Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can disturb your sleep, leave you fatigued, and cause pain in many parts of your body. Though there is no cure for fibromyalgia you can take various measures to lessen pain and manage your symptoms so that your quality of life can be improved. Your doctor may prescribe various kinds of medications like pain killers, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, sleeping pills etc to help you cope. Other remedies and therapies can also be useful in dealing with fibromyalgia. Let’s take a look at how you can improve your condition.
1. Exercise Regularly
Since fatigue and pain are common symptoms of fibromyalgia, it can be difficult to stay active and exercise. However, physical activity can go a long way toward helping this condition. You may want to begin with something mild like walking and slowly build up your endurance. Your doctor or physiotherapist can help to design an individualized exercise program that includes aerobic exercises (a moderate intensity exercise like cycling that ups your heart rate) and strengthening exercises (for instance, lifting weights).1
2. Get Proper Sleep
Getting sufficient sleep can be an effective way of treating fibromyalgia. Adults usually need between 6 to 9 hours of sleep a night depending on the person.2 If you aren’t getting enough, try adopting helpful practices like keeping to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding sugary snacks and caffeine before going to bed. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be useful if you have insomnia.3
3. Have A Healthy Diet
A balanced diet is good for your overall health and will also improve your energy levels. Here are some tips on adopting a diet that may be helpful if you have fibromyalgia:
- Have plenty of fruits (like cherries, blueberries, pomegranates) and vegetables (like bell peppers, spinach, kale) that are rich in antioxidants.
- Have lesser amounts of red meats and try to get your protein from other sources like fish, beans, or soy.
- Reduce foods that are high in fat, salt, and sugar, and try to eliminate trans fatty acids (which are found in foods like cakes, doughnuts, margarine etc.) from your diet.
- Stay away from additives like monosodium glutamate (MSG) and refined foods like pasta and white bread.
- Make sure you stay hydrated. Around 6 to 8 glasses of water a day should do it.
- Make sure you get sufficient amounts of nutrients like vitamin C (found in tomatoes, potatoes, citrus fruits, strawberries etc), vitamin D (found in egg yolks, cheese, and fatty fish like salmon and tuna), calcium (found in milk, cheese, yogurt, kale, broccoli etc), and omega-3 fatty acids (found in crab, salmon, tuna, canola oil etc). Do check with a doctor first if you’re planning on taking supplements for these nutrients.4
4. Try Acupuncture
Acupuncture, based on ancient Chinese wisdom, believes that disease is caused by the blockage of vital energy (called Qi) and that enabling the flow of this energy by stimulating certain points in the body with fine needles can promote health. Acupuncture has been found to relieve pain in various conditions and may help with fibromyalgia too. One study found that the benefit of acupuncture, as measured by the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire (which looks at aspects of health affected by this condition), was similar to that reported for certain medications. The study observed that acupuncture reduced pain and significantly improved fatigue and anxiety.5
5. Practice Yoga
Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline that addresses aspects of the mind and body through techniques like breath control, physical postures, and meditation. According to one study, an 8-week yoga awareness program that included gentle poses, breathing exercises, meditation, group discussions, and yoga-based coping instructions was useful for people with fibromyalgia. The participants in the program showed improvements in symptoms like fatigue, pain, and mood. They were also better at strategies which helped them cope with their condition.6
6. Practice Tai Chi
Tai chi is another mind–body practice that can be helpful if you have fibromyalgia. It began in China as a martial art and combines meditation with slow, graceful, gentle movements and deep breathing to move vital energy (known as Qi) through the body. Tai chi may work through various pathways – physical exercise may improve muscle strength; controlled breathing may promote mental tranquility and raise pain thresholds; and the combination of these components which impact the mind and body may enhance physical and psychological well-being as well as overall quality of life.
According to a study, a tai chi program which held 60-minute sessions twice a week for 12 weeks resulted in an improvement in aspects like pain, sleep quality, depression, and quality of life in people with fibromyalgia.7
7. Go For Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy has been found effective for fibromyalgia with participants showing significant improvements in the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire scores and the number of tender points after therapy.8 During this treatment, water is used therapeutically for dealing with medical conditions. Generally, this involves swimming, sitting, or exercising in a warm water pool. And the exercises tend to involve controlled, slow movements. A physiotherapist can help to design exercises that are suitable for you.9
8. Be Mindful
Mindfulness meditation aims to keep your attention on the present moment without letting your mind wander to either thoughts of the past or worries about the future. Various techniques like focussing on your breath or directing attention to various parts of your body while in a relaxed state (a technique known as body scan) may help you achieve this. And according to research, it can help you cope with fibromyalgia better. One study found that it significantly reduced perceived stress, sleep disturbance, and symptom severity (measured by the participant’s ratings of pain, morning sleepiness, stiffness, fatigue, depression, and anxiety) among participants.10
9. Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a kind of talk therapy which examines how your thoughts can influence your behavior and helps you to identify unhelpful thoughts and challenge them so that you can work out practical ways of coping with problems positively.11 This therapy can help you cope with difficult conditions like fibromyalgia. According to a study, CBT (which focussed on dealing with stress, and modifying lifestyles) increased the impact of multidisciplinary treatments (which included physical training, medical intervention, and education about fibromyalgia) in patients with fibromyalgia who were experiencing fatigue.12
10. Get A Massage
Massage has been traditionally used for healing across the world. It’s known to relieve muscle tension and lower stress. And according to research, connective tissue massage (where the therapist works from the center of the body towards the periphery to increase the arterial blood flow) can relieve pain, reduce depression, lessen the use of pain medication, and positively impact the quality of life in people with fibromyalgia.13
11. Check Out Natural Remedies
The world of plants offers many natural remedies that you may find helpful:
- Bromelain, which is an enzyme found in pineapples, can help with inflammation and pain. However, do keep in mind that it may not be appropriate for people with peptic ulcers. It can also enhance the effects of blood thinning medicines and interact with other medications. So do check in with a doctor if you’re planning on taking a supplement.14
- Green tea is rich in antioxidants and may boost immunity. So, according to experts, a cup of green tea may be helpful if you’re suffering from fibromyalgia 15
- Golden root is rich in antioxidants and is known to improve physical endurance and reduce mental fatigue.16
- Cat’s claw can stimulate your immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties. However, this herb is not suitable for pregnant women and may interact with some medications. So do speak to your doctor before you take it.17
- Turmeric, the yellow spice that’s used in curry, is known to combat inflammation. Adding it to your diet can be useful if you have fibromyalgia but it too can enhance the effects of blood thinning medicines.18
- Cayenne contains a component known as or capsaicin which can hamper the transmission of pain messages to the brain when applied topically. So ointments containing capsaicin can help relieve pain if you have fibromyalgia. 19 20
12. Try Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy uses essential oils for therapeutic purposes. Try this recipe for a blended massage oil – mix the essential oils of helichrysum (3 to 4 drops), peppermint (3 to 4 drops), and spike lavender (3 to 4 drops) with an ounce of coconut oil. Now use your fingertips to gently massage this oil into the affected part to tackle inflammation.21
|↑1||Fibromyalgia – Self-help. National Health Service.|
|↑2||How to get to sleep. National Health Service.|
|↑3||Treatment. The Nemours Foundation.|
|↑4, ↑14, ↑15, ↑16, ↑17, ↑18, ↑20||Fibromyalgia. University of Maryland Medical Center.|
|↑5||Martin, David P., Christopher D. Sletten, Brent A. Williams, and Ines H. Berger. “Improvement in fibromyalgia symptoms with acupuncture: results of a randomized controlled trial.” In Mayo Clinic Proceedings, vol. 81, no. 6, pp. 749-757. Elsevier, 2006.|
|↑6||Carson, James W., Kimberly M. Carson, Kim D. Jones, Robert M. Bennett, Cheryl L. Wright, and Scott D. Mist. “A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia.” PAIN® 151, no. 2 (2010): 530-539.|
|↑7||Wang, Chenchen, Christopher H. Schmid, Ramel Rones, Robert Kalish, Janeth Yinh, Don L. Goldenberg, Yoojin Lee, and Timothy McAlindon. “A randomized trial of tai chi for fibromyalgia.” New England Journal of Medicine 363, no. 8 (2010): 743-754.|
|↑8||Evcik, Deniz, Burcak Kızılay, and Ersoy Gökçen. “The effects of balneotherapy on fibromyalgia patients.” Rheumatology international 22, no. 2 (2002): 56-59.|
|↑9||What is hydrotherapy? Arthritis Research UK.|
|↑10||Cash, Elizabeth, Paul Salmon, Inka Weissbecker, Whitney N. Rebholz, René Bayley-Veloso, Lauren A. Zimmaro, Andrea Floyd, Eric Dedert, and Sandra E. Sephton. “Mindfulness meditation alleviates fibromyalgia symptoms in women: results of a randomized clinical trial.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine 49, no. 3 (2015): 319-330.|
|↑11||Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Mind.|
|↑12||Lera, Sara, Saúl M. Gelman, María J. López, Montse Abenoza, José Gabriel Zorrilla, Josefina Castro-Fornieles, and Manel Salamero. “Multidisciplinary treatment of fibromyalgia: Does cognitive behavior therapy increase the response to treatment?.” Journal of psychosomatic research 67, no. 5 (2009): 433-441.|
|↑13||Brattberg, Gunilla. “Connective tissue massage in the treatment of fibromyalgia.” European Journal of Pain 3, no. 3 (1999): 235-244.|
|↑19||Cayenne. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts.|
|↑21||Press, Sonoma. Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, An Introductory Guide: More Than 300 Recipes for Health, Home and Beauty. Arcas Publishing, 2015.|