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Fibromyalgia and Coronavirus: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on April 19, 2021

Fibromyalgia by itself doesn't raise your chances of getting COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. Even so, COVID-19 can still cause some worries if you live with fibromyalgia, a long-term pain condition.

Fibromyalgia and COVID-19

When you have fibromyalgia, you could be at higher risk for COVID-19 if you also have an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Both the diseases themselves, and the disease-modifying drugs (DMARDs) or corticosteroids you take to treat them, can raise your odds of getting infections.

DMARDs and steroids lower your immune system response so that it doesn't attack your joints and other healthy tissues. But a weaker immune system -- your body's defense against germs -- means you may not be as able to fight off COVID-19.

If you need DMARDs to treat an autoimmune disease, don't just stop them on your own. Talk to your doctor first.

Fibromyalgia treatments like antidepressants and antiseizure drugs shouldn't affect your immune system or your risk for COVID-19. It's important to keep taking your fibromyalgia medicines to avoid flares.

You should consider getting vaccinated against COVID-19 when possible. Even if vaccinated, you should continue to follow the CDC's guidelines to protect yourself from COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask when around others
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time throughout the day.
  • Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • When you go out, stay at least 6 feet away from other people.

Coronavirus and Fibromyalgia Symptoms

COVID-19 and fibromyalgia have a few symptoms in common, like:

These shared symptoms may make it hard to know if you have coronavirus or your fibromyalgia has flared up. Be alert for symptoms that are more likely with COVID-19, such as:

If you're not sure whether you have COVID-19 or a fibromyalgia flare, call your doctor for advice.

How to Manage Fibromyalgia Symptoms

If you can't see your doctor in person, call their office to schedule a telemedicine visit.

Make sure that you have extra fibromyalgia medicine at home. Some pharmacies will deliver your medicine to you so that you don't have to go into the store. You may also be able to get your prescriptions by mail order.

Worries over COVID-19 can stress you out. Stress is a big trigger of fibromyalgia flares, and it can worsen symptoms like sleep problems, pain, and depression. To ease stress and fibromyalgia symptoms, try these techniques:

Relax. Meditate or practice deep breathing for a few minutes each day. You can also try progressive muscle relaxation. Tighten and then relax one body part at a time, from your feet up to your legs, belly, chest, shoulders, arms, neck, and head. Go online or use apps on your phone to guide you through these practices.

Stay active.Exercise helps to relieve fibromyalgia pain and stiffness. Take a walk, ride a bike, or do another aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day at least three times a week. Add strength training with light weights or resistance bands a couple of days a week. You can also practice yoga and tai chi, which combine deep breathing with gentle movements.

Limit alcohol. More than a glass or two of wine every day can disrupt your sleep and increase your chances of depression and other health problems.

Watch your diet. Avoid the temptation to eat junk food while you're at home. Sugary and high-fat foods fuel inflammation. A plant-based diet with lots of fruits and vegetables is a healthier option that also helps with joint pain and stiffness.

Get enough sleep. Anxiety makes it hard to sleep well, and a lack of shut-eye can make your fibromyalgia symptoms worse. To get better ZZZs, go to bed at the same time every night. Wind down before bed with a warm bath or meditation.

Find support. Social distancing might keep you from your loved ones, but remember that they're just a phone call away. Online fibromyalgia support groups are another place to find people who understand what you're going through and can give you the emotional backing you need. You can learn more about support groups by checking the websites of organizations like the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Arthritis Foundation: "Fibromyalgia, Lupus, or Both?" "RA with a Side of Fibromyalgia."

CDC: "Fibromyalgia," "How to Protect Yourself & Others," "Symptoms of Coronavirus," "What to Do If You Are Sick," "What You Can Do."

CreakyJoints.org: "Fibromyalgia and Coronavirus: What Patients Need to Know."

eCancerMedicalScience: "COVID-19 and treatment with NSAIDs and corticosteroids: should we be limiting their use in the clinical setting?"

Hospital for Special Surgery: "What to Know About Rheumatic Disease and the COVID-19 Coronavirus."

Mayo Clinic: "Fibromyalgia: Diagnosis & treatment," "Fibromyalgia: Does Exercise Help or Hurt?" "Fibromyalgia Pain: Options for Coping."

Medicare.gov: "Medicare & Coronavirus."

Nature Reviews. Rheumatology: "The role of sleep in pain and fibromyalgia."

NHS: "Causes: Fibromyalgia."

Pain Medicine: "Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced pain and fibromyalgia symptoms in chronic pain patients."

PCRM's Nutrition Guide for Clinicians: "Fibromyalgia."

Stanford Medicine: "Gastrointestinal symptoms common in COVID-19 patients, Stanford Medicine study reports."

UpToDate: "Patient education: Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in rheumatoid arthritis (Beyond the Basics)."

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