Easy Ways to Manage the Most Common Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Increased sensitivity to pain is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia. Of course, you know it is not the only symptom. Below are the most commons symptoms of fibromyalgia and how to manage and cope with widespread pain, joint stiffness, fatigue, sleep, fibro fog, anxiety and depression.
Fibromyalgia pain affects the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the body. The pain can even be felt in the bursa, the sacs surrounding the joints that provide your body with nutrients and lubrication for movement.
Sometimes, fibromyalgia pain is localized to specific areas, but most people have pain in all four quadrants of the body. Moreover, all people with fibromyalgia feel pain at various tender points throughout their bodies.
Tender points are areas where muscles and joints meet. The most common tender point locations are the neck, shoulders, lower back, waist, ribs, buttocks, and knees.
For some people with fibromyalgia, muscle pain can be quite debilitating to the point it physically disables them. For others, pain is mild and does not affect normal life.
Fibromyalgia has been described as deep and persistent or stabbing, throbbing, and shooting. The pain may also cause skin burning and tingling.
Regardless of the kind of pain, it can increase in severity throughout the day or travel to other parts of the body. In fact, fibromyalgia for most of us is all-over body pain.
Coping With and Managing Widespread Pain
Fibromyalgia pain can be managed with pain relievers, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, exercise, physical therapy and acupuncture. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers to reduce inflammation, minimize muscle pain and to help you sleep.
Antidepressant medications, such as Cymbalta, can help with pain, but they come with unpleasant side effects. Talk to your doctor about side effects and ways to minimize these.
Anticonvulsants, also called anti-seizure drugs, may help reduce your pain. Lyrica and Gabapentin are the most common anticonvulsants used to treat fibromyalgia, but they can cause side effects, such as dizziness, weight gain, swelling and dry skin and mouth.
Exercise can be challenging for people with fibromyalgia, but physical therapy is a viable alternative for improving your range of motion and strengthening your muscles. A physical therapist can create a program specifically for you that you can use at home on a daily basis.
Research shows fibromyalgia patients who participate in yoga classes have less pain and fatigue and improved moods. One 2014 international study out of the Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, USA, finds many people with fibromyalgia practice yoga and find it beneficial and therapeutic. Yoga includes gentle stretching, breathing exercises and meditation, and the practice increases muscle strength and teaches you to relax better.
Acupuncture is another option for fibromyalgia pain relief. The practice involves pricking the skin with needles to:
- Promote self-healing
- Encourage blood flow
- Change how brain neurotransmitters respond
- Treat a variety of chronic pain conditions
One study reported in the Journal of Rehabilitative Medicine finds people with fibromyalgia who try acupuncture benefit from pain relief for up to two years, this compared to those who did not. Acupressure is an option if you do not like or cannot tolerate needles.
The risks of acupuncture are soreness, bruising and minor bleeding. Make sure the acupuncturist you choose is licensed to avoid infection from unsterilized needles.
Morning stiffness is common with fibromyalgia and is usually felt first thing in the morning. It occurs in the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments throughout your body, and most often affects your arms, legs, hands, feet, and back.
One 2012 survey conducted by the Fibromyalgia Network finds up to 90 percent of people with fibromyalgia experience morning stiffness regularly, and this can affect daily activities, make it hard to sit, stand or rest for extended periods. Most sufferers describe morning stiffness as tightness in the joints and muscle pains lasting for a half hour or more, and that may continue into the afternoon and even evening.
Coping With and Managing Morning Stiffness
Some of the main culprits of morning stiffness are lack of physical activity, weight, poor diet, sleep problems, and cold and damp climates. You may be able to relieve morning stiffness by addressing these issues.
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep, so your body can repair and recharge itself. If your bedroom is cold, seal the windows and door, or use a space heater or electric blanket to keep cold and dampness from making your body stiff.
- Do some stretching before getting out of bed. While you’re lying flat on your back, and then while sitting on the side of your bed.
- Taking a hot shower in the morning can help promote circulation and relax your muscles. Just simply stand in the water and relax.
- Once you have warmed up, try some gentle balance exercises and stretches. Yoga and tai chi are both great exercises for people with fibromyalgia.
- Drink plenty of water throughout your day, and eat as healthy as you can. Try to avoid problem foods, such as those containing artificial colors, white flours, and artificial flavors and sweeteners.
- Get some exercise throughout your day, even if you are just doing lots of walking and stretching. Every little bit helps!
- Dress warmly for the winter months. The cold air will cause your joints and muscles to stiffen up.
Fibromyalgia can bring with it extreme and debilitating fatigue, which makes pain and other symptoms even harder to handle. Moreover, fatigue can significantly affect your ability to work, care for your family and also take care of yourself.
Up to 82 percent of fibromyalgia sufferers report moderate to severe fatigue, this according to a 2016 report in the journal, Clinical Rheumatology. This type of fatigue is not typical, can last for long periods and never seems to get better, even with plenty of rest and sleep.
Excessive fatigue affects other symptoms of fibromyalgia, especially pain. Sadly, pain and fatigue are a vicious cycle because pain makes sleeping difficult and lack of sleep worsens pain.
Fatigue also affects the amount of exercise you can do. The more tired you are, the less active you are, and as a result, your pain worsens.
Coping With and Managing Fibromyalgia Fatigue
Fibromyalgia fatigue can make the simplest activities harder to do, but there are ways to manage and deal with it.
One of the best ways to manage this type of fatigue is to pace yourself. Don’t do too much when you are feeling low on energy, and don’t overdo things when you are having a good day. Pacing yourself will help you do what you need to do and not feel exhausted by the end of your day.
Sometimes, people with fibromyalgia have low levels of vitamin D that contribute to some of their issues with fatigue. In fact, one 2016 review of several studies reported in the journal, Nutrients, confirms that vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in people with fibromyalgia, and many fibromyalgia sufferers report improved symptoms with vitamin D supplementation.
You should eat a healthy diet and avoid refined, sugary foods and fried and fatty foods, as these slow down your digestive system and cause fatigue. If cooking exhausts you, try already prepared meals or dishes that don’t take a lot of time to make.
Fibromyalgia is stressful, and stress can leave you fatigued. Try some simple stress management techniques, such as slow, deep breathing and/or meditation to reduce muscle tension and relax your mind.
Exercise is another way to combat fibromyalgia fatigue and improve your energy. Of course, it is hard to exercise with fibromyalgia, so try low impact activities, such as walking, biking, and swimming.
Fatigue, pain and sleep quality improve when sleep habits improve. Sleep instructions suggested by a 2016 Swedish meta-analysis include:
- Regular sleep routines
- Avoiding caffeine, smoking, alcohol, and TV too close to bedtime
- Regulating your sleep environment – examples include having a comfortable bed, optimal room temperature, and avoiding light and loud noise
- Being active during the day, but not too close to bedtime.
Research studies find that physical activity is the best solution for managing fatigue. It will also make it easier for you to fall asleep at night and stay asleep.
Next page: how to cope with sleep problems related to fibromyalgia, how to manage fibro fog, and more.