Tips for Living with Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that causes widespread pain all over the body. Other symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome include fatigue, stiffness, sleep problems, fibro fog (difficulty concentrating), memory issues, mood changes, and anxiety.
Fibromyalgia affects approximately 4 million adults in the United States. The cause of this condition is not well understood, but scientists believe it has to do with how the central nervous system perceives pain signals.
Diagnosis and treatment of fibromyalgia can be challenging. However, lifestyle changes and complementary therapies can help people with fibromyalgia obtain symptom relief.
Please continue reading to learn some tips for living with fibromyalgia, including complementary and integrative health strategies to reduce pain and relieve symptoms.
What things aggravate fibromyalgia pain?
Different factors make fibro pain worse for other people. Common fibromyalgia triggers include changes in diet, too much or too little exercise, hormonal fluctuations, mental or emotional stress, changes in sleep schedule, and changes in weather or temperature. Stressful events like surgery, injuries, or other illnesses can also make fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms worse.
What should you not do if you have fibromyalgia?
Here are some tips to help you reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of fibromyalgia flares.
- Don’t try to fight through fibromyalgia symptoms. Listen to your body and rest when you feel fatigued.
- Don’t overdo it on good days. It can be tempting to get many things done on the days you’re feeling good, but overdoing it can cause a flare.
- Don’t forget to pace yourself. Plan household chores, social events, and work in a way that you get enough rest between activities. Do large tasks in chunks rather than all at once.
- Don’t use fibromyalgia as an excuse not to get regular exercise. Include a low-intensity exercise plan such as brisk walking in your daily life - it can help keep fibromyalgia flares at bay.
- Don’t forget to get enough sleep. Make sure you are getting good quality sleep. Lack of sleep is a known fibromyalgia trigger.
- Don’t forget to de-stress. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, and massage therapy can help relieve stress and improve your overall quality of life.
How can I relieve fibromyalgia symptoms?
One of the most important ways to control fibromyalgia symptoms is to work with a multidisciplinary team of healthcare providers. This team may include a rheumatologist, pain management specialist, psychologist, physical therapist, and massage therapist to manage your chronic pain and other symptoms. Take your medications as directed by your physicians. Keep a journal of your symptoms and bring it to your appointments to help your doctor figure out what is causing you to feel worse.
Staying active can reduce pain and fatigue and help you cope better with fibromyalgia. Your aim should be to get 20-30 minutes of exercise at least 3-4 times a week. Low-intensity exercises like walking and swimming are ideal. However, make sure you swim in warm water in a heated pool because cold water can trigger fibromyalgia. Gentle stretching and balance exercises, such as yoga, tai chi, and qi gong are also appropriate.
One of the most important tips for living with fibromyalgia is to practice good sleep hygiene, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, sleeping in a dark, quiet room at a comfortable temperature, putting away all electronic devices two hours before bedtime, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime. A warm bath before bedtime can be relaxing and may help you sleep better and reduce fibromyalgia pain.
Anxiety and worry can drain your energy and make your fibromyalgia symptoms worse. Practice controlled breathing and mindfulness or work with a therapist trained in biofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy, or guided imagery to learn how to replace stressful feelings with pleasant images and thoughts.
Alcohol, soft drinks, and caffeine can all affect fibro pain. Many fibromyalgia patients also suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and benefit from a gluten-free diet. However, not everyone has the same food triggers. Keep a food journal to see if any foods make you feel better or worse.
In general, try to eat a healthy, balanced diet. An imbalance of nutrients like vitamins and minerals can worsen pain and symptoms. Many fibromyalgia patients have vitamin D deficiency. Ask your doctor whether you need to take any supplements.
Complementary therapies such as massage therapy and acupuncture provide relief from chronic pain for some fibromyalgia patients.
How can I make chronic pain from fibromyalgia feel better?
If lifestyle changes and alternative treatments do not help with your fibromyalgia pain, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce pain and improve your quality of life. Some of the medications used to treat chronic pain associated with fibromyalgia include:
- Pain medications. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) can relieve symptoms of pain.
- Muscle relaxants. Medications such as tizanidine (Zanaflex) and cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) may reduce pain.
- Antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil), SNRIs like duloxetine (Cymbalta), and SSRIs like fluoxetine (Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil) may be prescribed to help with chronic pain and fatigue.
- Anti-seizure drugs. Some people with fibromyalgia get pain relief from anti-seizure medications like gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica).
How can I live a good life with fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic illness that can have a very big impact on your sense of well-being and quality of life. You can feel good one day and be a lot worse the next day. You should work with your healthcare team to identify triggers and avoid them, if possible. It’s important to take the help of family members in household chores, childcare, etc., when you’re not feeling your best. Joining a support group can also help you learn more tips for living with fibromyalgia.