Living Well With Fibromyalgia

Pain is a given for nearly everyone with fibromyalgia. So are fatigue and brain fog. While those symptoms can be challenging, you don't have to put your life on hold because of them.

Living with fibromyalgia means making adjustments, from work to parenting responsibilities to household chores to having fun. By taking a more active role in managing your condition, you may feel a sense of control and boost your self-esteem along with your quality of life.

Medical Care

Stay on your meds. Sounds obvious, but this can be why you don't get enough symptom relief. Nearly half the people in one study didn't take their medication as directed because of forgetfulness, carelessness, or out of frustration.

Keep a journal and bring it to doctor visits so you can zero in on what's bothering you, and see what helps.

Make sure the doctor in charge of your care has experience with fibromyalgia. Other team members, who often practice together at pain and rheumatology clinics, can help with specific symptoms. They include physiatrists, psychologists, and physical and occupational therapists.

Consider complementary therapies, like acupuncture and massage, for pain relief.

Sign up for a self-management education class, in person or online, to better understand fibromyalgia. The CDC has several for people with arthritis (which would work for you, too) listed on its website.

Exercise

Be as active as you can. Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to deal with fibromyalgia. It eases both fatigue and pain. Walking and swimming are especially good. Aim for 20-30 minutes, 2 or 3 days per week. It's OK to do that in 10-minute chunks.

Balance exercises will help you feel steadier. Resistance training can boost your strength and overall fitness. A trainer can teach you the right way to lift.

Exergaming -- video games that include exercise -- may be a good option if you're worried about falling. These fitness games track your body movements or reactions and combine that with virtual reality. This style of exercise targets your ability to move easily and balance.

If you're uneasy on your feet or if even low-impact activity is hard, ask your doctor about an exercise program for people with fibromyalgia or another type of supervised rehab to improve your strength, flexibility, and stamina.

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Energy

It's the fibro Catch-22: You need sleep to feel better, but your symptoms can get in the way.

Practice good sleep habits, like going to bed and getting up at the same time. Regular exercise will also help you sleep. You might try a simple nightly soak in the tub to help you relax and temporarily ease pain.

Ask your doctor to test you for sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.

During the day, pace yourself. Plan your work, household chores, and social events so you don't overdo it. Break down big tasks into manageable bites. Build in short rest periods between activities.

Stress Relief

Worry, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed will drain your energy, too. Try to adopt a more "go with the flow" rather than "crisis" approach to life, set priorities, and remember it's OK to say "no" so you can focus on what's important.

With guided imagery, you replace negative or stressful feelings with pleasant images. Once you learn how, you can do it on your own. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to focus your thoughts in a positive way. The more you practice it, the more pain relief it can bring. Other helpful approaches include cognitive behavioral therapy and biofeedback.

Mind-body practices like tai chi, qi gong, and yoga may ease many fibromyalgia issues, from sleep problems and fatigue to mood. Because they include movement, they work the way exercise does, with the bonus of stress relief from focused breathing.

Diet

Focus on nutrient-rich foods to have more energy and to avoid other health problems. Use your diary to see if any foods make you feel better.

People with fibromyalgia tend to have low levels of vitamin D. That could worsen pain and other symptoms. A blood test can tell if you're short on D. Ask your doctor if you should take a supplement.

One study showed that light and moderate (but not heavy) alcohol drinkers have a better quality of life and less severe symptoms than nondrinkers. In this study, "moderate" meant 3-7 drinks per week, and not all in one day.

Avoid caffeine. While it may make you feel more alert, it can also put you on edge and make it harder to sleep. Drinking 4 or more cups of a caffeinated beverage a day has been linked with more fibro pain.

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Relationships

Sit down with your partner on a regular basis to talk about what's going on with you. Listen to each other and problem-solve together. If that's difficult, counseling with a therapist may help bridge the gap. Studies show that it's better when both of you agree about how fibro affects you. You could bring them to your next doctor visit if they're having a hard time grasping what it's like.

Find out what really matters to the people you care about, like your kids' soccer games or the school play. Then plan your activities and save your energy to be there for them during those times.

Join a fibromyalgia support group. You'll discover tips for your own care as well as ideas about how to get family, friends, and co-workers on the same page with you.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on August 23, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

PLoS One: "The Prevalence and Characteristics of Fibromyalgia in the 2012 National Health Interview Survey."

CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help: "Relationships: Stresses and Strategies."

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American Family Physician: "Common Questions About the Diagnosis and Management of Fibromyalgia."

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: "Questions and Answers about Fibromyalgia."

American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: "What Is a Physiatrist?"

Acupuncture in Medicine: "Acupuncture for fibromyalgia in primary care: a randomised controlled trial." 

Mayo Clinic: "Fibromyalgia: Treatment."

CDC: "Fibromyalgia Fact Sheet," "Are you getting enough sleep?"

Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: "Swimming Improves Pain and Functional Capacity of Patients With Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Controlled Trial." 

Rheumatology International: "Is balance exercise training as effective as aerobic exercise training in fibromyalgia syndrome?"

Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Resistance training for fibromyalgia."

PeerJ: "Exergames for women with fibromyalgia: a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effects on mobility skills, balance and fear of falling."

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National Fibromyalgia Association: "Treatment."

Current Pain and Headache Reports: "Cognitive Impairment in Fibromyalgia."

Nutrients: "Vitamin D in Fibromyalgia: A Causative or Confounding Biological Interplay?"

Arthritis Research & Therapy: "Association between alcohol consumption and symptom severity and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia." 

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National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association: "Fibromyalgia Impact on Relationships."

Pain: "Couple Perceptions of Fibromyalgia Symptoms: The Role of Communication."

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