From Spinning to Steady: Managing Fibromyalgia Dizziness

Table of contents

From Spinning to Steady: Managing Fibromyalgia Dizziness

Are you experiencing dizziness as a symptom of fibromyalgia?

In this article, we'll explore the underlying causes of fibromyalgia dizziness and provide insights into managing this symptom. Equipping you with the knowledge and tools to navigate your daily life with fibromyalgia.

What does fibromyalgia dizziness feel like?

Dizziness associated with fibromyalgia may present itself differently among different people. Maybe you feel as though your feet are wobbling or wavering, or perhaps you feel as though you are about to fall or lose consciousness.

Dizziness can disrupt daily life, increasing the risk of trips and falls.

There are two types of dizziness.

Vertigo

This is when you get a feeling of instability or that whirling feeling. This unsettling sensation can be fleeting or persist for extended durations and it might arise suddenly or develop slowly over time.

Lightheadedness

Some people feel like they're about to faint. Others describe a floating sensation or as if the ground is unstable beneath them.

Rapid head movements or standing up quickly can trigger dizziness in lots of people, including those with fibromyalgia.

It can be distressing when dizziness strikes without warning. This can make people cautious about their usual activities or movements.

Other issues may also occur with dizziness, such as nausea and vomiting, or visual problems such as blurry vision or light sensitivity.

These issues can worsen cognitive difficulties known as "fibro fog", which includes problems with concentration and memory1.

What causes fibromyalgia-related dizziness?

Dizziness, commonly encountered by those with fibromyalgia, can be attributed to conditions such as orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when you stand up after sitting or lying down), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS, which causes changes such as increased heart rate when you first stand up)2, and other nervous system disorders.

This is because the autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate and blood pressure. This change in blood pressure briefly affects the amount of blood in your brain, which causes the dizzy spell.

Hypersensitivity & central sensitivity syndrome

Central sensitization syndrome, or CSS, is another disorder of the nervous system. It turns up the volume of the nerve signals in your brain and spinal cord, which can make stimuli that wouldn’t normally hurt, such as light touch, feel painful. This is the pain we feel when we live with fibro3.

Because central sensitization can impact anywhere in the body, it can affect your body's ability to process balance-related signals. This in turn can make you feel off-balance or dizzy as a result.

Alongside this, fibromyalgia can bring about emotional challenges such as depression and anxiety, which may further heighten your sense of dizziness4.

Can fibromyalgia affect your balance?

In addition to dizziness, fibromyalgia can affect your balance, by causing muscle pain, stiffness and weakness.

This rigidity and fatigue can restrict movement, impacting your ability to correct your movements, and thus making you more susceptible to being off-balance5.

Balance & gait challenges

Many people with fibromyalgia report difficulties with balance and walking.

A 2009 study found that around 28% of people with fibromyalgia have an abnormal walking pattern, highlighting the significant impact of the condition can have on someone’s physical movement6.

These gait abnormalities may enhance your feelings of unsteadiness, contributing to the overall experience of dizziness.

Comorbid conditions can increase the severity of dizziness

Comorbid conditions are any conditions that you have at the same time aa each other, for example having fibromyalgia and arthritis. Comorbid conditions can exacerbate the intensity of your dizziness. Notable comorbidities that can amplify dizziness in those with fibromyalgia include:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome: Shared symptoms such as persistent fatigue, sleep disruptions, and cognitive difficulties (commonly termed “fibro fog”) can worsen dizziness.
  • Depression: Because depression can cause physiological changes in the brain, it can affect balance and spatial orientation.

Additional conditions such as irritable bladder, vulvodynia, restless legs syndrome, upper cervical spine issues, widespread pain, and psychiatric disorders can also increase instances of dizziness and fainting in the context of fibromyalgia7.

How to manage dizziness & fibromyalgia

Managing dizziness in the context of fibromyalgia involves a comprehensive strategy that includes changes to your lifestyle, stress management, and proper medical care.

if you can identify the factors that precipitate your dizziness, such as physical exertion, emotional stress, or specific activities, you can choose to modify your lifestyle to reduce them. For example, you might consider what you eat, focus on getting adequate sleep, or integrate low-impact exercises into your daily life.

These changes, in addition to learning about how fibro works, can actually change your brain's response to these dizziness triggers. And can also decrease the frequency and intensity of pain, fatigue and other symptoms.

Reduce smoking if you are a smoker with fibromyalgia

A primary ingredient in cigarettes is nicotine. This can adversely affect your body in several ways that might worsen your dizziness. Let's consider how:

  • Nicotine can tighten your blood vessels, and this constriction can limit the flow of blood to your brain and other vital organs, potentially leading to sensations of dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • It can trigger the release of certain chemicals in your brain that influence your nervous system, which may affect your sense of balance and how you perceive your environment.
  • Nicotine can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to fluctuate, and these changes might make you feel unsteady or give you a spinning sensation.

Moreover, when you smoke, you also inhale carbon monoxide. This gas can bind to your red blood cells more tightly than oxygen, reducing their capacity to carry oxygen to your brain and other organs. This can cause fatigue.

A study conducted in 2011 showed that smoking habits may, in part, influence pain or functional and psychiatric features in people with fibromyalgia8.

Stress management

Although completely avoiding stress is not always possible, several strategies can help manage its impact. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can reframe your response to stressors, and mindfulness meditation, which can help you maintain a calm state of mind.

Seeking emotional support from friends, therapy, or support groups can also provide a buffer against stress. By actively managing stress, you may reduce its effects on both pain and hair health.

Movement & exercise

Incorporating movement and exercise into your routine can be beneficial not only for reducing your fibromyalgia pain but also for improving your mood and energy levels. Exercise can also enhance the quality of your sleep.

You can customize the type and amount of exercise based on your symptoms and limitations, and it doesn't need to be intense or rigorous. Gentle activities like yoga, relaxed dancing, or tending to your garden can be quite effective.

Our two top tips are to start slowly and be kind to yourself. Starting with small, low-impact exercises and gradually increasing intensity and duration allows the body to adapt safely. Practicing self-compassion will allow you to embrace challenges with resilience and confidence.

Sleep quality

Sleep plays a crucial role in managing fibromyalgia symptoms, forming a vital component of self-care strategies for pain reduction. The interplay between fibromyalgia symptoms and sleep quality creates a challenging cycle, where poor sleep exacerbates symptoms, and symptoms cause sleep disturbances.

Improving your sleeping patterns can help alleviate many fibromyalgia symptoms. Tips for improving your sleeping patterns include:

  • Establish a consistent sleep routine with fixed sleep and wake times, aiming for eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Limit daytime naps to short durations to avoid disrupting nighttime sleep patterns, ensuring they remain refreshing power naps.
  • Engage in physical activity during the day to promote better sleep onset.
  • Reduce screen time before bed to create a conducive environment for restful sleep.
  • Create a dark, quiet sleep environment to support uninterrupted sleep.
  • Moderate caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening, it can linger in the body for hours and interfere with sleep.
  • Avoid consuming large meals and alcohol close to bedtime to improve sleep quality.
  • Incorporate various forms of rest for the heart, body, and mind to complement sleep hygiene practices and manage fibromyalgia symptoms effectively.

Medication

Medications, when used as directed and in consultation with your healthcare provider, can play a supportive role in your recovery journey. It's essential to have a conversation with your doctor and pharmacist about them.

We believe that medicine is best used as enablers of therapeutic activities rather than for long-term symptom relief.

Read our guide for more information on medications and fibromyalgia.

More information & support

For more information and support, fill out our suitability survey or get in touch. We can help you to work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up frequency, and emotional distress.

  1. Kravitz HM, Katz RS. Fibrofog and fibromyalgia: a narrative review and implications for clinical practice. Rheumatol Int. 2015 Jul;35(7):1115-25. doi: 10.1007/s00296-014-3208-7. Epub 2015 Jan 13. PMID: 25583051. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25583051/
  2. Staud R. Autonomic dysfunction in fibromyalgia syndrome: postural orthostatic tachycardia. Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2008 Dec;10(6):463-6. doi: 10.1007/s11926-008-0076-8. PMID: 19007537. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19007537/
  3. Sawada F, Nomura Y, Goto F, Murakami M, Jike M, Toi T, Furusaka T, Ikeda M, Oshima T. Relationship of physical distress to dizziness in patients with fibromyalgia. Acta Otolaryngol. 2016;136(1):56-61. doi: 10.3109/00016489.2015.1088662. Epub 2015 Oct 8. PMID: 26449588. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26449588/
  4. Jahan F, Nanji K, Qidwai W, Qasim R. Fibromyalgia syndrome: an overview of pathophysiology, diagnosis and management. Oman Med J. 2012 May;27(3):192-5. doi: 10.5001/omj.2012.44. PMID: 22811766; PMCID: PMC3394355. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3394355/
  5. Santos, N. D., Gamundı, A., Miranda, J. G. V., França, L. G. S., De Santana, C. N., & Montoya, P. (2017). Altered Functional Performance in Patients with Fibromyalgia. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00014https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00014/full
  6. Watson, N. F., Buchwald, D., Goldberg, J., Noonan, C., & Ellenbogen, R. G. (2009). Neurologic signs and symptoms in fibromyalgia. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 60(9), 2839–2844. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.24772
  7. Reed BD, Harlow SD, Sen A, Edwards RM, Chen D, Haefner HK. Relationship between vulvodynia and chronic comorbid pain conditions. Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Jul;120(1):145-51. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31825957cf. PMID: 22914403; PMCID: PMC3566870. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3566870/
  8. Lee, S., Kim, S., Nah, S., Lee, J. H., Lee, Y., Kim, H., Lee, H., Kim, H., Joung, C., Choe, J., & Kim, S. (2011). Smoking habits influence pain and functional and psychiatric features in fibromyalgia. Joint Bone Spine, 78(3), 259–265. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1297319X10002162?via%3Dihub

From Spinning to Steady: Managing Fibromyalgia Dizziness

Table of contents

From Spinning to Steady: Managing Fibromyalgia Dizziness

Are you experiencing dizziness as a symptom of fibromyalgia?

In this article, we'll explore the underlying causes of fibromyalgia dizziness and provide insights into managing this symptom. Equipping you with the knowledge and tools to navigate your daily life with fibromyalgia.

What does fibromyalgia dizziness feel like?

Dizziness associated with fibromyalgia may present itself differently among different people. Maybe you feel as though your feet are wobbling or wavering, or perhaps you feel as though you are about to fall or lose consciousness.

Dizziness can disrupt daily life, increasing the risk of trips and falls.

There are two types of dizziness.

Vertigo

This is when you get a feeling of instability or that whirling feeling. This unsettling sensation can be fleeting or persist for extended durations and it might arise suddenly or develop slowly over time.

Lightheadedness

Some people feel like they're about to faint. Others describe a floating sensation or as if the ground is unstable beneath them.

Rapid head movements or standing up quickly can trigger dizziness in lots of people, including those with fibromyalgia.

It can be distressing when dizziness strikes without warning. This can make people cautious about their usual activities or movements.

Other issues may also occur with dizziness, such as nausea and vomiting, or visual problems such as blurry vision or light sensitivity.

These issues can worsen cognitive difficulties known as "fibro fog", which includes problems with concentration and memory1.

What causes fibromyalgia-related dizziness?

Dizziness, commonly encountered by those with fibromyalgia, can be attributed to conditions such as orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure when you stand up after sitting or lying down), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS, which causes changes such as increased heart rate when you first stand up)2, and other nervous system disorders.

This is because the autonomic nervous system controls your heart rate and blood pressure. This change in blood pressure briefly affects the amount of blood in your brain, which causes the dizzy spell.

Hypersensitivity & central sensitivity syndrome

Central sensitization syndrome, or CSS, is another disorder of the nervous system. It turns up the volume of the nerve signals in your brain and spinal cord, which can make stimuli that wouldn’t normally hurt, such as light touch, feel painful. This is the pain we feel when we live with fibro3.

Because central sensitization can impact anywhere in the body, it can affect your body's ability to process balance-related signals. This in turn can make you feel off-balance or dizzy as a result.

Alongside this, fibromyalgia can bring about emotional challenges such as depression and anxiety, which may further heighten your sense of dizziness4.

Can fibromyalgia affect your balance?

In addition to dizziness, fibromyalgia can affect your balance, by causing muscle pain, stiffness and weakness.

This rigidity and fatigue can restrict movement, impacting your ability to correct your movements, and thus making you more susceptible to being off-balance5.

Balance & gait challenges

Many people with fibromyalgia report difficulties with balance and walking.

A 2009 study found that around 28% of people with fibromyalgia have an abnormal walking pattern, highlighting the significant impact of the condition can have on someone’s physical movement6.

These gait abnormalities may enhance your feelings of unsteadiness, contributing to the overall experience of dizziness.

Comorbid conditions can increase the severity of dizziness

Comorbid conditions are any conditions that you have at the same time aa each other, for example having fibromyalgia and arthritis. Comorbid conditions can exacerbate the intensity of your dizziness. Notable comorbidities that can amplify dizziness in those with fibromyalgia include:

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome: Shared symptoms such as persistent fatigue, sleep disruptions, and cognitive difficulties (commonly termed “fibro fog”) can worsen dizziness.
  • Depression: Because depression can cause physiological changes in the brain, it can affect balance and spatial orientation.

Additional conditions such as irritable bladder, vulvodynia, restless legs syndrome, upper cervical spine issues, widespread pain, and psychiatric disorders can also increase instances of dizziness and fainting in the context of fibromyalgia7.

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How to manage dizziness & fibromyalgia

Managing dizziness in the context of fibromyalgia involves a comprehensive strategy that includes changes to your lifestyle, stress management, and proper medical care.

if you can identify the factors that precipitate your dizziness, such as physical exertion, emotional stress, or specific activities, you can choose to modify your lifestyle to reduce them. For example, you might consider what you eat, focus on getting adequate sleep, or integrate low-impact exercises into your daily life.

These changes, in addition to learning about how fibro works, can actually change your brain's response to these dizziness triggers. And can also decrease the frequency and intensity of pain, fatigue and other symptoms.

Reduce smoking if you are a smoker with fibromyalgia

A primary ingredient in cigarettes is nicotine. This can adversely affect your body in several ways that might worsen your dizziness. Let's consider how:

  • Nicotine can tighten your blood vessels, and this constriction can limit the flow of blood to your brain and other vital organs, potentially leading to sensations of dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • It can trigger the release of certain chemicals in your brain that influence your nervous system, which may affect your sense of balance and how you perceive your environment.
  • Nicotine can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to fluctuate, and these changes might make you feel unsteady or give you a spinning sensation.

Moreover, when you smoke, you also inhale carbon monoxide. This gas can bind to your red blood cells more tightly than oxygen, reducing their capacity to carry oxygen to your brain and other organs. This can cause fatigue.

A study conducted in 2011 showed that smoking habits may, in part, influence pain or functional and psychiatric features in people with fibromyalgia8.

Stress management

Although completely avoiding stress is not always possible, several strategies can help manage its impact. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which can reframe your response to stressors, and mindfulness meditation, which can help you maintain a calm state of mind.

Seeking emotional support from friends, therapy, or support groups can also provide a buffer against stress. By actively managing stress, you may reduce its effects on both pain and hair health.

Movement & exercise

Incorporating movement and exercise into your routine can be beneficial not only for reducing your fibromyalgia pain but also for improving your mood and energy levels. Exercise can also enhance the quality of your sleep.

You can customize the type and amount of exercise based on your symptoms and limitations, and it doesn't need to be intense or rigorous. Gentle activities like yoga, relaxed dancing, or tending to your garden can be quite effective.

Our two top tips are to start slowly and be kind to yourself. Starting with small, low-impact exercises and gradually increasing intensity and duration allows the body to adapt safely. Practicing self-compassion will allow you to embrace challenges with resilience and confidence.

Sleep quality

Sleep plays a crucial role in managing fibromyalgia symptoms, forming a vital component of self-care strategies for pain reduction. The interplay between fibromyalgia symptoms and sleep quality creates a challenging cycle, where poor sleep exacerbates symptoms, and symptoms cause sleep disturbances.

Improving your sleeping patterns can help alleviate many fibromyalgia symptoms. Tips for improving your sleeping patterns include:

  • Establish a consistent sleep routine with fixed sleep and wake times, aiming for eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Limit daytime naps to short durations to avoid disrupting nighttime sleep patterns, ensuring they remain refreshing power naps.
  • Engage in physical activity during the day to promote better sleep onset.
  • Reduce screen time before bed to create a conducive environment for restful sleep.
  • Create a dark, quiet sleep environment to support uninterrupted sleep.
  • Moderate caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening, it can linger in the body for hours and interfere with sleep.
  • Avoid consuming large meals and alcohol close to bedtime to improve sleep quality.
  • Incorporate various forms of rest for the heart, body, and mind to complement sleep hygiene practices and manage fibromyalgia symptoms effectively.

Medication

Medications, when used as directed and in consultation with your healthcare provider, can play a supportive role in your recovery journey. It's essential to have a conversation with your doctor and pharmacist about them.

We believe that medicine is best used as enablers of therapeutic activities rather than for long-term symptom relief.

Read our guide for more information on medications and fibromyalgia.

More information & support

For more information and support, fill out our suitability survey or get in touch. We can help you to work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up frequency, and emotional distress.