Leg Pains with Fibromyalgia: Possible Causes

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Leg pain is a somewhat vague symptom, and there are many different conditions that can cause it. The most common conditions are usually things like muscle cramping or tendonitis, when the tendons connecting the muscles in the leg become inflamed. If the pain is located in the knee, there’s also the possibility that you’re suffering from arthritis, where the lining of the joints becomes inflamed and tender.

Or it could be bursitis, which is caused by inflammation of the small, fluid-filled sacks that cushion the bones, joints, and muscles. While painful, neither condition is dangerous and can be managed with a doctor’s help. But there are also a few serious conditions that you should be aware of.

Depending on how severe your pain is, it may be a symptom of a condition like thrombophlebitis. Thrombophlebitis occurs when a blood clot forms in one of the veins in your leg. This clot cuts off the circulation into the leg and starves the tissue of blood.

This condition results in tenderness and pain in the affected area. The leg may also begin to swell and feel warm to the touch. Over time, these blood clots can cause serious health problems. If the clot dislodges itself from the vein and travels up into the circulatory system, it can enter the lungs, causing a life-threatening embolism.

Types of Leg Pain

When diagnosing fibromyalgia, there are specific areas of the body that are examined called “tender points.” If a patient exhibits pain in many of these areas, it is suggested that they are suffering from fibromyalgia. The truth about tender points is that they are actually tender “areas” rather than points because the pain within and around a muscle radiates to the surrounding tendons, or what is called “trigger points.”

The interesting thing about fibromyalgia related leg pain is that it doesn’t matter whether you are standing, sitting, or lying down. The propensity for pain in the lower quadrant of the fibro body is greater due to those trigger points are woven within the layers of muscle and extremely tender areas that are not directly related to any activity or exercise.

Sartorius muscle is responsible for much of our mobility in the lower quadrant of the fibro body

Speaking of the knees, the longest and most widely used muscle in the leg (otherwise known as the Sartorius muscle in the quadriceps area), is responsible for much of our mobility in the lower quadrant of the fibro body. When this muscle and the surrounding muscles become de-conditioned, (due to lack of exercise and activity because of ongoing pain and fatigue), everything around this area also weakens including tendons and ligaments.

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Agility can be lost, and these “areas” of interest become wider still with the tender point pain spreading both above and below the actual point location on the inside of the knee.

Is It Normal To Have Leg Pain With Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia causes pain in 18 specific tender points around the body. There are two points in the lower back and two in the knees. The pain of fibromyalgia seems to radiate out of these points, so it’s normal when they give you the feeling that your legs are hurting.

The easiest way to distinguish leg pain from other causes from the leg pain of fibromyalgia is to press your thumb on the inside of the knee. These are where the tender points are located, and if your pain seems to spike when you press down, that’s a good indication that the problem is fibromyalgia. But that’s not always a foolproof way to tell. If you’re suffering from a condition like arthritis, then the knees will be tender as well.

If it seems like the pain is worse in the morning, or that your joints feel stiff, and then it’s more likely to be arthritis. If the pain is located in the muscles rather than those tender points, then you are probably suffering from another condition. If the pain is intense, or the legs begin to swell, you should see a doctor right away. These are signs of some of the more serious conditions we discussed.

Weakness in the limbs and fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can also cause some other unpleasant symptoms in the legs. Many patients with fibromyalgia report feeling muscle weakness in the limbs. We don’t yet know why this is, but it could have something to do with the way fibromyalgia affects the nervous system.

This muscle weakness can range from moderate to severe. And if you’re experiencing symptoms that are closer to weakness than pain, then it is likely a result of fibromyalgia. Ultimately, leg pain is an unfortunate part of fibromyalgia for many people. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your pain checked out by a doctor. It’s always better to be safe when it comes to pain anywhere in the body.

Fibromyalgia Leg Pain Relief and Treatment

Activation of trigger points

One thing to consider with fibromyalgia and leg pain is that any position we stay in too long, like sitting or standing can increase pain and activate trigger points. The tender points will always be there on some level, but it is the trigger points that become activated from repetitive movements or being in one position too long. It is important not to sit for long first thing in the morning.

When we go from lying in bed to sitting first thing in the morning, this only creates more stiffness in the lower back, hips, legs, and knees. Speaking of nighttime leg pain, I have found that putting pillows between my knees and ankles helps as well as wearing socks if my feet are cold because cold tends to exasperate the pain. Pushing through the pain, however, and moving just a bit will help with the stiffness and ultimately ease the pain.

Management

Ways to encourage restful sleep include establishing a regular sleep schedule, exercising early in the day, and keeping the bed for sleeping only. Browsing the Internet or reading a book in bed can keep the brain awake and make it difficult to sleep. Creating a relaxing pre-bedtime routine can also help you fall asleep. For support and Discussion join the group “Living with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illness” and ask the member what they do for pain relief

Taking a bath or listening to relaxing music helps the day fade into the background and the mind unwind. Making certain to get adequate exercise is another vital lifestyle factor, perhaps the most significant for managing leg pain and fibromyalgia, according to NIAMS.

Fighting through the pain and fatigue to get the heart pumping, taking a walk, or riding a bike can support good sleep and also alleviate pain. Since fibromyalgia has an inflammatory part, consuming a diet loaded in fruit, vegetables, and whole grains can help lessen symptoms.

Many people with fibromyalgia have food sensitivities, whether with gluten, dairy, eggs, or preservatives. To make cooking with healthy food easier, purchase fruits and vegetables that are already chopped or washed.

Buying prepared foods from a natural or health foods store can also be an alternative to cooking. Occasionally prepared foods have potentially pain-causing ingredients even if they’re touted as healthy so take care to understand ingredient lists. Cooking with herbs including the potent anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant spices ginger and turmeric may also help reduce leg pain related to fibromyalgia.

There are absolutely other methods of relieving the often debilitating and agonizing pain from muscle cramps/spasms that accompany fibromyalgia. Vitamin E is reported to be very helpful for muscle cramping, especially for those who live a rather sedentary life. Many have had great success with the prescription drug Lyrica, which is one of the more common pharmaceuticals used to treat fibromyalgia anyway.

There are other options such as acupressure. Some fibro patients have learned how to do this to themselves. But you’ll need to begin by visiting a quality acupuncturist or acupressurist first in order to get some direction. Yoga is exceptionally beneficial for keeping the muscles stretched and mobile. This leads to greater blood flow and minimizes cramping. For some fibro patients, it works completely.

The keys are to not overdo it and to listen to your body. One more option is called the Bowen technique, also known as Bowen therapy. Similar to acupressure, this technique uses gentle rolling movements to promote healing and pain relief. It’s so effective that it’s even used for horses!

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References:

  • Effects of fibromyalgia on legs and its management by Dr. M G Rana,MD via FibromyalgiaResources.com
  • Leg Pains With Fibromyalgia: Possible Causes By Adrienne Dellwo | Reviewed by Richard N. Fogoros, MD

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