A fibromyalgia diagnosis can be scary and leave you facing a lot of unknowns. How do you manage the pain? What causes it? Does it get worse over time?
While fibromyalgia is not a degenerative musculoskeletal disease, there are things that make it feel like it is worse than before. This is caused by overworking, stress, diet, and even developing a tolerance to painkillers.
There are things you can do to reduce the chance of a fibromyalgia flare-up and manage your pain.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Little is still known about the cause of fibromyalgia, but it has been shown to be related to sleep cycles. The less sleep you get, or the more disturbed your sleep, the higher the likelihood you’ll experience a fibromyalgia flare.
Assess your bedroom and sleep routine. Do you go to bed early enough? Is your mattress supportive? Do your pillows make your neck ache? All of these factors will affect the quality of your sleep.
Avoid stimulants such as caffeine or alcohol close to your bedtime too, as these will disrupt your deep sleep. Some people find introducing a set routine, such as having a warm bath before going to bed at the same time each night, also helps to achieve better sleep patterns.
Identify Your Triggers
There are common triggers for many fibromyalgia patients: stress, too much exercise, not enough exercise, and some dietary choices.
However, you may find that there are other things that also trigger a fibromyalgia flare-up. Pay attention to your pain levels on a day-by-day basis, and keep a diary of your main activities and emotions each day over a 30-day period.
You will soon seen patterns in your activities and emotions related to increased pain. For example, some people find that typing on a computer all day causes more problems, while others might be fine with that but struggle to carry their grocery bags.
When you know your triggers, make plans to avoid them. If you struggle with typing, invest in a speech-to-text software program such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. This allows you to perform the same work tasks without using your hands. If you find grocery shopping difficult, try an online delivery service instead.
Make Dietary Changes to Avoid Inflammation
Some foods cause an inflammatory response in the body, and this can worsen fibromyalgia symptoms.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, and lean meats – and avoid too much sugar, which is known to cause inflammation.
Just as each fibromyalgia patient has different physical and emotional triggers, diet is a very individual influence too. Try cutting out suspect foods one at a time for two week periods and track your pain levels. This will help you to identify which foods you should avoid.
There is also a link between fibromyalgia and being celiac, so speak to your physician about tests for this if you find glutenous foods cause you problems.
Use Alternatives to Painkillers
Painkillers can be addictive and also contribute to your fibromyalgia problems such as ‘memory fog’. Try finding alternative pain relief methods to complement your prescription medication program supplied by your doctor.
Relying on painkillers for fibromyalgia also limits how you feel throughout the day. If you’ve taken your maximum dose, and still feel pain, it’s a good idea to have other pain relief techniques.
BioWaveGO, for example, is a portable TENS machine that uses electrical pulses to block the pain pathways to your brain. You can use it in conjunction with any medications, and you can take it with you when you’re out and about.
Experiment with Heat and Ice
As well as alternatives to painkillers, consider simple self-care strategies such as having a warm bath or applying ice packs to sore points. Some fibromyalgia patients find that heat is very soothing, while others discover that it worsens the pain. The same happens with ice packs, too.
Experiment with warmth and ice to find out which approach helps you, and then stock up on heat or ice packs so you always have them on hand.
Learn to Say No
It’s easy to let fibromyalgia slowly – but steadily – flare up when you have busy demands in your life. Work, family, children, friends, and relationships all take up your time, and you may choose to ignore the nagging signs that your pain is about to get worse.
Prevent a severe flare-up by saying no more. Educate your friends and family about your condition, and explain that you may need to adapt your social plans to ensure you don’t run out of energy or cause yourself more pain.
It’s hard to say no and put yourself first in today’s busy world. However, your own health needs to come before everything else if you want fibromyalgia to take a back seat in your life!