One of the most frustrating symptoms of fibromyalgia is fibro fog – a catch-all term that describes the poor concentration and memory problems that so often accompany fibromyalgia fatigue. In this post, we’ll cover how fibro fog manifests itself in detail and provide some life hacks to help you see clearly through the fog.
What is Fibro Fog?
Fibro fog is less a symptom and more a constellation of symptoms related to cognitive function – or rather, impaired cognitive function. In a very real way it’s one of the worst fibro symptoms because it can directly affect your ability to work and make a living. It’s not uncommon for it to manifest as difficulty finding the right words, making decisions, remembering important things, and problems multitasking. You might even suddenly forget where you are, inducing a wave of panic.
To a large extent, fibro fog is a result of the poor sleep and fatigue that are so characteristic of fibromyalgia. Even if you don’t have fibro, I’m sure you’ve had to deal with the aftermath of a night of poor sleep and how that wreaks havoc on your ability to function, especially in a work environment. Imagine having to deal with that just about every day!
Not surprisingly, the pain itself also plays a big role. How can you pay attention to anything else if you’re in pain all the time?
In studies, fibro patients often perform poorly on tests of cognitive function. In fact, these memory impairments are so bad that they mimic twenty years of aging. So a 40-year old struggling with just an average case of fibro fog would perform as if she were 60.
Like a lot of other fibro symptoms, fibro fog is inconsistent, and it can improve or worsen at times. Unfortunately, most of us find that the worse we’re feeling, the worse it gets, so way to kick us when we’re down!
Scientific Approaches to Combating Fibro Fog
Hopefully soon we’ll have a better understanding of exactly why and how fibro fog is happening. But for now, let’s take a look some scientific approaches for how we can alleviate and mitigate it.
As is true for everyone, getting more sleep helps with mental clarity. But getting deep, restorative sleep with fibromyalgia can be difficult. So doing everything you can to try to get the best sleep possible will really make a difference. Along those same lines, try to create space in your day so that you have to rest and take care of yourself if you need to.
Scientifically, these mental problems occur when there is a lack of blood flow to the brain. Anything you can do to increase blood flow to your brain, therefore, will help ease fibro fog symptoms. One of the best ways to achieve this is through therapeutic movement (exercise). Check out our post on therapeutic movement for some ideas for simple exercises to get that blood flowing to your brain. The lack of blood flow to the brain can also be worsened by low blood pressure, which is a common problem among fibro patients. You can naturally raise blood pressure by increasing the amount of salt and water in your diet.
Finally, there are some excellent nutrients you can supplement your diet with to improve brain function. These also increase energy production in your body, and typically help with both fibro fog and pain. These over-the-counter supplements are great to use as part of a holistic approach to dealing with fibro fog:
- Alpha-lipoic acid
Life Hacks to Deal with the Fog
Fibro fog is particularly frustrating when you just need to get through the work or school day. I was in school when I was first diagnosed, and trying to get enough sleep was nearly impossible. Consequently, the fog was really bad. I had a particularly difficult time remembering, which is obviously not great when you’re in school. To top it off, I would often just forget to bring things with me from one class to the next. So one little life hack I came up with was counting the number of items I had with me when I arrived in the classroom, then making sure I had the same number when I left the class. The alternative of having to walk all the way back to a classroom across the school was just so exhausting as to be unthinkable.
Something else I’ve found to be very helpful is having colorful little sticky notes to write reminders to myself. I stick them on things that are unavoidable, so when I go to use it I bump into the note and am reminded of what I needed to remember. For example, if you’re falling asleep at night and you need to remember something in the morning, write it on the note and then just throw the note onto the floor. Since it’s so out of place, when you step over it in the morning when you’re getting out of bed, you’ll go “Oh, yeah! I had to remember something! Good thing I had a note.”
Those are a couple of my little life hacks to deal with fibro fog. What are some of your life hacks? Is there anything else that you find really helps you get through the day?
Please leave your answers in the comments section below!
- The Fibro Manual by Dr. Ginevra Liptan (2016) http://www.drliptan.com/book/