How To Ease Fibromyalgia Pain and Fatigue
With fibromyalgia syndrome, just getting by each day often requires difficult choices. Read on for expert advice on managing fibromyalgia pain and fatigue while living life to the fullest…
Fibromyalgia is also know as “chronic fatigue syndrome”. CFS is also called “Epstein-Barr Syndrome”. Although fibromyalgia and Epstein-Barr have since been diagnosed and recognized as two different illnesses, the CFS name is still attached to both. We will cover fibromyalgia in this article and leave Epstein-Barr for another.
Signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia can include wide-spread body aches, sensitivity and pain when touched (even gently), fatigue, sleep disruptions, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, facial pain, tenderness in the back and shoulders, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, painful menstruation, irritable bladder and dry eyes, skin, and mouth.
There has not, at the time of this article, been a specific cause cited for fibromyalgia. However, many doctors believe that the following are contributing factors:
– Chemical changes in the brain
– Sleep disturbances
– Injury or trauma, especially to the upper spine
– Changes in muscular metabolism
– Abnormalities of the autonomic (sympathetic) nervous system.
Risk of developing fibromyalgia seems to be higher in women and the age groups most affected tend to be those in their early and middle adulthood. It has, however, been diagnosed in children, men, and teens.
No conclusive evidence has been found as to whether sleep disorders are a cause, or a result, of fibromyalgia. But those who suffer from restless leg syndrome, night time muscle spasms in one’s legs, or sleep apnea frequently develop fibromyalgia. Family history may also be a contributing factor. If one has a relative with this condition, one may be a higher risk for having it.
Further, if one has a rheumatic disease such as ankylosing spondilitis, rheumatic arthritis, or lupus, the likelihood of fibromyalgia increases.
Currently, there are no specific tests for diagnosing the disease. One may be tested for numerous other illnesses and diseases, and have those ruled out, before a physician decides to check further using the guidelines set forth by the American College of Rheumatology.
Once diagnosed, there are many ways that the disease can be treated, BUT, there is no cure for fibromyalgia yet. One’s physician may prescribe medications to treat the symptoms and could recommend that one seek out alternative, non-medical treatments for relief from the chronic pain associated with it. In the meantime, medical scientists continue to search for answers about this mysterious disease. With symptomatic treatment, along with some possible and achievable lifestyle adjustments, one can cope.
Fibromyalgia is not a progressive illness and there are no indications that it will lead to other diseases or conditions. One must be prepared, however, to experience the chronic pain, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety which accompany it. This in turn can cause problems with one’s ability to work, and maintain healthy familial and friendly relationships. And frustration from coping with this frequently misunderstood illness can add more complications to the conditions.
Stress can be a major factor in the intensity of one’s pain, due the further tensing of already-stressed muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It is important to help in educating those around you so that they have a better concept about what you are experiencing. Their understanding and coping when one has a particularly bad day can help to reduce your stress and, perhaps, help to alleviate your pain. Taking time out to relax, calm, and soothe one’s body and mind can also be beneficial to keeping the pain to a minimum.
Life with fibromyalgia is full of ups and downs.
One day you’re fine, able to handle everything on that mile-long to-do list.
The next, you’re so tired you can’t get out of bed to feed the kids.
But even in the face of this uncertainty, you can take steps to avoid fibromyalgia pain. If a woman with fibromyalgia spends too much time stressing about her condition, she uses up precious energy. Learning to treat yourself well can mean the difference between controlling fibromyalgia symptoms and letting them control you, says internist Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., author of From Fatigued to Fantastic!
Life’s ‘little things’ can impact fibromyalgia. What your friends or family members do to stay healthy might not be appropriate for you.These 14 doctor-recommended do’s and don’ts will help you get rid of guilt, pace yourself on difficult days and sidestep stress when fibromyalgia symptoms flare:
1. Do listen to your body.
Take a “time out” if you need one. Too many women fight through fibromyalgia fatigue instead of resting. Fatigue is the body’s way of telling you to take it easy. Pushing through exhaustion can worsen fibromyalgia symptoms and leave you feeling more sluggish.
2. Don’t always put your family first.
It’s natural to put kids’ needs before your own. Moms with fibromyalgia shouldn’t let parenting responsibilities prevent them from making healthy choices. That means: Don’t skip a doctor’s visit to attend your child’s recital. It won’t help anyone. Taking care of yourself will make it easier to care for your family.
3. Do make good use of the energy you have.
It’s easy to fall into the I-can’t-do-that mindset without even trying. But don’t use fibromyalgia as an excuse to avoid activities. Or underestimate your capabilities when you’re feeling good. That attitude makes you a victim. If you’re feeling well, do what you can for as long as you can.
4. Don’t overdo it on good days.
But don’t “make up” for lost time on days that you’re pain- and fatigue-free. “Trying to do too much when you feel great can trigger a flare,” says David Edelberg, M.D., a Chicago integrative-medicine specialist and author of The Triple Whammy Cure (Free Press). “Even if you’re feeling good and have plenty of energy, your muscles are still susceptible to soreness.”
So don’t tackle a long to-do list. Instead, set a goal to do one thing you were unable to do when battling fibromyalgia pain. That way, you can enjoy the feeling of accomplishment without the ‘pain hangover.
5. Do learn to say no.
There will be times when you don’t feel up to baking for a school event or hosting a family dinner. And it’s perfectly OK to say, ‘No, I can’t do that right now.’ ” Only say “yes” to things you’re up to doing. And don’t feel guilty. Your primary responsibility is to your health.
6. Don’t just sit around.
It might be tempting to just veg out. But regular exercise and activity are important to keep flares at bay. Do enough to feel good, but not so much that it wipes you out the next day. If you feel ‘bad tired’ – like you were hit by a truck – you overdid it.
The best way to start exercising? Take a daily walk for as long as feels comfortable. Then add one minute every 7-10 days. Use a pedometer to track progress and increase gradually until you’re taking 10,000 steps a day the amount many fitness programs recommend for good health. Don’t be afraid of going farther either. If you feel up to it, don’t stop at 10,000 steps. Walk longer as long as you’re not too tired the next day.
7. Do keep your mind busy.
If you don’t have the energy to take a walk or do household tasks, stay mentally active instead. That means working a crossword puzzle or Sudoku, playing a stimulating game with your kids, or just watching a thought-provoking movie. These activities can relieve stress and prevent excess worrying. Taking your mind off pain – even for an hour or two – can help your body relax and reduce fibromyalgia symptoms.
8. Don’t stress out.
Excessive worrying about your next fibromyalgia flare increases stress levels, which worsens how you feel. In the middle of a flare, focus on something positive instead – a funny scene from a movie or a relaxing trip you once took. Sometimes [just] telling yourself you’ll feel better can spark a remission. By focusing on something other than the pain, he explains, you may actually feel it less.
9. Do ask for help.
On bad days, rely on your support system to take the kids to school or run an errand. People volunteer to help because they legitimately want to. And you’ll get much-needed time to focus on feeling better.
10. Don’t clam up.
Share your disorder with family and friends. Tell them about how you feel on good and bad days, so they know what you’re going through. Talking about your condition may help relieve the stress that can worsen fibromyalgia symptoms, according to the American Academy of Rheumatology. And it can help loved ones understand how to support you. You need to surround yourself with people you can count on if you need an encouraging word or a distraction from pain.
11. Do stick to a schedule.
Maintain normal daily routines and activities. Routines make it easier to identify your energy levels, so you can plan the best times to play with your kids, go to lunch with a pal or tackle cleaning out a closet. Try to exercise, take supplements and go to bed at the same time every day.
12. Don’t listen to negativity.
Avoid people who can’t – or won’t – acknowledge your fibromyalgia symptoms. That includes unsupportive doctors. There’s no room in your life for a physician, friend or co-worker who thinks fibromyalgia syndrome is all in your head. That just makes you feel foolish and guilty for being sick, she says, and increases stress, which is a pain trigger.
13. Do question your doctor.
Find a doctor who specializes in treating fibromyalgia patients, and ask a lot of questions. A doctor can help you decide if a medication may be right for you. Among those are anti-inflammatory drugs for pain, opioids, and anti-depressants, including tricyclics or serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as Zoloft, for mood and energy.
Also ask about alternative treatments like massage, acupuncture and biofeedback, which some people find effective in reducing fibromyalgia pain. Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that teaches you to control heart rate or muscles using electrical sensors attached to your body, according to the Mayo Clinic. With the help of sensors and a therapist, you learn how to calm or regulate your bodily functions.
And ask your doctor if nutritional supplements such as B vitamins, ribose or magnesium could help boost your energy levels.
14. Don’t shut down.
When you aren’t feeling well, hiding in your bedroom is instinctual. But that will make you feel worse, not better. Staying connected with friends and loved ones gives you vital support, even when symptoms make life difficult. If you aren’t well enough to go out, have them visit you. Even connecting via phone or the Internet can help you feel more in control. It keeps you from feeling like a victim or that fibromyalgia has taken over.
From exercising to herbs and supplements, here are 7 ways to tame symptoms of fibromyalgia pain and fatigue
Working out is recommended for most everyone, but it can especially help fibromyalgia sufferers, who often feel stiffness (especially after waking in the morning) and restless leg syndrome.Exercising regularly – whatever you can manage on a routine basis – can boost mood, ease pain, improve sleep, reduce fatigue, improve circulation and strengthen your heart.
Fibromyalgia patients suffer pain more intensely than other people do. They may feel it all over their body or in multiple tender points. Water therapy, light aerobics, application of heat or cold, acupuncture, and osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation have helped fibromyalgia patients, say the experts at the National Fibromyalgia Association. So has physical therapy. It can increase mobility, improve physical function and ease pain.
3. Eat a healthy diet.
Eating lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats and dairy also will energize you, lower weight and improve overall health as you battle fibromyalgia. We also suggest eliminating the following foods, which appear to bother some people with fibromyalgia:
- Food additives like MSG and nitrates (the preservative in hot dogs and bacon)
- Aspartame (NutraSweet)
4. Get enough sleep.
Pain, stress and anxiety can rob you of the ability to sleep. But that’s exactly what you need to manage one of fibromyalgia’s major symptoms: fatigue. We sometimes recommend that people go to a sleep study and get checked out.Talk to your doctor to see whether sleep meds are appropriate for you. And try to implement good sleep habits. Here are some suggestions from the University of Maryland’s Sleep Disorder Center:
- Make your bedroom comfortable by reducing noises and extreme temperatures.
- Use light and comfortable bed linens and garments.
- Begin rituals to help you relax at bedtime, such as taking a soothing bath or enjoying a light snack.
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays.
- If you nap, keep it to less than one hour and take it before 3 p.m.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes.
- Stay away from fatty, spicy foods that may upset your stomach or cause heartburn.
- Set aside time during the day to get all your worries out of your system.
- Go to bed only when you’re sleepy and reserve the bed only for sleeping and sex.
Women with fibromyalgia commonly experience pain with their menstrual cycles and during intercourse. Pain or joint/muscle stiffness may interfere with their ability to enjoy intimacy.On top of the physical challenges, negative changes in self-perception, such as feeling unattractive, uncomfortable or simply not feeling sexy, may lead to a loss of desire.
Fibromyalgia can affect memory and cause “fibro fog,” an inability to think clearly, which can be particularly frustrating when you’re trying to perform simple tasks. Constant stress can drain the endocrine system and alter hormone levels, which may be a cause of fibromyalgia.
Try relaxation techniques.
Methods that help reduce stress and pain include breathing and relaxation exercises, meditation, aromatherapy and biofeedback. The latter uses a machine to help patients read their body’s signals to reduce anxiety and pain.
You may want to speak to your supervisor at work about modifying your schedule, reducing your workload or simply identifying and communicating your needs to your boss and co-workers. See a behavioral cognitive therapist. This form of psychotherapy examines how our thinking influences how we feel and what we do. Fibromyalgia sufferers can have a lot of emotional distress, and therapy may help to manage it.
7. Try herbs and supplements.
Magnesium and acetyl-L-carnitine may help ease symptoms. Magnesium reduces nerve pain and muscle pain. When the mineral runs low, the body experiences more pain. It’s also used to make ATP, an energy molecule, which may help with fatigue. And the body uses acetyl-L-carnitine to make another hormone, acetylcholine, which is used in the brain to improve mood, memory and concentration difficulties, which often coincide with fibromyalgia.
Always check with your doctor about any supplements, herbs, or other therapies you’re considering.
In conclusion, if you suffer any of the symptoms, discuss it with your health care provider or doctor.After ruling out any other possible reasons for your suffering, he or she can help you with controlling your symptoms with pain relievers (over-the-counter or prescription), stress reduction (by medication and/or alternative treatments), and lifestyle adjustments.
One can also join a support group. Check with your doctor to find one in your local area. These sites can provide you with excellent information, updated reports on the latest research, where to find support groups in your area, and free information with many topics on the subject of fibromyalgia.
If you are diagnosed with FM, know that you are not alone.There’s an incredible network of support out there which is helping to educate others about the illness.
See your physician or health care provider then join in with others who are suffering, or know someone who suffers,from this sometimes overwhelming illness. Together,let’s teach more people to understand and cope.
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