What triggers fibromyalgia?

Written by: Dr Vijay Hajela
Published: | Updated: 18/04/2023
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterised by widespread bodily pain. It is often accompanied by draining fatigue and sleep disturbance. Many people with fibromyalgia become hypersensitive. A light touch from another person can feel uncomfortable, even painful.


Sounds may seem too loud, lights too bright, and bodily sensations that normally go unnoticed can be felt as intrusive or even unpleasant. It has been described as ‘like someone turning the volume on the nervous system up to maximum’.


If you are unfortunate enough to experience these symptoms, you may be wondering what the possible triggers could be. We’ve asked expert consultant rheumatologist Dr Vijay Hajela to explain the risk factors when it comes to a fibromyalgia flare-up.




What is it caused by?


We don’t know for sure why fibromyalgia develops. There may be an inherited tendency to fibromyalgia but it is still unclear if this is a genetic or environmental effect.


What triggers flare-ups?


We certainly recognise certain triggers. These are usually some sort of trauma to the body such as a major physical or psychological trauma, which sometimes occurs early in life. Examples include an assault, surgery, especially when recovery has been complicated, or road traffic accidents.

My view is that this injury has the effect of ‘resetting’ the body’s pain system, such that there is a new normal for what triggers the brain to register a sensation as painful.

We also recognise that the condition, once triggered, has a tendency to relapse. Most individuals will be able to identify their own specific triggers to relapse and these might include other illnesses or injuries (e.g. surgery, an accident) or psychologically stressful life events such as moving house, breaking up with a partner, changing jobs or even Christmas!




You can read more of Dr Hajela's expert insight on fibromyalgia in his informative article on easing a fibromyalgia flare-up.

By Dr Vijay Hajela

Dr Vijay Hajela is an expert consultant rheumatologist with more than 20 years of experience. He is based across the southeast in London, Brighton, and Hayward's Heath. Dr Hajela specialises in musculoskeletal pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, gout, polymyalgia and SLE (lupus).

Dr Hajela qualified in 1990 from medical school at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. Following this, he worked in hospitals across the United Kingdom and spent some time working in Auckland, New Zealand. He most recently worked as a consultant rheumatologist at University Hospitals Sussex before leaving to work in the private sector.

He has held various positions such as clinical lead for rheumatology in two hospitals, chair of a primary care musculoskeletal panel and director of medical education. In addition to his work as a consultant, he has been an examiner for the Royal College of Physicians since 2005.

In 2007, he was named the National Association of Clinical Tutors Travelling Fellow and was able to travel to North Carolina, working closely with senior medical staff at several US teaching hospitals. Furthermore, Dr Hajela spent three years as a regional chair of the British Society for Rheumatology from 2014 to 2017. He continues to teach at both an undergraduate and postgraduate level.

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