Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that causes chronic, widespread pain in the muscles of the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the condition affects approximately two percent of the U.S. adult population. No one knows the exact cause of fibromyalgia, but scientists suspect it is related to abnormal processing of painful stimuli. Specifically, an overmagnification of the body’s pain signals.
As fibromyalgia can have significant physical and psychological effects — such as fatigue, disability, depression, and/or anxiety — this article focuses on nine tips for coping with fibromyalgia pain.
1. Pay Attention to Your Diet
Diet is an often-overlooked aspect of the management of fibromyalgia pain. In fact, certain foods and/or additives in food may increase fibromyalgia pain.
In addition to an overall heart-healthy diet, you should consider the following dietary changes:
- Reducing or eliminating sugar;
- Avoiding gluten;
- Avoiding fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharides and polyols;
- Avoiding food additives, such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate, and;
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine.
2. Get Regular Exercise
Although it may be tough, exercising regularly can go a long way toward helping you cope with fibromyalgia pain. In particular, low-intensity exercises, such as walking, swimming, yoga, tai chi, and Pilates, are excellent choices.
The recommended target is at least 30 minutes of exercise for most days of the week. Remember that the exercise doesn’t have to be continuous. As long as it totals 30 minutes of exercise, you can split it up however you’d like.
In addition to decreasing pain, regular exercise improves fatigue and sleep, which are common problems accompanying fibromyalgia.
3. Get Adequate Sleep
Adequate sleep not only can improve fibromyalgia pain but also can alleviate fatigue.
Besides a consistent sleep schedule and limiting/avoiding naps, you should consider the following sleep hygiene tips:
- Use the bedroom only for the purpose of sleeping;
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool, so between 60 and 68⁰ F;
- Avoid nicotine and caffeine before bed, and;
- Avoid excessive alcohol before bed.
4. Reduce Stress
As excessive stress can worsen fibromyalgia pain, it makes sense that de-stressing can cause this symptom to wane.
One way to de-stress is to do tai chi and/or yoga. These exercises incorporate deep breathing, which helps with stress reduction. Furthermore, a recent study concluded that tai chi, specifically, is helpful in the management of fibromyalgia.
Additionally, techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback, can diminish stress and help with mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, which commonly accompany fibromyalgia.
5. Take Your Medication
A wide variety of medications can be used in the treatment of fibromyalgia. This includes pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure and anti-anxiety medications. Historically, persistence and adherence to these fibromyalgia medications have been extraordinarily low.
While there may be side effects — which may go away with time — you should talk with your doctor before stopping any of your fibromyalgia medications. If you worry about the side effects of these medications, you should be aware of the “nocebo effect”. According to it, people who worry about side effects are more likely to perceive that they are actually experiencing them.
6. Join a Support Group
If you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, joining a support group is integral to the management of your disease. Whether you connect virtually or in person, a fibromyalgia support group can allay negative emotions, reinforce positive emotions, and provide additional information/tips to help you in your battle with the disease.
The National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association and International Support Fibromyalgia Network are great resources for finding a support group. If you cannot find a group, online or in-person, that fits your needs, consider starting your own local fibromyalgia support group.
7. Consider Various Types of Treatment
In addition to medication, there are many other forms of treatment used to manage fibromyalgia. This can include:
- Different forms of therapy, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, counseling, and complementary and alternative therapies;
- Supplements like melatonin, 5-hydroxytryptophan, and S-adenosyl methionine, and;
- The traditional Chinese medicine technique known as acupuncture.
8. Keep a Daily Trigger Journal
A daily journal, referred to as a “flare journal” by some, may be able to help you decipher triggers for flares of your fibromyalgia. For instance, many individuals with the disease report certain foods, events, activities, or moods that precede exacerbations of their disease.
Armed with this knowledge, you can take control of the disease. Thanks to this knowledge, you are in a position to avoid triggers, which can help you better cope with fibromyalgia pain and its accompanying symptoms.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
On your worst days with fibromyalgia pain, you may need help. As such, you should not be afraid to ask for assistance from family and friends with tasks such as grocery shopping, meal preparation, driving, cleaning, and yardwork. You will be surprised at the difference a little help could make.
If you can’t get help from family and friend, there are other resources, like grocery delivery and ride-sharing services, that can help.
Although fibromyalgia affects more than five million American adults and is not life-threatening, it can drastically reduce the daily functioning and quality of life for those diagnosed with it. Fortunately, with early diagnosis, treatment, and appropriate coping strategies, the effects of fibromyalgia can be mitigated.