Fibromyalgia does a number on our nervous system and can cause a lot of odd sensations. One sensation is an itch that just will not quit.
It should be noted fibromyalgia causes:
- Hyperalgesia: Our abnormal sensitivity to pain
- Allodynia: the burning skin pain sensation
- Paresthesia: ‘pins and needles’ sensations, an itch, tingling, prickling and numbness. And can cause pain.
Itching may occur in fibromyalgia due to certain nerve fibers being activated and causing an itching sensation. Itching and pain share a common pathway positioned in the spinal cord. Pain and itchiness also activate the same sensory brain areas. Someone who is sensitive to pain may also be sensitive to itchiness.
It could be then that the itching we get is Paresthesia.
Researchers have in the past been a bit startled by this symptom because it is common in neuropathy. But there has been research indicating we can get small fibre neuropathy with fibromyalgia. Either way, it paresthesia can cause an itchy sensation, or prickling sensations and even numbness.
Painkillers can also cause itch
So it may be treatment rather than the fibromyalgia itself causing the itch if you are on painkillers. That is something to consider.
Other meds that can cause itch:
- Acetaminophen – has a rare side effect of skin, rash, hives, or itching
- Ibuprofen – one of the more common side effects is itching skin
- Naproxen sodium – itching is a common side effect
- Tramadol – itching skin is a common side effect
- Duloxetine and milnacipran – burning, crawling, itching, numbness, prickling, “pins and needles,” or tingling feelings are less common side effects
- Pregabalin – itching is a rare side effect
So medication is something to consider as the cause of the itchiness.
Other skin problems that were reported by people with fibromyalgia included:
- Excessive sweating – 32 percent
- Burning sensation of the skin or mucous membranes – 3.4 percent
- Various unusual skin sensations – 1.7 percent
- Skin lesions from repetitive scratching, itchy lumps on the arms and legs, or thickened skin areas that itch – 1.9 percent
- Inflammation of the skin that does not itch – 9.1 percent
Treatments for that relentless itch
Capsaicin I often say ‘burns good’ but it can be too intense for some. However, it is often recommended for fibromyalgia because it disrupts the pain signals. Be careful with it and always wash your hands after with it.
Ice is nice because it numbs sensation. I haven’t tried this treatment for it because of the issue that the itch can span a large area. But it is an option. Or even a cold cloth over the area.
Opiates may cause itch but Acetaminophen and NSAID anti-inflammatories can relieve it at times.
Sometimes calming your system down can help with these symptoms. So meditation or yoga or acupuncture can all help. I prefer meditation because it is easy to do and easy to get into the routine of.
Such as antidepressants (duloxetine, milnacipran, and amitriptyline)
or anti-seizure (gabapentin and pregabalin) meds used for fibromyalgia
It could be caused by something else. A med. An allergic reaction. A rash… which I get a lot of random ones with FM. So if it is a new sensation you can ask your doc about it.
- Try not to scratch that itch as it can get worse
- Try soothing lotions with oatmeal to reduce itch
- Avoid perfumed soaps and lotions- there are some good oatmeal soaps you can find that are great
- Try Epsom salt bath with unscented or oatmeal lotion after, as heat dries out skin
- You can try anti-itch creams
- Wear loose clothes
You may notice itching in the winter, typically called ‘winter itch’. Typically a problem if you have eczema as well. Winter can dry out the skin and cause inflammation. And in this case:
- Avoid hot baths
- Use thicker moisturizers
- Drink a lot of water
- Take Vitamin D and E
- Choose soft clothing
- Again be careful of soaps and lotions. Unscented is best. Oatmeal ones will also sooth the skin.