More than half of people with fibromyalgia have migraine disease according to research. When you have both fibromyalgia and migraine disease they do not play well together, as one might suspect. And it seems to me there are more than a few reasons why this would be the case.
Research has shown that when you have fibromyalgia and migraine disease:
- Migraine intensity is significantly higher
- There is increase migraine related disability and higher MIDAS scores compared to those without fibromyalgia
- Increased rates of depression compared to those without fibromyalgia
- Correlated with lower quality of life
I have to wonder if some of this has to do with the fact that both fibromyalgia and migraine disease have some similar environmental sensitivity triggers.
One study showed that bright light caused pain for patients with fibromyalgia at an astonishing rate of 70%, more than any other reported neurological symptom; this compared to only 6% for people without a chronic pain syndrome.(1) A primary reason for increasing levels of photophobia is likely due to the ongoing external sensitivities and lower pain threshold associated with the fibromyalgia; this has been previously described as “sensory overload.”Theraspecs
If you consider just photophobia with a significant amount of people with fibromyalgia having constant photophobia that Alone is a massive migraine aggravating factor. It means sunlight, computer screens, fluorescent lights are already a strong aggravating factor we are sensitive to and cause us pain and it isn’t at all surprising it would trigger migraine attacks and also be a strong aggravating factor when we get a migraine attack with its photophobia.
With fibromyalgia, it has long been debated whether the weather is a trigger for more pain or not. Currently, it looks like pain gets worse as it gets colder and barometric pressure drops. The why of that is still being looked into. I agree with this by experience since winter my fibromyalgia pain increases and then improves come spring. And when we get massive drops in pressure in the winter, as we have this week, I really, really feel that.
And when you also have a migraine attack weather triggers, such as barometric pressure changes and/or extreme heat/cold. So we can get hit with a fibro flare and a migraine from the exact same weather fluctuation.
One of the main symptoms of fibromyalgia is poor sleep quality and often insomnia or other forms of sleep dysfunction. All by itself, this is a significant problem with pain management. However, lack of sleep is also a significant migraine trigger. I have had a significant problem with this myself before my sleep issues were treated. My poor sleep led to some severe sleep deprivation which led to daily morning migraine attacks. And then pretty much constant migraine-level headache pain. Which then compromised my ability to Get to sleep the next night. And it was then a vicious cycle of trying to fall asleep with my insomnia plus severe pain (painsomnia) and then not getting much sleep and triggering yet another migraine- and on and on and on.
Another study, published in the journal Pain Research and Treatment,suggests that changes in brain chemistry among people with fibromyalgia may be linked to sensitivity to stimuli such as sound and smell. Imaging studies have provided visual depictions of this altered response to sensations. In some respects, the brains of people with fibromyalgia may be hyper-responsive to even the possibility of pain or discomfort, Dr. Natelson says.Everyday health
Although the sensitivity to sound and smell is not often mentioned with fibromyalgia it is an important one to mention when it comes to having fibro and migraine disease. Due to the fact, these sensitivities can both be aggressive triggers for migraine attacks. I say that my skin is ‘finicky’ and I use brands that are for sensitive skin and I am very particular about it. And then I am likewise very particular about the Scents put into things like lotions and cleaning products because they can bother me And trigger a migraine. It has been this way long before my first migraine attack and certainly worse now that it is also a migraine trigger situation.
Other than the increased severity of migraine attacks you can see perhaps why there is more migraine disability and lower quality of life when fibromyalgia occurs with migraine disease. Both are conditions that are very hyper-aware of the environment and unfortunately co-aggravated by each other.