Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Winter Speech: Dry Mouth And Fibromyalgia

Photo from BBWS-Winter

The brisk arid climate of winter affects many of us. It happens to be an aggravating factor of what I call my dry fibro body. Our speech is affected, our tongue sticks to the roof of our mouth, and we crave water as if we just walked through the Mohave Desert.

With permission from ProHealth I am reposting “Dry Mouth And Fibromyalgia: How To Overcome It”, which was first published at February 6, 2019 and updated on September 17, 2019.

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Despite it being a common complaint among fibromyalgia patients, it’s not something that’s often discussed in articles or online groups and forums, but it’s frustrating, nonetheless.

In this article, I want to review the consequences of chronic dry mouth, in particular. We will consider possible causes, its relationship to fibromyalgia, the effects on our gastrointestinal tract, and ways to manage it.

What Is Dry Mouth?

Chronic dry mouth, xerostomia (pronounced zero-stO-mEa), is the result of insufficient saliva secretion. This is important because saliva washes away food debris, buffers digestive acids that can cause tooth decay, reduces the formation of plaque, and begins the digestive process.

In 2002, one study reported that salivary gland dysfunction could be exacerbated by several factors, including medications, autoimmune diseases, cancer of the head or neck, neurological conditions, hormonal fluctuations and more. Additionally, a 2018 study  provides insights into the mechanisms by which saliva acts as protector and how it relates to taste, chewing, formation of food blockages in the esophagus, enzymatic digestion and swallowing.
Those of us who live with fibromyalgia symptoms should be on the lookout for conditions that can aggravate chronic dry mouth.

Causes Of Dry Mouth

Let’s take a more in-depth look at the myriad of things can act as causes of dry mouth, such as:

  • Mouth breathing
  • Poor diet
  • Dehydration
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Central and peripheral nerve damage that affects salivary glands
  • Small fiber neuropathy
  • Removal of salivary glands (such as seen in oral cancer)
  • Medication side effects
  • Medical conditions like Sjögren’s, thyroid disease, diabetes, and Lupus)

Furthermore, chronic dry mouth is also one symptom of Sicca syndrome. Sicca is collection of symptoms characterized by unusually dry eyes, mouth, throat, nose, and other mucous membranes. Sicca symptoms are commonly associated with the autoimmune disease called Sjögren’s. Some people interchange the two, and others see Sicca syndrome and Sjögren’s Syndrome quite differently. My own rheumatologist sees Sicca as Sjögren’s without the presence of tissue specific antibodies.

Herein lays the connection between dry mouth and fibromyalgia. In another 2018 study, researchers concluded about 1/3 of fibromyalgia patients tested positive for Sjögren’s-related biomarkers. Plus, the majority of the testing population had the presence of other autoimmune antibodies, lending further credence to the idea that autoimmunity and fibromyalgia are connected.

The Consequences Of Dry Mouth

Chronically thick and stringy saliva, a horse or dry throat, a tongue that is grooved or coated white, or sticky surfaces in the mouth suggests the presence of chronic dry mouth. This can contribute to:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, and tasting
  • Insufficient digestive enzyme production
  • Increased risk of bacterial and fungal infections (which can travel out of the mouth into the body’s circulation)
  • Burning mouth syndrome
  • Bad breath
  • Mouth sores
  • Dental cavities
  • Gum disease
  • Malabsorption of nutrients
  • Gastrointestinal dysfunction

If left untreated or unmanaged, complications related to dry mouth can affect our overall health.

Things We Can Do To Help Chronic Dry Mouth

One of the first things I learned in nursing school was the importance of oral care. Keeping a patient’s mouth moist with glycerine swabs and treating their lips with oral moisturizers is a significant nursing intervention to maintain oral health as well as the health of the body. Other things we can do include:

  • Address lifestyle issues, such as stressdiet, tobacco use.
  • Consider contributing factors, such as sleep apnea or other airway obstructions (i.e. deviated septum), teeth grinding, TMJ, etc.
  • Practice good oral hygiene as recommended by the American Dental Association. Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, clean between teeth daily, limit sugary beverages and snacks, see a dentist regularly.
  • Avoid overuse of caffeine, carbonated beverages, and alcohol, which are dehydrating.
  • Avoid sugar.
  • Sip on water frequently.
  • Rinse mouth frequently.
  • Don’t use mouthwash that contains alcohol.
  • Use oral lubricants and saliva substitutes.
  • Suck on sugar-free hard candy or chew sugar-free gum to stimulate saliva production. (Discuss these options with your dentist.)
  • Use a humidifier.
  • Talk to your dentist about a mouthwash that increases saliva.
  • Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about medication side effects. (i.e., antihistamines or other medication used in fibromyalgia treatments).
  • Talk with your doctor about prescription medications that can increase saliva production.

Chronic dry mouth is complicated; it’s far more than having periodic cotton mouth.  And, while we may not always know what causes it, there are things we can do to minimize the effects, and in the process, have an effect on our overall health.

Applbaum, E., and Lichtbroun, A. (2019). Novel Sjögren's autoantibodies found in fibromyalgia patients with sicca and/or xerostomia. Autoimmunity Reviews, 18(2):199-202.

Granot, M. & Nagler, R.M. (2005). Association between regional idiopathic neuropathy and salivary involvement as the possible mechanism for oral sensory complaints. Journal of Pain, 6(9):581-7.

Mavragani, C.P., Skopouli F.N.,and  Moutsopoulos, H.M. (2009). Increased prevalence of antibodies to thyroid peroxidase in dry eyes and mouth syndrome or sicca asthenia polyalgia syndrome. Journal of Rheumatology, 36(8):1626-30.

Pedersen, A.M. ,  Bardow  A.,  Beier Jensen, S.,  Nauntofte, B. (2002). Saliva and gastrointestinal functions of taste, mastication, swallowing and digestion. Oral Diseases, 8(3):117-29.

Pedersen, A., Sørensen, C.E., Proctor, G.B., Carpenter, G.H. (2018). Salivary functions in mastication, taste and textural perception, swallowing and initial digestion. Oral Diseases, (8):1399-1416. doi: 10.1111/odi.12867. Epub 2018 Jun 7.


You can read more of the articles I have written for ProHealth, here. Take a look around. ProHealth is dedicated to providing helpful information on fibromyalgia, and more.

In healing,

Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity?-See opportunity!

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Learn more about Celeste’s books here. Subscribe to posts by using the information in the upper right hand corner or use the share buttons to share with others. 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

When Your Frozen Muscles Need Help: Myotherapies for Managing Myofascial Pain

When the myofascia isn’t free to move, other muscle movement is also impaired. This leads to joint dysfunction and chronic PAIN. This pain is universal with distinctive patterns that remain consistent in all people. In some cases, restrictions can be so extensive joints become frozen, meaning joint motion is severely restricted. The goal of all myofascial therapies is to restore normal muscle function. Following are helpful hands-on therapies that work to release restrictions and help our body achieve full normal range of motion.


Myofascial pain syndrome  (MPS) is a constant pain source when trigger points (TrPs) are left untreated.

Trigger point therapy done by a specially trained therapist releases the knotted muscle fiber (TrP) using a compression technique. The therapist will know to look for other TrPs, which are sometimes well away from the one that is causing you so much pain. They know there is a consistent pattern related to the specific location of a TrP in that taut band of muscle. Release TrPs returns muscle to normal function.  That said, the work isn’t all up to the therapist. A good therapist will help you learn the importance of knowing what things are perpetuating your pain. A big one for me is sitting here at this desk staring at my computer screen, or riding in a car for too long.

Chronic myofascial pain from MPS is often accompanied by other disorders, such as fibromyalgia, migraine, spinal degeneration, irritable bladder, arthritis, joint hypermobility, and more. Dr. Karl Hurst-Wicker explains “Fibromyalgia Centralization and Peripheral Myofascial Pain” in an interview I did for Health Central.

Created by Celeste Cooper, The Pained Ink Slayer(c)

Chronic myofascial pain can be the primary source of pain or it can perpetuate pain in other disorders, injuries, or anatomical deformities. The good news is that myofascial pain syndrome is treatable. The goal is to release the trigger point/s so that the muscle tissue returns to its normal functioning position.


As so many of us who write about myofascial pain explain, the myofascia is like chicken skin. It’s attached to the muscle, but still moves freely. If you have ever cut up a chicken, you can visualize what that is. Each muscle is covered by myofascia (muscle covering) that draws together on each end to form a tendon. Tendons attach muscle to bone so our joints can function. The goal of myofascial release is to free up myofascial restrictions so our body can function properly.

Developed by physical therapist John F. Barnes, myofascial release is a manual therapy performed by a skilled therapist with the goal of improving movement and promoting wellness.

My personal experience with MFR was enlightening to the physical therapy student following my therapist. During a session, my back starting twitching like a flickering light bulb, the student became tongue-tied. She stated she had not witnessed such a phenomenon. The physical therapist was glad her student was able to see firsthand what restricted myofascia can do and how it contributes to chronic pain.

It’s important to always check the credentials of anyone doing body work. They must have a firm understanding of anatomy of physiology. Here is a directory of myofascial release therapists recommended by John Barnes.


The goal of Neuromuscular Therapy and Reprogramming (NMR), founded by body-worker Jocelyn Olivier, is to balance the central nervous system and the musculoskeletal system by engaging the motor center of the brain.  Therapists specifically trained in NMR treat soft-tissue restrictions, which relaxes muscles, rebuilds strength, improves flexibility, restores venous and lymph flow, and relieves the underlying cause of pain. The therapist will assess blood flow, myofascial TrPs, nerve compression, problems with gait, posture and body alignment, and perpetuating factors.

Other types of bodywork include spray and stretch, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy, strain counter-strain technique, and deep tissue bodywork, such as Rolfing and Active Release Technique (ART). I caution those with fibromyalgia on deep tissue work. It can be too painful for some. I am lucky to have a physical therapist that does ART. Some chiropractors also use this technique, but the most important thing is to have a working relationship with your therapist and keep the lines of communication open.  


Any myofascial therapy requires us to contribute for the best outcome. We can identify perpetuating factors and practice preventive strategies like stretching and strengthening to maintain muscle health, stamina, and general overall wellness. (Caution: strengthening should be done once the muscle is functioning properly again.) We can be persistent in finding the right therapy or the right therapist. Both are equally important. Maybe you find a therapy you want to try, insurance covers it and all seems well. However, I offer a word of prudence, the type of therapy doesn’t matter if you don’t have a knowledgeable therapist who is willing to work with you and teach you why certain things are important.

A guidebook that focuses on the work of doctors Travell and Simons will help you learn methods of self-treatment and a good therapist will suggest that you do just that. There is information to suggest that when home therapy is encouraged, we do better.


Always talk with your doctor for medical clearance. Sports medicine physicians and physical therapists are often a good resource for those of us living with chronic myofascial pain.

Additional Reading:

In healing,

Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity?-See opportunity!

~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~ • ~

Learn more about Celeste’s books here. Subscribe to posts by using the information in the upper right hand corner or use the share buttons to share with others. 

Celeste's Website

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