What Causes the Fibromyalgia Burning Sensation?
Do you ever feel like your bones are on fire? What about the top of your leg or your back, maybe even under the skin? Some fibromyalgia patients feel like lava is being pumped through their veins rather than blood. They might even have a burning sensation in their brain, which is hard to explain, as there are no pain receptors there.
Others feel like their stomach, tendons, or ligaments are burning right inside their body. For many with fibromyalgia, the searing pain is so severe that they cry and scream in pain. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s nothing to show for it! For example, when my skin feels like it’s on fire, it’s not even red. Does that happen to you?
Does it make you angry? We all know that it’s really hard to get people to believe that something is wrong when they can’t see a single problem on your body and the lack of validating evidence is infuriating.
WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON?
According to medical experts, “Research suggests that the pain associated with fibromyalgia is caused by a “glitch” in the way the body processes pain. This glitch results in a hypersensitivity to stimuli that normally are not painful. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), research has shown that people with fibromyalgia have reduced blood flow to parts of the brain that normally help the body deal with pain.”
The American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association puts it perfectly: “Fibromyalgia pain has no boundaries.” They add at the “body-wide symptoms are greatly magnified by malfunctions in the way the nervous system processes pain.” This coincides with the previously mentioned research regarding a “glitch” in the system, so in this context it makes sense the body will sometimes register stimuli as a burning feeling.
The burning that fibromyalgia patients often experience is sometimes associated with allodynia, which is a painful sensation caused by touch and frequently associated with migraine headaches. However, many fibro patients do not have to experience being touched in order to feel the burn that seems to come from within and sometimes on the surface. So while allodynia may be the situation for some with fibromyalgia, it does not explain the burning sensation across the board. To be fair, however, there seems to be almost nothing that explains any fibromyalgia symptom across the board. Thus, the great mystery surrounding this strange affliction.
CAN ANYTHING BE DONE ABOUT IT?
Here are some examples of what fellow patients say works for them to ease the fibromyalgia burning sensation:
- Massage therapy – A typical feature of fibromyalgia is the inability to relax the muscles. Often our muscles are tense and we don’t even know it. This leads to a build-up of lactic acid which can also be a cause of the burning sensation, especially in the muscles. A highly skilled massage therapist (you may even consider a medical massage therapist) who understands fibromyalgia can work with you weekly or bi-weekly to release the acid. For some patients this reduces and even removes the burning sensation entirely.
- Cortisone shots – Administered by a healthcare practitioner, this is a temporary relief and does not apply to all situations of burning sensations.
- Gabapentin – Prescription medication used to treat pain caused by shingles.
- Heat therapy – It sounds counter-intuitive but fibro patients experiencing a burning sensation often report that heat therapy options such as hot tubs and electric blankets provide a great deal of relief.
- Supplements – Although the exact cause of the burning feeling is unknown, some patients appear to be nutritionally deficient, which can be a leading cause of many fibromyalgia symptoms. Look for a high-quality (preferably whole foods) vitamin in addition to a high dosage of Vitamin D and a steady dose of magnesium (due to our commercial agricultural practices, almost everyone in North America is magnesium deficient which causes a litany of symptoms both related and unrelated to fibromyalgia.)
- Lidocaine patches – These actually fall into the category of local anesthetics. Even though there are versions of them available over-the-counter, for our purposes of relieving the burning sensations, you’ll want to get a prescription from your doctor. In fact, they are often used to relieve nerve pain after shingles.
- Antihistamines – Benadryl and Zyrtec have been reported as effective for relieving the burning pain in fibromyalgia patients.
- Decreasing stress – You’ve heard it a thousand times because it’s true. Finding ways to relieve stress and cope with stressors can do wonders for many fibromyalgia symptoms, including the strange burning.
Whatever the source of the fibromyalgia burning sensation, it sucks. Have you found anything that relieves it for you? Tell us. In fact, tell us the things you’ve tried that haven’t worked too. Because something will always work for someone and anything we can do to help each other is more than welcome!