– THE 7 LITTLE-KNOWN COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS OF FIBROMYALGIA
Most people know fibromyalgia as a debilitating pain condition. However, more than half of patients also present with a series of cognitive symptoms that have been dubbed fibro fog (sometimes called brain fog when associated with other conditions). What decline in mental faculties may a fibromyalgia sufferer be dealing with? This article can help patients to realize they are not alone and that there is hope out there. It can also help the relatives and friends of patients to be more understanding of this condition.
#1 – Memory Problems
Research has revealed that fibromyalgia patients suffer from impairment in various types of memory including:
- Semantic memory – This involves the ability to recall general facts.
- Working memory – This is a segment of short-term memory that is involved in learning and processing facts. As a result, a person with fibromyalgia may struggle with language skills (see point #3), math, reading, and other processes that require temporarily storing data mentally.
- Metamemory – This involves a self-awareness of one’s own memory. It affects a person’s ability to use memories as an aid in learning. Since metamemory is very important when it comes to decision making, impaired judgment may result when this part of the memory is affected (see point #4).
#2 – Concentration Problems
A person suffering from fibro fog may feel like he or she has ADD. It can be difficult to focus on assignments at work or at home or even just on a conversation. Lack of concentration can add to the problems with short-term memory and retention, making it tough to remember what you went to store for, what you did with your keys, or what was last said in a conversation.
#3 – Inhibited Verbal Skills
It can be very difficult for a person with fibromyalgia to find the right word at times, even if he or she is known to have a good vocabulary. This goes back to problems with both the semantic and working memory. The lack of ability to recall general facts affects one’s vocab recall. The inhibited working memory makes it tougher to remember the first half of a sentence while searching for the words to say the second half. As a result, verbal fluency suffers and it can be tougher to learn new verbal or even reading skills. Speech may take place slowly or be altered in other ways.
#4 – Impaired Judgment
This goes back to the effect of fibromyalgia on metamemory. When you can’t utilize memory to make future decisions, it can be easy to repeat past mistakes. It’s not that the memories themselves cannot be recalled. The patient has a reduced ability to connect memories to outcomes in order to predict the consequences of present actions.
#5 – Impaired Cognitive Abilities
Studies also show that fibromyalgia patients have a reduced ability to carry out simple cognitive tasks. Everything from performing a simple computation in one’s head to executing problem-solving tasks are a part of the cognitive function of the brain.
#6 – Difficulty Multi-Tasking
The lack of ability to concentrate or remain focused and attentive is exacerbated when a patient is confronted with multiple tasks simultaneously. The instructions on how to complete each task may become jumbled, some tasks may be completely forgotten, or all assignments may be partially completed but not finalized.
#7 – Depression and Anxiety
While these conditions are not a part of the cognitive issues of fibromyalgia, researchers have found that fibro fog seems to be worse for patients who are also dealing with depression and anxiety, sleep issues, or hormone fluctuations.
Combating the Symptoms of Fibro Fog
There are a number of ways that you can counteract these symptoms at home through a few lifestyle adjustments. A few of these practices include:
- Using Reminders – You may need some trial and error to find out what works best for you. Keep a calendar, write out sticky notes, set alarms on your phone – whatever helps you personally to remember things the best.
- Maintain a Routine – For example, if you always hang your keys on a rack next to the door, you never have to wonder where you left them last. When you clean the house, always start with the same task and follow a specific order, so you won’t leave something out. Routine can be a big help in remembering tasks and completing them.
- Reduce Caffeine Intake – Caffeine can enhance the attention and retention problems. You may even choose to avoid caffeine altogether.
- Have a Regular Sleep Schedule – Lack of sleep can enhance the cognitive symptoms of fibromyalgia.
- A Nutritious Diet – Proper nutrition is vital for cognitive processing.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic and Fibromyalgia
You may also benefit from trying to go after fibromyalgia at its source. Many cognitive problems and pain conditions can be related to a specific misalignment of the C1 (atlas) vertebra. Such a misalignment can inhibit proper flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain as well as affect brainstem function.
Upper cervical chiropractic is a subspecialty in the chiropractic field that involves very precise measurements of the atlas and gentle adjustments that result in improved blood flow and nervous system function. As a result, some fibromyalgia patients have seen the condition completely resolve under upper cervical chiropractic care.