Because you have good days and bad days with fibromyalgia, start each morning assessing how you feel. If you didn't sleep well the night before, plan your day accordingly and arrange to do less. If you feel well rested and your pain is tolerable, do more -- but remember that moderation is key. Always be flexible. You never know when you'll have a flare, so listen to your body and take breaks when you need them.
At times, moving may be the last thing you feel like doing. But moving can actually make you feel better and more energized. Regular, gentle exercise can help ease pain, stress, and other fibromyalgia symptoms. Start slowly and try activities like walking, swimming, and stretching, even if it's only for a minute or two at a time. If you feel good, you can increase how long you work out and how hard.
Massage is a time-tested way to ease muscle pain and reduce stress. People also use massage to help improve range of motion and deal with depression and anxiety. More vigorous forms of massage may help relieve deep muscle pain from fibromyalgia. You also can try relieving some fibromyalgia pain yourself. Try massaging painful areas with a tennis ball or other firm object.
Heat, especially moist heat, may relieve soreness and stiffness from fibromyalgia by boosting blood flow to the places where you hurt. Apply a warm, moist washcloth to the painful area or try taking a shower or soaking in a bath. You also can reduce the deep muscle pain of fibromyalgia with a cold pack. Don't have one handy? Try wrapping a towel around a bag of frozen vegetables.
This Chinese healing practice may relieve fibromyalgia symptoms in the short term. But research results are mixed. Acupuncturists believe inserting thin needles into specific points on the body helps energy flow. Others think it may increase the body's natural pain-fighting chemicals. Although some acupuncture studies have shown an improvement in pain, fatigue, or anxiety, others have shown it to have no effect when compared to simulated acupuncture.
Fibromyalgia often disrupts sleep due to pain, restless legs syndrome, or other reasons. Try to set a sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day and avoiding naps. Develop a relaxing bedtime routine -- maybe reading and a warm bath. And make your bedroom conducive to sleep by keeping it dark, cool, and free of distractions like TV and computers. This is called practicing sleep hygiene.
It may not be easy, but you may have to become a little bit selfish. When you are pressured by too many demands, it's time to learn how to say "no." That means not accepting every invitation or going on every outing -- you might even have to back out at the last minute once in a while. Your friends and family will understand when you just don't have the energy for everything and have to put your own needs first.
Some studies suggest that certain over-the-counter herbs and supplements -- such as 5-HTP, melatonin, and SAM-e -- can help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms. Others disagree. Bottom line: Many supplements have not been researched as thoroughly as prescription medications for effectiveness and safety. It's very important you talk with your doctor before trying any supplement. Some can have harmful results if combined with other drugs.
Too much stress may trigger your fibromyalgia symptoms. Reducing stress may ease depression, anxiety, and fatigue and improve sleep. Make time for yourself every day to decompress and relax. Be sure to do something you love like read, listen to music, or take a walk. You may also want to use that time for meditation or deep-breathing exercises -- whatever it takes for some guilt-free time to de-stress.
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- Mark J. Pellegrino, MD, specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, Ohio Pain and Rehabilitation Center.
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- National Sleep Foundation: "Let Sleep Work for You."
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