Understanding Fibromyalgia Swelling: Symptoms, Management, & Relief

Fibromyalgia swelling can often be a mystery as it is not accompanied by inflammation. However, many people with fibromyalgia report feeling sensations of swelling.

In this article, we will explore the symptoms of the phenomenon and provide potential causes and tactics for managing it. You will gain a deeper understanding of this symptom and strategies for managing fibromyalgia pain as a whole.

Swelling & fibromyalgia: A common symptom?

Fibromyalgia-related swelling can manifest in various parts of the body, such as the face and hands.

The medical community is still working to understand swelling in fibromyalgia, and one theory is that this swelling stems from an abnormal accumulation of fluids in the tissues, a condition often referred to as fluid retention syndrome1. This leads to sensations of puffiness and discomfort that are not accompanied by the classic indicators of inflammation. Another theory suggests that a type of inflammation within the nervous system, known as neurogenic inflammation, may contribute to the swelling patients experience2.

What is the difference between fibromyalgia swelling & inflammation swelling?

The symptoms of fibromyalgia, including chronic pain and swelling, can be confusing as they may mimic those of inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. However, swelling in fibromyalgia is usually mild and doesn't cause redness or warmth in the affected areas.

Identifying swelling in fibromyalgia

Identifying and managing swelling is key to effectively handling fibromyalgia. People with this condition often report swelling, especially noticeable in the face, feet, and hands. These symptoms might manifest as numbness, a sensation of pins and needles, or a general feeling of puffiness in the limbs.

It is essential to differentiate swelling related to fibromyalgia from that caused by other medical conditions. Fibromyalgia-induced swelling is unique in that it doesn’t show the usual signs of inflammation or tissue damage on standard clinical tests or imaging, presenting a diagnostic challenge.

Is my swelling due to rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia?

While rheumatoid arthritis is defined by actual joint damage and inflammation, fibromyalgia is characterized by a sensation of swelling similar to what is observed in rheumatoid arthritis, but it occurs without the characteristic inflammatory tissue damage.

The challenge lies in the fact that these two conditions can exist simultaneously3, complicating the diagnosis and identification of the source of the swelling. Nevertheless, certain diagnostic tests, including blood tests for markers of inflammation, can help differentiate between the two conditions.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia & swelling

When you come in for a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, you will undergo a thorough evaluation. This is to understand your experience with widespread pain and other symptoms that you may have. A physical exam will include a detailed check of your joints. This is to rule out conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, which can appear similar to fibromyalgia.

A hallmark sign of fibromyalgia is the occurrence of tender points that can lead to muscle and soft tissue pain. These locations are hypersensitive to touch and when pressure is applied to these areas it can provoke a sharp painful sensation.

Previously, the identification of these tender points was a cornerstone in the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. However, over time the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia have been refined to consider the possible role of the brain and spinal cord. The American College of Rheumatology decided it was time for a change in 2019. They rolled out new guidelines that take a broader look at fibromyalgia, beyond just those tender spots, to better capture the full scope of what patients go through. This includes widespread severe pain, along with other symptoms such as fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, mood disturbances, brain fog, and any of the other many varied fibromyalgia symptoms that people can experience.

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Managing swelling in fibromyalgia

Strategies for managing swelling with fibromyalgia include lifestyle adjustments, participation in physical therapy, and the use of medications when deemed necessary. Effective methods that have been known to reduce swelling include:

  • having a warm bath before bedtime or first thing in the morning
  • undergoing massage therapy
  • soaking in baths enhanced with Epsom salts
  • regularly practicing gentle yoga or engaging in stretching exercises.

Diet & fluid retention

Adopting a well-balanced diet plays a pivotal role in mitigating fluid retention, often implicated in the swelling symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. Integrating foods that are rich in water content and possess natural diuretic qualities, such as cucumbers, can assist in alleviating symptoms tied to fluid buildup.

Some studies suggest that eating less salt4 and more foods with potassium may also help your body get rid of this extra fluid. Think of salt as making your body squeeze the brakes to get rid of water, and potassium like hitting the gas. By controlling your salt and potassium intake, you might feel less puffy and uncomfortable. This is still being studied, but it could be a key way to manage some of the puffiness that comes with fibromyalgia.

Manual lymph drainage massages

Manual lymph drainage may be an effective therapy for managing swelling in people with fibromyalgia5. This technique promotes the movement of lymph fluids and aids the body's detoxification efforts by facilitating the removal of waste, which can result in reduced swelling.

It is essential to seek treatment from a practitioner who is properly trained and certified in manual lymph drainage to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the treatment.

Medications for swelling

Medications, when used as directed and in consultation with your healthcare provider, can play a supportive role in your recovery journey.

Prescription drugs, such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and specific medications like Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN), are integral in managing the discomfort that comes with fibromyalgia, and may assist with swelling.

Options like ibuprofen are also available over-the-counter to help reduce swelling associated with fibromyalgia.

It's essential to have a conversation with your doctor and pharmacist about your symptoms and possible treatments, before you start taking any medication.


Acupuncture is an ancient practice from traditional Chinese medicine and has a longstanding history of addressing numerous health issues. It addresses these issues by strategically placing slender needles into designated points on the body, which is thought to help alleviate pain sensations, minimize inflammation and help with energy.

Studies have shown acupuncture to be effective for fibromyalgia. It can significantly enhance both discomfort levels and overall well-being for as long as three months after therapy6.

Tai Chi

The ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi, characterized by its flowing movements, deep breathing, and meditative elements, may offer relief for those grappling with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Tai Chi involves slow, flowing movements, deep breaths, and a bit of meditation. It's a gentle way to get some exercise, even if you're not particularly active or mobile.

Studies have shown that people with fibromyalgia have reported improvements in their levels of physical activity and mental health after adding Tai Chi to their wellness regimen, leading to an enhanced quality of life7. Moreover, this exercise is known to improve aerobic capacity, encouraging more physical activity, which is especially helpful for those who tend to be inactive.

Addressing sleep disturbances & swelling

Sleep disruption is often not given adequate attention when considering the symptoms of this condition. Many people with fibromyalgia report experiencing disturbances in their sleep patterns8. This results in:

  • feeling exhausted upon arising
  • swelling around the face
  • swollen hands
  • stiffness felt during morning hours.

Enhancing the quality of sleep, particularly reaching a state of deep sleep, can have a considerable effect on alleviating both pain and swelling associated with fibromyalgia. To enhance your sleep quality and overall well-being, consider these tips:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule by aiming for eight hours of sleep and maintaining consistent bedtimes and wake-up times.
  • Limit naps to short durations to prevent them from disrupting your nighttime sleep.
  • Engage in daytime activities to promote easier sleep onset at night.
  • Implement a pre-sleep routine that excludes electronic devices, allowing your mind to transition into a state of relaxation.
  • Design your sleep environment to be conducive to rest, ensuring it is dark and tranquil.
  • Monitor your caffeine intake, particularly in the latter part of the day, as it can linger in your system and impede sleep.
  • Avoid heavy meals and alcohol close to bedtime as they can have a detrimental effect on sleep quality.
  • Dedicate time to relaxing activities outside of sleep that can aid in better sleep and symptom management.

Retraining your pain response

It's important to realize that pain is not just a physical feeling to understand how we can influence our brain's interpretation of pain. It's a complex experience that's influenced by your emotions, thoughts, and the environment around you. The first step is to identify what makes your pain worse, like stress, negative thinking, or certain activities.

Once you know these triggers, you can start to change them. This might mean eating differently, getting better sleep, being more active, or learning new ways to think about and respond to these triggers. With time and practice, you can teach your brain to deal with pain differently, which could make it less intense and less of a problem in your life.

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.

For more information, download our mobile app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. We can help you work towards reducing pain severity, flare-up severity, and emotional stress.