Swollen Glands or Fibromyalgia Lymph Nodes & ME / CFS

Swollen Glands or Fibromyalgia Lymph Nodes & ME / CFS

By: Dr Alex Robber

Swollen glands or Fibromyalgia lymph nodes & ME / CFS-Are they a popular problem?

Swollen glands

Swollen glands are a fairly common characteristic of fibromyalgia (FMS), as well as chronic fatigue syndrome (ME / CFS). We’re usually associating swollen glands with acute diseases. They’re a sign your immune system is working against a pathogen of some sort.

It’s quite normal for them to ache, even in “normal” people, so they’re particularly likely to hurt in us because of our low pain thresholds (the point where sensation becomes painful). The “unwellness” feelings that accompany them probably mean that you’ve picked up some disease, or that your body is having a harder time in the fight against long pathogens.

Lymph nodes or lymph glands

 Lymph nodes, or lymph glands, are a vital part of the body’s disease-fighting immune system; they are small pea-shaped protuberances at various points in the body, connected by the lymph network. When one of them swells, it’s filled with lymph fluid, a mixture of white blood cells and a protein substance called “chyle,” specifically to fight off some immune system problem.

A swollen lymph gland or node means something has gone a little awry, and you need to learn how to “catch” these lumps and what they teach you about your body.

They’re often a symptom of a chronically active immune system

The “glands” referred to by humans are simply lymph nodes, which are small bundles of white nerve cells. These are also a symptom of a chronically active immune system in FMS and ME / CFS (possibly more so in ME / CFS)-the body is growing the amount of white blood cells to fend off the virus, and the region gets puffed up with them.

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However, they may also be a consequence of what some researchers identify as thick or sluggish corporal fluids, especially in FMS. The lymph that would normally pass, appears to be backed up.

We have lymph nodes throughout the body, in the:

  • Under the jaw & chin
  • Groin
  • Armpit
  • Down both sides of the neck
  • On either side of the spine on the back of the neck
  • On either side of the thyroid gland in the front of the neck
  • Behind the ears
  • On the back of the head
  • So, if your lymph nodes have started inexplicably popping up like tender mushrooms, here’s what that might mean.

You Have an Infection or A Common Virus

This is the most common cause of swollen lymph glands on your body anywhere: they are fighting off something. (After a bizarre weekend in which every lymph node on my body decided to puff up like a toad, I went to a doctor in complete confusion and she assured me that it simply signaled the effective functioning of the immune system, probably against something like a bacterial infection or a virus.)

In reaction to a broad range of intrusive issues, nodes may swell with lymph fluid, ranging from cold to measles and chickenpox, STDs, staph, or other form of infection. (Viral infections are distinct in several ways from bacterial infections: bacteria are latter organisms that can survive without a host, while viruses are extraordinarily tiny and cell dependent.

You’re Extremely Anxious

This is a unusual one but people with anxiety disorders or a tendency to panic attacks may be familiar with it. There is a certain kind of circular problem in various forms of psychologically diagnosed anxiety, particularly those associated with disease anxiety disorders (what we term “hypochondria”), where anxiety decreases the functioning of the immune system, leads to minor viruses or infections, swells the lymph nodes, and thus leads to more anxiety as the person panics about their ill health.

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The tendency of intense anxiety to suppress the immune system is a well-known phenomenon, but among the main physical symptoms of anxiety in the body are not swollen lymph nodes; they are a potential result, not a symptom.

You Have Lymphoma

Let’s get this out of the way: a single swollen gland is unlikely to be a symptom of lymphoma, a cancer that affects the white blood cells in the lymph nodes and that gathers them. (That’s a rough definition. There are two major forms of lymphoma, Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin, and there are up to 60 non-Hodgkin lymphoma subtypes, so we’re not thinking necessarily about a single disease here.)

Non-Hodkin lymphoma, the more prevalent kind, accounts for only four percent of all new cancers in the U.S. per year, so the chance of having it is around one in 50. But don’t get freaked out.

Treatment

This may be your thyroid gland if you have swelling or pressure in the middle of your neck.  Be sure to have this checked out immediately. Swollen lymph nodes need no care, simply because they are swollen. If they’re painful though, you have some ways to relieve the pain:

  • Heat and/or ice, possibly alternating. Try different combinations to see what helps most.
  • Ibuprofen, other NSAIDs or other pain medications.
  • Manual lymph drainage (a type of massage) if it appears to be stagnant lymph.

This may be your thyroid gland if you have swelling or pressure in the middle of your neck.  Be sure to have this checked out immediately. Swollen lymph nodes need no care, simply because they are swollen. If they’re painful though, you have some ways to relieve the pain:

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Sometimes, however, deeper massage is required than my body can handle. I have to consult regularly with my massage therapist so she understands how much pressure she can apply on any given day. I had cupping too, a common Chinese procedure involving suction cups. It’s not as good to ease the pressure but it’s less likely to cause discomfort later on, so it’s a good substitute.

Reference: Swollen Glands or Lymph Nodes with Fibromyalgia & ME/CFS -Are They a Common Problem? by Adriene Dellwo via Verywell Health

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