Why Does Fibromyalgia Cause Swelling?

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I posted on fibromyalgia and swelling recently and many people commented on how they experience swelling often, so I thought I would look into it a bit more.  Well, I came across a post from a person who was discussing knee swelling, not associated with fibromyalgia. However, what she points out is very relevant to swelling associated with fibromyalgia.

Here’s what she has to say about swelling and muscle tightness, and I included one method she did to help reduce the swelling;

SwellingThere are a number of medical reasons ankles can swell up, including heart failure. As such, the condition should always be checked out by a doctor. However, in my case I’ve been to many doctors and no one ever found a cause for my condition. Listed below are the factors I’ve uncovered on my own to help me keep my ankles a normal size.

I realize now my ankles swell up because of muscle tightness constricting my blood flow to and from my feet. If I do yoga exercises where I stretch my armsupward and put a lot of tension on my legs, this causes my ankles to swell up afterwards. I realized this after I had physical therapy on my upper body for thoracic outlet syndrome and a frozen shoulder. My upper body got much better as the therapy progressed, but my ankles got swollen and painful from all of pulling as a result of the arm and shoulder exercises.

I did some checking on the web and noticed a number of medical sites do note the links between swollen ankles and factors that can cut off blood flow, such as varicose veins and blood clots, but I’ve never seen tight muscles listed as a cause. I suspect there may be other people who tend to suffer from fibromyalgia who have swollen ankles from knotted muscles putting pressure on veins and arteries.


Happy feetIn order to reduce muscle tension in my legs and swelling in my ankles, I’ve found a number of stretches that are helpful. The first one is where I lie on my back and put my legs up the wall for few minutes. I can usually see my ankles getting thinner just as I’m lying there.

The best book I’ve found with a wide variety of leg stretches is Stretching by Bob Anderson. It has a whole section called Leg and Groin Stretches with Feet Elevatedwhich all help my swollen ankles quite a bit. The legs up the wall stretch is illustrated in the book on page 91. Besides this section, I’ve found the standing stretches on p. 74 – 76 in this book also very helpful.

I flipped through the book, Acupressure for Common Ailments, and found there was a section on where to press if you have knee pain upon straightening your knee. That was exactly my problem. So I applied the pressure as instructed, and almost instantly my knee started to feel better and the ankle swelling decreased.

I think what had happened was that knotted muscles in my leg were crimping some of my veins and arteries. This prevented the blood from flowing upward, back into the rest of my body, and caused the blood to pool in my foot and ankle giving it a swollen appearance. By applying counter pressure to the trigger point, it loosened up the knots and let the blood flow better. This also relieved the muscular tension that had been pulling on my knee, causing pain in my knee cap.

I only had to do the acupressure a few times over the next day, and my leg, which had been sore for two weeks, went back to being even better than before I hurt it at the gym. Now it no longer hurt, but my ankle swelling went down, too. It worked so fast that my husband said that if he had not seen it for himself, he probably would not have believed it.

I use acupressure quite often, but haven’t thought to use it for swelling.  Since I practice it on tight muscles, I may have released swelling without knowing it.

Have you tried acupuncture?  Share your experience and insights in the comments below and help others to Live Well with Fibro.


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