Fibromyalgia Flares: A Qualitative Analysis

Ann Vincent, Mary O. Whipple, Lori M. Rhudy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Patients with fibromyalgia report periods of symptom exacerbation, colloquially referred to as "flares" and despite clinical observation of flares, no research has purposefully evaluated the presence and characteristics of flares in fibromyalgia. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe fibromyalgia flares in a sample of patients with fibromyalgia.

METHODS: Using seven open-ended questions, patients were asked to describe how they perceived fibromyalgia flares and triggers and alleviating factors associated with flares. Patients were also asked to describe how a flare differs from their typical fibromyalgia symptoms and how they cope with fibromyalgia flares. Content analysis was used to analyze the text.

RESULTS: A total of 44 participants completed the survey. Responses to the seven open-ended questions revealed three main content areas: causes of flares, flare symptoms, and dealing with a flare. Participants identified stress, overdoing it, poor sleep, and weather changes as primary causes of flares. Symptoms characteristic of flares included flu-like body aches/exhaustion, pain, fatigue, and variety of other symptoms. Participants reported using medical treatments, rest, activity and stress avoidance, and waiting it out to cope with flares.

CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that periods of symptom exacerbation (i.e., flares) are commonly experienced by patients with fibromyalgia and symptoms of flares can be differentiated from every day or typical symptoms of fibromyalgia. Our study is the first of its kind to qualitatively explore characteristics, causes, and management strategies of fibromyalgia flares. Future studies are needed to quantitatively characterize fibromyalgia flares and evaluate mechanisms of flares.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)463-468
Number of pages6
JournalPain medicine (Malden, Mass.)
Volume17
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016

Keywords

  • Content Analysis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Qualitative Research
  • Symptom Flares

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  • Cite this

    Vincent, A., Whipple, M. O., & Rhudy, L. M. (2016). Fibromyalgia Flares: A Qualitative Analysis. Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.), 17(3), 463-468.