My aunt called me yesterday to ask for any advice I had for her on dealing with Fibro (she was just dx’ed a couple of weeks ago). Getting this question popped to me over the phone was kind of like being given a pop quiz. Thinking about it I came up with
7 Tips for Dealing with Fibromyalgia
1. Find the right Dr. – I asked her if she was still being treated by her regular dr. Luckily, she was already seeing a Rheumy in the same office as mine. Hopefully, soon they will send her to the Fibro clinic within that office.
2. Find the right meds – she’s on the usual starter meds (a muscle relaxer and a light anti-depressant) that Drs seem to want to start everyone on. Of course, she’s having issues with them and asked if that was normal. It’s normal to have issues with a few before you find the right ones. But, if you are having issues with your meds and you don’t feel right or good on them, then tell your Dr and work with them to continue the search for the right meds. It may take a while to find the right combination for you, but it will go quicker if you don’t just wait for your next appointment to speak up.
3. Sleep – I asked her if she was sleeping. Of course she’s not. I asked if they’d tried her on any of the typical sleep meds. They haven’t. Ask for it! If you aren’t sleeping, ask for something to help you sleep. I, personally, believe that the lack of GOOD sleep is what causes the majority of our problems, and that anything we can do to get that sleep is worth it. And, anything else you do won’t help nearly as much if you aren’t dealing with the sleep issue.
3.Supplements – Magnesium Malate, Vitamin D and Vitamin B are the ones I’d say definitely try. There is a list of others that are worth giving a try as well – Sam-E, St. John’s Wart & Melatonin for starters. If you haven’t already had your vitamin levels checked, have your Dr check them so that you can find out which ones you are definitely low on. You may find that there are other things you need (like Iron), or that you have a Thyroid issue as well.
4. Get Moving – I could hear it in her voice when I started on this one. I think we all had the same reaction when our drs and others told us that we needed to start walking, start moving. When we hear it and the way that they initially say it’s like telling us “you hurt because you are lazy” and that’s simply not the case. What my Rheumy did finally explain to me is that with Fibro we have a lower level of oxygen moving through our blood, so by getting moving/ walking we get the blood flowing better and therefore get the oxygen moving. Exercise also increases natural endorphins (nature’s pain fighters) and serotonin (something we are typically low on). Think of it not as exercise or as something evil, but as medicine. We take all these other meds to feel better, add walking to your medicine box. Start slow. When you first get diagnosed you probably just think of working out and get tired. So start by just walking to the mailbox or down the street a ways. Each week try to go a little further. It may not be instantly, but as you walk more you will find that you feel better after your walk.
5. Adjust your diet – most of us are also dealing with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). I’ve had it for years and for me I find that making sure I drink lots of water and eat lots of food that are high in fiber helps. However, I’ve also found that, unlike my husband who would be perfectly happy on a modified Atkins diet, I need carbs, I need starches on occasion. My body actually works better when I get a broad range of foods in my system. Carbs = energy. I’ve also found that green tea is a great thing. It not only has antioxidants that help flush the bad stuff out of our system, but the theanine found in green and black teas, also helps boost dopamine levels (another thing that tends to be low in those of us with Fibro). You can read more of the positive effects of theanine here. I forgot to tell her one of the most important things to avoid in your diet with Fibro, so I had to call her back and tell her STAY AWAY FROM ASPARTAME. That is some evil stuff for anyone, but even more so for those of us with Fibro. Aspartame is known to open pain receptors and increase pain. My aunt told me she’d already been avoiding the stuff because it increased her migraines (my husband has found the same effect). More on foods to avoid with Fibromyalgia.
6. Take a Bath – Take a bath every night in warm water and add a cup of Epsom salts. Epsom salts contain magnesium and taking a bath in them allows your body to absorb the magnesium, helping to rebuild the proper proteins in your muscles and ease the pain. The hot water and the Epsom salts together really do help reduce the overall aches and pains you have from just making it through the day. Plus the hot bath helps relax you making it easier for you to fall asleep (assuming you have the other right things in place to get you there).
7. Get Support – We are lucky to have a great Fibro support group here locally. If you are new to Fibro, a good support group will go a long way to helping you accept and deal with your diagnosis. Having others who have already been where you are will help you find the answers you need and move towards finding the right balance. Plus, it’s great to just have someone to talk to that understands what you are dealing with.