Pain, stiffness, and overwhelming fatigue are some of the challenges that come with fibromyalgia. With medications typically offering only limited relief, taking an active role in managing the condition is crucial.
Try the following 6 strategies to help make life easier.
1. Tackle sleep problems
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia, making the most ordinary activities—even taking a shower—exhausting. Sleep deprivation can also leave you feeling spacey, a problem often called "fibro fog."
The problem is often not the quantity of sleep, but the quality. Avoiding naps late in the day, limiting caffeine to the morning, and developing a soothing routine before bedtime are ways to help improve sleep quality. It's also useful to think about any other issues that may be hindering your sleep, from an uncomfortable pillow to drinking liquids near bedtime, which causes you to wake up to go to the bathroom.
Sometimes another medical problem is to blame for sleep difficulties. Restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea are two treatable conditions to ask your doctor about.
2. Prepare for the unpredictable
One of the most challenging parts of fibromyalgia is its unpredictable nature. Thinking ahead can help minimize stress and make a flare-up of pain easier to manage.
These efforts may help:
- When you're feeling up to cooking, make a double batch of a meal to freeze and eat when your symptoms are flaring.
- Learn about delivery options. More and more pharmacies, grocery stores, and restaurants are offering home delivery.
- Keep a journal to help you track activities or foods that seem to trigger symptoms, so you can try to avoid them.
3. Don't give up on exercise
Exercise can help you feel better and sleep more soundly, leading to more energy. Unfortunately, you may pay for the exercise the next day—or beyond—and give up on exercise. The key is to exercise briefly at different times of the day. Starting with two or three minutes of exercise may be best if you've been inactive for a while.
Exercising in an extra-warm pool is often a soothing option. If all exercise is painful, consider having a physical therapist design a program that fits your needs.
4. Post your priorities
Since your energy level is lower than average, it's good to set priorities so you can get the most important things done before you’re too tired.
Making a numbered list of plans for the next day and beyond is often a good strategy. If you're in the midst of fibro fog, you may want to post extra reminders around your home.
5. Pace yourself
You probably tend to feel your best at about the same time each day. Plan to take care of your most difficult tasks during this time, then follow up with something relaxing, such as reading or watching a movie, to avoid overexertion.
When you're having a good day, you may charge into all the activities you've been missing out on—then be in agony the next day. Try to resist the urge to get everything done at once.
On the other hand, if you're feeling especially bad, don't feel guilty about taking it easy. Do whatever can't wait, and leave the rest for another day.
6. Target your stress
Coping with fibromyalgia can get anyone down. Relaxation exercises and other approaches can make a major difference in your outlook.
- Deep breathing exercises, in which a person breathes in slowly, holds the breath, then breathes out slowly, can ease a moment of stress and anxiety.
- Meditation, visualization, and cognitive behavioral therapy are often useful as well in developing coping mechanisms and establishing positive routines.
- Massage therapy may help you relax as well as help you improve daily functioning and sleep.
Some trial and error may be involved in finding what works best for your fibromyalgia symptoms. Each person experiences fibromyalgia differently, in part because so many people with fibromyalgia also have at least one other medical condition. Ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and low back pain are among conditions that often occur with fibromyalgia.