What You Can Do to Improve Symptoms
Fibromyalgia is a disease of chronic and widespread muscle pain and tenderness. It is also often associated with fatigue, poor sleep, trouble thinking and anxiety or depression. The cause and mechanism of fibromyalgia are unknown, but it is believed to be a disorder of central pain processing. Since the cause and mechanism are unknown, there is no cure to eliminate the pain. Instead, treatment is focused on helping sufferers manage their symptoms and achieve maximal daily functioning.
There is no magic drug to manage fibromyalgia. While medication has a role, non-drug treatments are more effective at maintaining day-to-day functioning.
A multi-faceted approach is advised, involving exercise, stress-management, and daily activity planning, with patients encouraged to take active control of their fibromyalgia management. By feeling in control, many suffers of fibromyalgia can achieve maximum daily functioning.
Here are 10 healthy habits for fibromyalgia that patients can adopt to help manage their symptoms:
1. Keep an Activity and Symptom Diary
Fibromyalgia is different for everyone. Learn what activities affect your pain, fatigue, sleep and mood. By learning what specific factors exacerbate or help your symptoms, this can help you better plan your day and manage your disease.
2. Plan Your Days
Fibromyalgia is unpredictable. You may find yourself more fatigued or in more pain than usual at inconvenient times.
The previous night or at the start of each day, work out what activities you need to fit into the day, including important time for exercise and stress relief. Assign these activities an order of priority. Start your day with the activities with the highest priority.
Pace yourself and schedule your activities between periods of rest. Break up activities into smaller segments if you need to. And if you don’t achieve all that you wanted to, be easy on yourself.
3. Incorporate Aerobic Activity Into Your Routine
20 minutes a day, three times a week. Examples include swimming, walking, cycling or water aerobics.
It can be difficult to find the motivation to exercise when you are sore and tired. However, studies show that exercise benefits people with fibromyalgia. Overall, it leads to improved energy levels, better sleep, reduced fatigue and greater fitness.
Exercise is good for your overall health and lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. On the other hand, those who don’t exercise end up in a viscous cycle — inactivity leads to reduced fitness and poor sleep, which makes it harder to remain active.
To make exercise achievable, start gently and slowly. The 20 minutes doesn’t need to be done in one block. Learn your limits. Don’t push yourself too hard on good days because that can make your pain and fatigue worse the next.
Choose an exercise that is low impact, one you enjoy, and one you will feel motivated to continue. If you overdo it, have a rest day and try again the next.
4. Incorporate Some Strengthening Exercises Into Your Routine Three Times a Week
Such activities include deep breathing, core strengthening exercises, resistance training, and light weight training. Such activities help with weight control, relaxation, mood and sleep. They also keep your muscles strong, which keeps you mobile.
5. Build Relaxation and Stress Relief Exercises Into Your Day at Least Three Times a Week
Stress exacerbates fibromyalgia. Relaxation techniques help manage stress and anxiety, help with sleep, and make it easier to manage the pain.
Different relaxation techniques work better for different people, so experiment with different activities to find what works for you. Some people benefit best from exercise; others prefer meditation, yoga, tai chi or mindfulness activities; other people find relaxation by doing an intensely focused hobby, such as drawing, sewing or crafts. It should be an activity that focuses the mind on the present and relaxes the body.
6. Practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Techniques Every Day
A large number of fibromyalgia patients suffer from anxiety and depression, which is associated with negative and unhelpful thinking.
CBT is different to relaxation and meditation; it is about training the brain to change from negative to positive and helpful thinking patterns, as well as analyzing thoughts, identifying bad thought habits, and developing more realistic and healthy thinking. Learning healthy thinking patterns will help you cope better with your condition. Psychologists teach CBT and there are also numerous online training sites.
7. Develop a Good Sleep Routine
People with fibromyalgia often have trouble falling or staying asleep. Although it might not be the only answer, it can help to develop a consistent bedtime routine.
Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Before you go to bed, establish a ritual for relaxation that doesn’t include computers, phones or the television. It might be reading a book, coloring a patterned drawing, or having a bath.
Also, avoid exercise or work immediately before going to bed. Make your bedroom dark and relaxing and not too hot or cold.
8. Avoid Caffeine
Caffeine is in coffee, tea, chocolate, and some fizzy drinks. As well as making you more awake and making it difficult to sleep, caffeine can cause agitation and heightened anxiety. These can only make fibromyalgia worse.
9. Keep Connected With Your Friends, the Community and Yourself
Although it can be difficult, try to continue your hobbies and the activities that relax you and give you a healthy sense of self. Continue to go out with friends and volunteer in community groups. All of these things help to keep you distracted, relaxed, and help to create a sense of well-being.
10. Become Part of a Fibromyalgia Support Network
Fibromyalgia is hard to live with and more so if you have a family to care for or a job you are trying to continue. The frustration, anger, physical effects and isolation caused by fibromyalgia often causes anxiety and depression.
Connecting with people dealing with the same issues can help you feel supported and not alone. They can give you someone to talk to and can provide more tips on dealing with the disease.
11. Continually Seek out Information on Your Disease
Keep track of current research. By staying informed you can better understand your disease and identify habits that may help with its management.
Living with fibromyalgia can be difficult, but studies show patients maintain better day-to-day functioning when they feel empowered over the control of their disease. Learn about the disease, your body, and the way activities and moods affect your symptoms. Learn your limitations and don’t feel bad about saying “no.”
By planning your day, undertaking relaxation and physical activities, and developing healthy habits, you can feel more empowered over your fibromyalgia.