decision making and leadership.
- Deficits in attention and concentration.
- Mixing up of words while talking or losing train of thoughts in the middle of discussion.
Needless to say that these apparently ‘harmless’ symptoms affects the confidence, self-esteem and productivity of the individuals living with fibromyalgia.
What Causes memory Problems In Fibromyalgia Patients?
Despite extensive research, the exact mechanism of memory impairment in the setting of fibromyalgia is not completely understood, but a number of theories are presented by scientists and clinicians. Most popular ones are:
- Neurological deficits due to inadequate stimulation of higher brain centers: Scientists concluded that the person loses cognitive functions of the central nervous system (such as intelligence, intellectual thinking and memory consolidation) due to chronic effects of severe pain. Researchers experimentally proved that the excessive stimulation of brain that controls and perceive pain signals compromises the activity of neurons that are responsible for higher mental functions like thinking.
- Biochemical imbalance: Due to constant perception of severe pain, the biochemical balance of different neurotransmitters in the brain is also disturbed. These biochemical changes can also impair nervous functions and often presents as disorientation, forgetfulness and deficits in concentration.
- Sleep deprivation and mental fatigue: One of the most widely accepted theory is the mental fatigue caused by constant pain signals and sleep disorders in fibromyalgia patients. Research indicates that poor sleep and constant mental or physical exertion affects the cognitive functions significantly. Study reported by Ambrose and his colleagues suggested that sleep impairment is very strongly related to ‘fibromyalgia dyscognition’.
It is imperative to keep in mind that interventions are needed mainly to maintain the quality of life and minimize the risk of embarrassing situations due to fibro fog.
Tips To Beat Memory Loss In Fibromyalgia Patients
Regardless of the cause or pathogenesis, it is important to take interventions early in the course of illness. Here are 6 simple tips that can help a great deal in minimizing the risk of memory loss in fibromyalgia patients:
- Do not Compromise On Your Sleep
It has been observed that fibromyalgia patients often experience disturbances in the normal pattern of sleep due to constant muscle pain or fatigue. One of the common symptoms of fibro fog is RLS (restless leg syndrome), which does not allow an individual to sleep properly.
Needless to say that impaired sleeping habits and rhythm keeps these patients exhausted all the time that further affects the rhythm and quality of sleep. In short, the abnormal sleep cycle acts like a vicious cycle and deteriorates the quality of life of individuals suffering from fibromyalgia.
In order to optimally manage this issue, it is highly recommended to seek professional medical assistance in the form of pharmacological agents such as anti-anxiety drugs or anti-convulsants. Pharmacological agents helps in controlling the issue and allow you to maintain healthy sleeping habits. Following are some additional remedies that may improve your quality and rhythm of sleep:
- Avoid intake of alcohol or caffeine before going to sleep.
- Hot bath before bedtime are known to induce better quality sleep besides reducing the aching muscular pain.
- Remove your phone, multimedia devices or other distractions from the room.
- Try to keep your mind away from daily life issues when you go to sleep.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Pineal Research, investigators concluded that consuming melatonin in a dose of 5 mg (with or without Fluoxetine) can help a great deal in managing the symptoms of fibromyalgia fog in the patients by improving the sleep quality.
- Consider Supplements
It has been observed that nutritional or herbal supplements boost mental and physical energy levels in fibromyalgia patients besides improving cognitive functions. A number of functional supplements are advised by healthcare professionals, such as:
Ribose is an essential sugar that contains ATP (adenine triphosphate), a major energy producing molecule in the body. It also increases the production of vitamin B1 in the body which is very important for maintaining normal functioning of central nervous system especially in fibromyalgia patients. According to a new study, daily intake of 15 grams of ribose (3 times per day) for two months is fairly effective in improving the cognitive function of the brain and boosting memory. In addition, carbohydrates also serves as an excellent source of energy for the brain cells.
Deficiency or imbalance of vitamin D is known as a significant risk factor for depression and anxiety. Data indicates that vitamin D supplementation helps a great deal in improving the symptoms of depression, weakness, poor energy and memory impairment in fibromyalgia patients.
Magnesium supplements are clinically proven to help the symptoms of depression by stimulating nervous connectivity of neurons and boosting the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate (the high energy molecule).
Other popular herbal remedies include Acetyl L-carnitine (LAC) and omega- 3 fatty acids. It is highly recommended to speak to your primary care provider before initiating any pharmacological or over-the-counter supplements.
- Increase Physical Activity Or Exercise
Increasing the basal level of physical activity improves the blood circulation towards the brain and decreases the risk of developing brain fog due to fibromyalgia. Exercise also improves the brain activity and stimulation that minimizes the risk of depression (one of the important risk factors for brain fogging).
- Develop a healthy morning schedule. Start your day with brisk walk for about 10 minutes and increase it to 30 minutes daily.
- If you are not fond of morning walks, you can also engage yourself in other healthy activities like daily swimming (for a period of 20 to 30 minutes). Research indicates that swimming improve cognitive brain functioning, besides boosting mood and sense of wellness in fibromyalgia patients.
- Spending more time in front of television decreases your energy levels and makes you more tired and exhausted (especially if you have fibromyalgia). According to a latest study, sedentary lifestyle can lead to depression that may deteriorate cognitive functions and memory in fibromyalgia patients.
Busch and associates conducted a study to identify most effective forms of physical activity in fibromyalgia patients. Based on the evidence-based experimentation, it was concluded that resistance training (weight lifting) is by far the most valuable form of physical activity compared to flexible training (elastic tubing) or aerobics (jogging or running). However, if you are more comfortable with other forms of physical activity, continue with your existing exercise regimen.
- Keep Your Brain Active And Stimulated
Every person needs some change in routine after a certain interval of time. This helps in increasing brain activity and stimulation of neurons. Doctors recommended that persons with fibromyalgia fog must change their routine after some time (however, make sure this change is healthy and productive).
A few examples include:
- Trying different things and getting social like going for walks, joining clubs and societies is the most effective factors in changing your daily routine to a healthier side.
- To become more interactive with people and sharing our thoughts also decrease your risk of developing forgetfulness and memory dysfunction.
- Performing activities of your interest like if you are interested in dancing, singing, teaching, drawing, performing arts helps divert your mind to a healthier side.
- Excessive use of electronic gadgets such as computers, television restricts your scope of activities and leads to generation of stress and depression. Socialize yourself, go out, takes part in different outdoor activities. Socializing and charity activities gives immense satisfaction. Other alternatives include:
- Making yourself eco-friendly, going into greens, activity of gardening also helps in boosting up your energy by consuming fresh oxygen.
- Keep planners and maintain schedules to prevent memory overload.
- Mindfulness Meditation (Yoga And Tai-chi)
According to a latest research that was conducted on 20 patients with fibro fog, it was reported that yoga practices and other forms of mindful activities alleviates the symptoms of fibro-fog. Researchers enrolled the fibromyalgia patients for a period of eight weeks during which each study subject participated in different forms of mindful activities like Yoga, meditation, Tai-chi and others.
After the completion of study period, patients reported a significant decline in the complaints of muscle pain, fatigue and sleeping disturbances.
The study concludes that mind relaxing activities such as yoga and Tai-chi can help in regaining your cognitive functions. Yoga therapist suggests to perform yoga outside the house, in open air (garden or a green area) so that you inhale fresh oxygen and interact with physical environment.
- Seek Medical Help
A number of pharmacological and non-pharmacological remedies are available as prescription or over-the-counter supplements to manage the fibromyalgia symptoms. It is imperative to understand that managing associated symptoms of this chronic pain syndrome is itself helpful in preventing memory loss.
Adopt complementary and alternative medicine for the management of fatigue, physical and mental exhaustion, pain relief and aching muscles. Study reported in The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders suggested that pharmacological agents like Milnacipran are highly effective in fibromyalgia patients. Once consumed, this drug improves food, energy levels and brain clarity.
The study also suggested that individuals report better concentration, focus and attention to details when milnacipran is consumed for more than 4-6 weeks. It is highly recommended to speak to your primary care physician if milnacipran is effective in your case. Other popular drugs that are also used in fibromyalgia management are duloxetine, venlafaxine
Research reported in Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology suggested that several alternative interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy also plays a major role in coping with memory loss in fibromyalgia patients.
In conclusion, fibro-fog is a recognized but manageable issue. With simple changes in the lifestyle and habits, you can maintain optimal quality of life without letting fibromyalgia destroy your memories and intellectual capacity.