Fibromyalgia (cont.)

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Are exercise, stress reduction, or changes in diet helpful in the treatment of fibromyalgia?

Since the symptoms of fibromyalgia are diverse and vary among patients, treatment programs must be individualized for each patient. Fibromyalgia treatment programs are most effective when they combine patient education, stress reduction, regular exercise, and medications. Recent studies have verified that the best outcome for each patient results from a combination of approaches that involves the patient in customization of the treatment plan.

Patient education

Patient education is a key first step in helping patients understand and cope with the many symptoms. Unfortunately, not all physicians are intimately acquainted with the vagaries of this illness. Therefore, community hospital support groups and the local chapters of the Arthritis Foundation have become important educational resources for patients and their doctors. The Arthritis Foundation is a national voluntary health organization that provides community education through their many local chapters. Community hospital support groups also provide an arena for patients to share their experiences and treatment successes and failures.

Stress reduction

The perception of stress varies from one individual to another. For some people, spilling milk on the table can represent a significant tragedy. For others, a tank rolling into the living room might represent just another day! Therefore, stress reduction in the treatment of fibromyalgia must be individualized. Stress reduction might include simple stress modification at home or work, biofeedback, relaxation tapes, psychological counseling, and/or support among family members, friends, and doctors. Sometimes, changes in environmental factors (such as noise, temperature, and weather exposure) can exacerbate the symptoms of fibromyalgia, and these factors need to be modified. Optimal sleep is encouraged.

Exercise

Low-impact aerobic exercises, such as swimming, cycling, walking, and stationary cross-country ski machines, can be effective fibromyalgia treatments. Exercise regimens are most beneficial when performed on an every-other-day basis, in the morning. How exercise benefits fibromyalgia is unknown. Exercise may exert its beneficial effect by promoting a deep level of sleep (non-REM sleep). Sometimes physical therapy can be helpful to optimally guide the exercise plan.

Fibromyalgia diet

Similarly, avoiding alcohol and caffeine before bedtime can also help promote a more restful sleep. Foods that lead to comfortable sleep should be favored. While these dietary changes may not apply to everyone, they can be very helpful for some. There is no specific fibromyalgia diet or food supplements that are recommended for all patients. When patients have accompanying irritable bowel syndrome, the diet should be adjusted to not aggravate the bowels. Likewise, when patients have accompanying interstitial cystitis, foods that irritate the bladder should be avoided.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/1/2013

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Fibromyalgia - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of fibromyalgia can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
Fibromyalgia - Treatments Question: What treatment has been effective for your fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia - Lifestyle Changes Question: What lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, etc.) have you found helpful in relieving fibromyalgia pain?