FibroFog – Cognitive Issues With Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia leaves the body battling for a moment of normalcy every day. Between the chronic wide-spread pain, fatigue and mental issues, just making it through your daily routine can be exhausting. Pain and fatigue are commonly known and addressed symptoms of this condition, but how do the cognitive issues play into a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and what can be done to manage this problem?
What is Fibro Fog?
Suddenly unsure of where you are or what you were doing? Moments of forgetfulness, disorientation and general memory lose are the best descriptors for the cognitive concerns related to fibromyalgia. This symptom is commonly referred to as the “Fibro Fog.” This condition changes the body’s cognitive functions and leads to memory loss and other thought-processing troubles. Some research has shown that actual brain loss may be to blame for this “fog.” A 2007 study by Montreal’s McGill Centre for Research on Pain showed that patients with fibromyalgia had 10 times the gray matter loss compared to those aging normally without the disease. When facing this mental fog, some have documented periodic episodes of total disorientation, lasting anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds. One example is exiting on a highway, but not knowing where you are going. Nearly one third of all women diagnosed with fibromyalgia will experience this troubling cognitive complication. These symptoms often mimic those of Alzheimer’s or dementia, but there is no known connection between those conditions and fibromyalgia.
Sadly, there is currently no medication to help ease or alleviate these memory problems, but there are a few ways to help lift the cloud from your mind.
- Sleep – not maintaining a sufficient amount of sleep each night can be the trigger to mental disturbances. Fibromyalgia patients often struggle to relax and settle into a deep sleep cycle, leaving them feeling fatigued the following day. Speak with your doctor regarding ways to improve your nightly sleep routine. One simple solution could be to distract your mind from reviewing the day’s events or thinking of what’s to come with music, calming sounds or white noise. These sounds can help lull the busyness of the mind at the end of the day.
- Exercise – Keep the blood flowing! Exercise can actually help improve mental cognition and grow areas of the brain. The increased blood flow that occurs as a result of cardiovascular and aerobic activities actually improves your levels of learning, memory and concentration. Studies have found that students that keep physical activity as a part of their daily routine are often more successful in their studies because of this added support.
- Change Your Routine – maybe you are stuck in a rut. Give your mind the mental break and chance to stay tuned in by changing up some things in your routine. Sometimes doing the unexpected provides a type of shock to your brain in resetting your thought processing. Try a different route to work, cook a new recipe or go for a bike ride at the park instead of the usual walk in your neighborhood.
- Get Outdoors –In today’s society, we can literally survive in the digital world. All the gadgets we use to keep us informed, in-touch, and productive could also be over stimulating and creating stress in the brain and then extending into the entire body. Getting out of the fluorescent lights, away from the computer screen or ringing phone could be a relaxant for your eyes and nerves, there for helping to calm the body and ultimately become a fibro fog lifter.
- Relaxation Techniques – Any type of relaxation technique can help with fatigue, anxiety and memory issues. Some relaxing activities that may help to lift your mental fog are yoga, meditation, tai chi, and breathing exercises. A study completed by the University of Oregon in 2010 showed nearly a 50% drop with depression symptoms in women with fibromyalgia in that participated in an 8-week relaxation program.
There are several herbal supplements available over-the-counter to help with cognitive issues, if you feel you still need some help in reaching the level of mental clarity you are accustomed too. Always be sure to discuss any changes in symptoms with your doctor, as our treatment plan may need to be reevaluated.