Over the years, I’ve had many people ask for my top tips for dealing with Fibromyalgia. These 7 tips are the tips I typically share. They are what has helped me. And, while the specifics will likely vary from individual to individual, the basics are the same and I hope you find these tips helpful for dealing with fibromyalgia – or any chronic illness you may have.
8 Tips for Dealing with Fibromyalgia
1. Find the right doctor
Find a good doctor that will listen to you and that understands fibromyalgia. It doesn’t matter if they are a specialist. The debate continues over what specialty should manage fibromyalgia, and you’re as likely to find a good general practitioner that has dealt with fibromyalgia enough to understand as you are a rheumatologist.
More important than their specialty is that they are willing to listen and to learn. Some doctors are still reluctant to treat fibromyalgia, and that’s OK. 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.
Often we spend too much time with a doctor just because we like them, when they really can’t do much for us. If you don’t feel you are improving in their care, then it’s probably time to find a new doctor. Three steps to choosing the right doctor.
2. Find the right treatments
Most doctors start all of their fibromyalgia 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 they make you feel worse, call your Dr and work with them to find what does work for you. 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.
Treatment is about more than just medication. If your doctor doesn’t suggest physical therapy (preferably water-based) as part of your fibromyalgia treatment, ask them about prescribing it.
Sleep may well be at the root of fibromyalgia, as sleep deprivation can lead to many of the common fibromyalgia symptoms. Given how closely linked the two are you’d think that doctors would encourage a sleep study as part of the fibromyalgia diagnosis, but they rarely do. If you’ve not already had a recent sleep study ask your doctor to refer you for one.
A sleep study will diagnose issues like sleep apnea and restless leg that can cause major sleep issues. Treating these issues could lead to you finally getting better sleep and getting many of your other symptoms under control.
If you’ve had a sleep study and ruled out major causes for your sleep issues, you may want to consider alternative options. There are quite a few supplements that can help improve sleep, and sometimes it’s as simple as getting a new mattress, or opting to sleep alone.Have you had a sleep study to rule out other potential causes of your sleep issues? Click To Tweet
4. Take the right supplements
There are many supplements that can greatly improve your fibromyalgia symptoms. Magnesium, Vitamin D and Vitamin B are the ones that have helped me most. There are also some great fibromyalgia-specific supplements that combine many of the vitamins and herbs that we are lacking. I’ve found the supplements that are part of Dr. Rawls Vital Plan to be very beneficial.
Make sure to talk to your doctor before introducing any new supplement, as some can counteract with medications as well as other supplements.
If you haven’t already had your vitamin levels checked, have your Dr check them, and discuss which vitamins and supplements would be most beneficial to you. A full blood workup may expose other issues that could be causing some of your symptoms (for example, thyroid issues or iron deficiency).
5. Move your body
I think we all had the same reaction when our doctors and others told us that we needed to start walking, to start moving. When we hear it, the way that they initially say it, it’s like telling us “you hurt because you are lazy” and that’s simply not the case. But, exercise is important when you have fibromyalgia.
What my Rheumy did finally explain to me is that with fibromyalgia 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 moving more not as exercise or as something evil, but as medicine. We take all these other medications to feel better. Add movement to your medicine box. But, start slow.
When you first get diagnosed just thinking about working out can leave you tired. Start with simple stretches and work your way up to walking to the mailbox or down the street. Each week try to go a little further. As you walk more you will find that you feel better after your walk. Great exercises for people with chronic pain.
6. Adjust your diet
Many of us deal with digestive issues as well as fibromyalgia. I’ve had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for years and I’ve found that drinking lots of water and eat foods that are high in fiber helps.
A few years into my fibromyalgia journey I found that food was an important key to improving how I feel. Removing fake sweeteners, like Aspartame, gluten, and processed foods allowed me to see a major improvement in my health. However, just as important as what I need to avoid is what I need to eat. I need to eat a broad range of foods that include healthy carbs (fruits, vegetables, and even starches), as well as a moderate amount of meat. Generally, I’ve found that a balanced diet made of whole clean foods is what helps my body run best.
7. 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 help reduce the overall aches and pains 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). Three things to create a pain relieving bath.
8. Get Support
If you are new to fibromyalgia (or to whatever chronic illness you may be facing), 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 your experience.
If you can’t find a good support group locally, or don’t have the energy to get out to the meetings, there are many great online groups. Honestly, the best online support group I’ve found is Twitter. The spoonies there are awesome. There are also several great smaller Facebook support groups, including my small private Facebook group.