Fibromyalgia Hair Loss: What Is the Link Between the Two?

Are you experiencing scalp pain? Are you wondering if there is a link between your hair falling out and fibromyalgia?

The short answer is yes. At times, it is fibromyalgia itself that causes changes in our body that may lead to hair loss. Alternatively, it could be the symptoms associated with the condition that are to blame.

In this article, we'll explore the relationship fibromyalgia has with hair loss, what is potentially causing that scalp pain and provide you with tips for managing it.

Can fibromyalgia cause hair loss?

The constant pain from fibromyalgia doesn't just make your head feel tender – it might also thin out your hair. Even your eyebrows and eyelashes can get sparser over time.

When you have fibromyalgia, you might feel stressed pretty often – especially due to pain. This stress can cause a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium – it's when your hair decides to take a break and falls out more than usual3. But don't worry, this isn't permanent. Your hair will get back to its growing ways after these stressful times pass.

Is fibromyalgia causing my hair pain?

Your hair pain could be caused by a condition known as allodynia, which is when pain is caused by stimuli that normally do not provoke pain.

Allodynia is one of several types of pain that can be associated with fibromyalgia1 and can contribute to the overall experience of pain in affected individuals. The other main cause is central sensitization – a heightened state of nervous system reactivity that makes normal sensations, such as light touches or even the pressure from a hairband, painful.

In central sensitization, the nerves that are supposed to interpret touch as a normal sensation now perceive it as painful. The central nervous system can become so amped up that it's like having a hair-trigger alarm system for discomfort, leading to an overreaction to stimuli that wouldn't bother most people.

This can make even the most gentle contact with the hair or scalp trigger sharp or burning pain. Routine hair care, such as brushing or shampooing, can be a challenging and painful ordeal, and a significant source of discomfort and distress.

Hairstyles that might contribute to pain

Hairstyles such as tight ponytails, buns, or just heavy hair weight in general can exacerbate pain in individuals with fibromyalgia.

Ponytails and buns can pull on your hair and that puts extra stress on your sensitive scalp. Try wearing your hair down or in loose styles that don't tug at your hair. This way, you can keep your hair looking good without adding to the pain.

Moreover, these styles can weaken the hair or even cause breakages, especially if you are wearing them very tightly or keep them in the same place for a long period of time.

The impact of emotional stress on hair follicles

We know that stress can be a big part of life, especially if you live with a chronic illness. And stress can have a major impact on hair health2.

Stress-related hormones, such as corticosterone, can impede the regrowth of hair by keeping hair follicles in a prolonged resting state – hindering the release of molecules vital for stem cell activation4. The nervous system is instrumental in the discharge of these stress hormones.

The processes that underlie these changes are multifaceted and include:

  • delays in the transition from one hair growth phase to another
  • protracted periods of inactivity for hair follicles
  • a downturn in the rate of hair growth
  • variability in hair density during chronic telogen effluvium, a condition marked by significant hair shedding.

How do nutritional deficiencies affect hair health in fibromyalgia?

A lot of us, people with fibromyalgia included, are often a little deficient in some vitamins and minerals, and in particular vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iron5. These are all essential for maintaining robust hair growth.

Iron deficiency can be a contributing factor to hair loss, weak nails and, fatigue6. While a lack of vitamin D can influence inflammation, pain processing, muscle function, and by extension, hair health7.

Increasing your vitamin D levels through sunlight exposure, diet, and supplements may help improve your overall wellbeing and lessen your hair loss8 – although be sun smart and make sure you don’t burn!

Can fibromyalgia cause scalp pain?

Although not as common as hair loss, fibromyalgia can also cause scalp pain. It often manifests as a heightened sensitivity known as scalp dysesthesia9.

The symptoms of scalp dysesthesia associated with fibromyalgia can create sensations of itchiness, burning, or a painful sensitivity when touched, which may worsen with certain hair care routines or hairstyles.

Headaches or migraines might be mistaken for the scalp pain caused by fibromyalgia, but in reality, this pain is specific to the scalp. It can be aggravated by environmental elements such as temperature changes or physical contact. So wearing accessories such as hats or headbands can be uncomfortable. Even the natural weight of your hair can sometimes seem intolerable.

Moreover, fibromyalgia can disrupt the autonomic nervous system10, which is responsible for regulating blood flow and the activity of sweat glands in the skin, including that of the scalp. This disruption can create an unusual scalp environment that may contribute to additional challenges like excessive perspiration or dryness, further impacting the condition and comfort of the hair.

If you are experiencing abnormal symptoms with your scalp, be sure to discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Gentle hair care routines, avoiding tight hairstyles, and using soothing topical treatments can provide relief and improve the overall health of the scalp.

Coexisting conditions: Fibromyalgia isn't the only cause

Dealing with fibromyalgia can be quite a struggle, and it gets even more complicated when additional conditions enter the picture.

For instance, autoimmune disorders such as alopecia areata can occur alongside fibromyalgia, leading to distinctive hair loss in the form of small, round, bald patches.

Now, this kind of hair loss might be a sign your immune system is getting a bit overactive. It's not just one thing to handle, especially when fibromyalgia is in the mix or if other autoimmune issues join the party.

Also, your thyroid could be imbalanced and that can also make your hair thinner. It's pretty common to see this happen with fibromyalgia, so we've got to keep an eye on it.

Hair loss is also common in those with PCOS and happens due to an imbalance of hormones, including estrogen and androgens such as testosterone. If you're seeing your hair thin out in certain ways, it could be a clue that your hormones are imbalanced. Monitoring thyroid hormone levels can be crucial in identifying the underlying cause of hair loss in these cases.

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Strategies to promote hair regrowth & manage symptoms

A multi-disciplinary approach, encompassing lifestyle changes, stress management, and medical treatments, is required to manage hair loss in fibromyalgia.

Taking the time to understand your pain triggers, whether they're caused by stress, beliefs or behaviors can help. Once you've identified your triggers, you can start to change them, for example through nutrition, sleep, and movement, or use techniques based on neuroplasticity to change how your brain reacts to these triggers.

With practice and dedication, you can gradually reshape your brain's response, leading to a reduction in the intensity and impact of your pain.

Stress management

Although completely avoiding stress is not always possible, several strategies can help manage its impact – including hair loss. 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, which can positively affect your hair health. Exercise can also enhance the quality of your sleep – a factor that's essential for the normal growth cycle of your hair.

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 such as 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, because 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.

More information

At MoreGoodDays®, we embrace a multidisciplinary approach tailored to support you in managing fibromyalgia. Recognizing the comprehensive impact this condition has on your life, we integrate diverse strategies to address your unique needs.

Through educational resources and self-management techniques, you'll gain insights into fibromyalgia and effective symptom management. We'll guide you in making lifestyle adjustments, focusing on areas such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep habits to enhance your overall wellbeing.

Our program also provides psychological support, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and stress management tools, empowering you to navigate the emotional challenges associated with fibromyalgia.

Together, we're committed to helping you lead a healthier, happier life despite the challenges of fibromyalgia.

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