Lightning bolts against a night sky with text overlay: Out of Nowhere: Tips for Dealing with Those Unexpected Fibromyalgia Flares

Out Of Nowhere: Tips For Dealing With Those Unexpected Fibromyalgia Flares

Things were going along swimmingly. Our houseguests were gone, I spent Friday doing laundry and getting things in the house back to normal, and still felt well (as well as you ever feel when you have fibromyalgia, anyway). By the following Tuesday, though, I felt as though I’d been hit by a truck. There was no warning or anything – I was fine….until I wasn’t.

People who live with fibromyalgia often talk about its unpredictability, and this is exactly what they’re talking about. You can feel fine one day and the next you can barely get out of the bed. For me, these are the hardest flares to deal with. In my post Fibromyalgia Flares: Do You Experience Any Warning Signs? I talked about how I often have some clues that a flare is coming and can take steps to help lessen my pain level or shorten the flare, but when they come out of nowhere like this one did, they can throw you for a little bit of a loop.

When we engage in more activity than we’re used to, experience a stressful event, become ill with a routine illness, etc., we can pretty much bet we’re going to have at least a mild flare. Because we know it’s probably coming, we can mentally steel ourselves to expect the pain and fatigue and take precautions such as resting more or pacing our activity carefully to (hopefully) mitigate the severity or length of the flare.

Don't panic. Often, when these #flares appear out of nowhere, our first thought may be that we're getting worse, especially if we have several bad ones fairly close together. That's not necessarily the case, though. #FibroFlares Click To Tweet

The unexpected ones can be a little more difficult to deal with, both emotionally and physically. Here are some tips that I’ve found helpful when dealing with those nasty little surprise flares:

  • Don’t panic. Often, when these flares appear out of nowhere, our first thought may be that we’re getting worse, especially if we have several bad ones fairly close together. That’s not necessarily the case, though. Over the years of dealing with flares, I’ve found that there seems to be some sort of ebb and flow with them. At times, they’ll seem to come far less frequently and then at others, they become more frequent and more painful. The important thing to remember is that it will eventually pass.
  • Give yourself permission to rest. So often, we feel we have to keep on pushing through, no matter how awful we feel, but when we do that, we’re only increasing the amount of time it will take for the flare to pass. Getting the proper rest and allowing our bodies a chance to get some restorative rest can help shorten the time the pain and fatigue hang on.
  • While you’re resting, don’t remain completely immobile. We definitely don’t need to be exercising during a flare, but staying in bed all day can contribute to the inactivity/pain cycle and cause us to hurt more in the long run. Simply getting up and moving around the house, switching between lying down and sitting up, or even moving our joints through their range of motion while lying in bed can be helpful.
  • Have things to do during flare days in a place that makes it easy to get to them. Some people have what they call their flare kit, where they keep everything they may need during a flare in one spot so that it’s all accessible to them without having to get up. Because I want to get up and move, I don’t do that, but I do have baskets with my art supplies strategically placed so I can easily get to them if I want to color or work on some lettering on those days. Of course, my TV remotes are always within easy reach so I can watch some of my recorded shows or binge-watch Netflix.
  • Be sure to eat and drink, even though you probably won’t feel like it. It’s important to nourish our bodies to help with cell recovery, and it’s especially important to stay hydrated. Having lighter things such as soups on hand can help us get something into our bodies even when we don’t particularly feel like eating.
  • Have a good cry if you need to. That may sound odd, but sometimes it becomes overwhelming to live in pain every single day, and even more so when increased pain and fatigue hit us out of nowhere. Sometimes, we just need that emotional release. Of course, we don’t want to stay in a place of feeling sorry for ourselves for an extended period, but just giving ourselves permission to “not be okay” for a few minutes can work wonders toward helping us get negative feelings out and move forward into a more positive mindset.

These are just some of the things that help me during flares in general, but especially those that seem to come out of nowhere. For me, the sudden, unexpected ones take a bigger toll emotionally. Sometimes I wonder if that’s because if it’s been a while since I’ve had a bad one, I start to subconsciously think maybe I’m cured and the sudden intense flare is a reminder that I’m not. Dealing with those emotions in constructive ways is a big part of getting through this type for me.

What about you? What are some of the things that work best for you when you’re dealing with a flare that seems to come out of nowhere? Please share!



Lightning against a night sky with text overlay: Out of Nowhere: Tips for Dealing with Those Unexpected Fibromyalgia Flares

Lightning against a night sky with text overlay: Out of Nowhere: Tips for Dealing with Those Unexpected Fibromyalgia Flares


  1. MS shares this flare up possibility when “engaging in more activity than we are used to”…

    so to combat this I try to stay ahead of things.
    Great post Terri!

  2. Another great post, Terri. I’ve been super busy trying to get an online business going and so haven’t been reading anyone’s blogs. Only so many spoons in a day! This one hit home.

    With pacing, I avoided flares until I started having double vision again. I had a traumatic brain injury in 1979 that left me with a hole in my head and double vision. I trained my eyes to converge and so avoided glasses for decades, but now the TBI resurfaced and diplopia returned.

    With it came unexpected fatigue that does not feel like the typical fibro or ME/CFS fatigue. I was at a loss to explain it until a friend, who also had a TBI, told me that people who are post-TBI can have a recurrence of symptoms or even new ones, like seizures, as the brain ages. Another friend who has her own eye issues said that the strain of trying to see was likely the source of my fatigue.

    This is my unexpected flare. I have mostly stayed in bed for most of the past week, listening to audio books and doing email when I was “fresh” and could see. Today I go to the eye doctor and will likely get glasses with prisms that will correct the double vision.

    Do you remember Rosanne Rosanna Dana from SNL? “If it’s not one thing, it’s another.” 😉

    1. Ellie, I’m so sorry for the delay in replying to your comment. Somehow it ended up in my spam folder. I really don’t know how that happened. I hate to hear that you’re dealing with additional challenges with your TBI. I’m sure it’s very difficult to have this hit you seemingly out of nowhere. I hope your new glasses will help with the double vision, and hopefully, reduce the fatigue if it’s being caused by your having to strain to see. Thanks for sharing how you spend your recovery days – knowing what others do can give us ideas of things to try. I hope you get some energy back soon. Blessings to you!

  3. Very encouraging post Terri! I find short bouts of reading & commenting on blogs helps me divert my thoughts from the ongoing pain. A good chat over the phone also helps.

      1. Yes, making progress thanks. You mentioned having had an ablasion done in a previous post. If you don’t mind me asking, would you recommend it? Did you have the option to remain on medication or was it unavoidable? If you prefer not to reply, that’s fine also. X

      2. The ablation worked really well for me, but from my understanding, it doesn’t always work for everyone. It was for what they called an “extra connection” in my heart, which caused supraventricular tachycardia. I probably could have remained on medication but the side effects were really bad for me. I have some really odd reactions to medications, though. My “extra connection” was pretty much in the middle of my heart. I don’t know if location makes a difference in success rates or how people do with it or not. As I said, it worked really well for me, but I think it’s a personal decision each person has to make with their cardiologist, weighing the risks and benefits of each individual’s health situation. Hope this helps!

      3. Thank you Terri it does! I have ventricular tachycardia. Side effects of Tambocor seems to be fatigue on top of my fatigue, stiffer restricted leg muscles with more pain. Meds reduced in past week, heart remaining happy, hoping CFS symptoms will ease. Option of ablasion open to me but slightly higher risk of it causing a stroke because of the side of my heart the extra impulse is at. All things to consider before and even after my next Consultant’s app. I’m delighted to hear it worked really well for you! X

      4. I’m sorry your medication is giving you trouble Marie. I hope the reduced dosage does the trick for you. However you choose to proceed, I hope you get good results with your treatment. I’ll be praying for you. Please keep me updated on how things are going with you. Hugs!

  4. It is so true that when the flare ups happen my mind immediately goes to the fear of a relapse. I forget that I am stronger and the recovery will come. You’d think by now we’d learn to be gentler on ourselves – old habits die hard, I guess.

    1. You’re so right V.J.! You WOULD think we’d learn, wouldn’t you?😄 That’s where my mind goes to when those unexpected, really bad ones come also. Like you said though, I’m stronger now and recovery will come, most often within a shorter time frame than it used to. It’s just a matter of reminding my brain of that…. Hope your week is off to a great start!

  5. I think you have offered great suggestions! For me, a good cry always seems to help ( although I hate to do it and hate to admit it). Once I have let the tears out though, it helps me focus on the fact that this too shall pass.

    1. Thanks so much Grace! I feel like letting myself have permission to just feel sorry for myself for a few minutes and get it out of my system with a little cry is extremely helpful. It’s almost as though the negative feelings about everything just wash out with the tears and I can start with a clean slate. Like you said, that helps me focus and realize that it “too shall pass.”

  6. You’re right, sometimes these days just come totally out of the blue and feel as though you’ve “been hit by a truck”. I think being a little prepared (things to do or to relax with), to try to stay calm and not panic about the things you’d planned or need to do (easier said than done) can help, as can a good cry because it can be incredibly cathartic when you need it. I think I’m going to write a short letter to myself, just a few lines long, to remind myself that it’s happened before and I survived it and that worrying does no good, that I should do as my body needs without feeling guilty, because that guilt factor always, always kicks in. Great post, Terri.xx

    1. Thanks so much for sharing your tips Caz! I especially love the idea of writing a letter to yourself as a reminder. Like V.J. said, “you’d think we’d learn”, but we don’t, so that letter might be just the thing to help us remember that we HAVE been through it before and survived, and that it’s okay to do whatever our body needs to recover. Hope you’re doing better. Hugs!

    1. Thank you so much Emma! I agree that the unexpected ones are much worse than the normal, kind of expected ones that we have from overdoing it. I think it’s the emotional toll they take on us when they just suddenly hit us like that. I appreciate you stopping by!

    1. Thanks so much Susan! I’m glad to hear you’ve figured out what works best for you during these sudden flares. Finding what is personally most helpful is half the battle, isn’t it? You do some beautiful coloring; I always enjoy seeing your posts of your finished projects on your FB page. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. I appreciate your comment on DONT PANIC. I have been having an increase in flairs and it has really had a toll on me emotionally as well as physically. I have been suffering from significant depression because of the hopelessness I feel, like I will never feel better again. I need to focus on feeling better not dwell or be afraid of the pain and exhaustion. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Joyce! When we have those bad/frequent flares, it’s easy to get anxious and think we’ll never feel better – I’ve been there – but like you said, if you can focus more on doing what you can to feel better, it can give you a sense of purpose and help you feel hopeful again. I would urge you, though, if the depression persists, please don’t hesitate to seek help. Thanks so much for stopping by. Blessings to you!

  8. I totally agree and can understand what you go through. When flares come out of nowhere it can be hard to figure out what might have caused it. I actually was in a huge flare for months because I ignored what my body was telling me (slow down). I’m learning to listen more now, but it turns out I had a lot more going on with me that needed attention. I guess I had to go into such a bad flare to figure that out. I love your tips, it is important to move while in a flare, but not too much. Sometimes that is hard to remember since the pain and exhaustion can be so overwhelming. So, thank you for the reminder! I would love for you to check out my blog if you have time and would love to hear your advice on my articles. Thank you

    1. Thank you so much! Learning to listen to our bodies when we have fibromyalgia can be difficult since often we just feel like a huge mass of pain, but it’s vitally important for us. It sounds like that huge flare of yours was actually a warning sign of something else. I’m glad you found out what was going on and were able to give it the attention it needed. Thanks so much for stopping by – I’ll pop by your blog a little later today and say hi!

  9. My doctor put me on a low dose of Naltrexone and it has helped my fibromyalgia tremendously. My flare ups are months apart as opposed to weeks now. I had a bad flare up a month ago and my Rheumotologist gave me a shot of Toradol and a steroid which thankfully worked after a week of non stop fatigue and pain. Also, soaking in Epsom salt baths relieved some of the extreme muscle soreness I was having.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing Juanita! I’m glad you’ve found something that works well for you. It’s always a relief when we can find something that gives us relief, isn’t it? It’s so hard when those bad flares stick around for a long time. I appreciate you stopping by!

  10. Thank you for this post, Terri.
    As is probably common, my fm interacts negatively with other health challenges, and the flares can be intense and unpredictable – as you and others note here.
    Just last week, what i call “the pain spike” hit suddenly – and then lifted rather abruptly as well after a few days. (Sometimes coming out of them is more gradual.)
    Often i’m fortunate enough to consciously separate out the physical pain from the drag on the emotions, but not always. So that’s another measuring stick. Friends and family have become accustomed, when asking how i am, to my answering in two parts: “Pain level is rough, but mentally i’m ok…” or “Pain spike is moderate, but it’s bringing me down emotionally today…” e.g.
    Agree with you all above that what help most are acceptance and distraction.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Katherine! You make a great point about the fibromyalgia interacting negatively with other health challenges. I’m glad you’re able to separate the physical pain from your emotions often. Sometimes it takes a minute to stop and think, “oh, that’s probably just my Fibro talking…” but it’s definitely helpful when we can do that. Thanks for sharing what helps you most also; knowing what helps others can give us ideas of things to try. 😊 I appreciate you stopping by!

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