Often I get asked for advice on my top tips for dealing with Fibromyalgia. These tips have changed over the years as I’ve learned more, but in the end they are the same.
7 Tips for Dealing with Fibromyalgia
1. Find the right Dr. – Find a good doctor that will listen to you and that understands Fibromyalgia. Often we spend too much time with a doctor just because we like them, when in fact they can’t do much for us. Make sure your doctor is up on the treatments for Fibro, and that they are willing to listen to you and even research if you bring in a potential new treatment. If they blow off your questions, or suggestions, it’s time to find a new doctor.
2. Find the right meds – Most doctors start all Fibro patients on the same few meds. Whether it’s the low-dose anti-depressant/ muscle relaxer combo or Lyrica. All doctors have their preference, just make sure they are willing to try others if their first choice doesn’t work for you. It’s normal to have issues with a few meds before you find the right ones. If you are having issues with your meds and you don’t feel right or good on them, then call your Dr and work with them to continue the search for the right meds. Don’t wait for your next appointment to roll around before you speak up. Pick up the phone, call, let them know what’s up, and ask for something else.
3. Sleep – Sleep is such a common issue for us, but it doesn’t have to be. Ask for a sleep study to rule out any other potential causes for your sleep issues. Sleep apnea and restless leg can cause major sleep issues, but they can also be treated allowing you to get decent sleep again. There are also many meds on the market that can help you sleep, so talk to your doctor about those. Getting good sleep can go a long way to reducing pain and fatigue.
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. Then talk to your doctor about which vitamins and supplements are right for you.
4. Get Moving – I think we all had the same reaction when our Dr.s 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 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. Stay away from Aspartame and fake sugars. For me personally, I’ve found that avoiding gluten has made a huge difference in my pain levels. 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. If you don’t have a good support group where you live, then at least find a good one online. Honestly, the best online support group I’ve found is Twitter. The spoonies there are awesome.