Fibromyalgia treatment involves the positive blending of both mainstream medicine and alternative treatments. In my opinion, the patient most likely to “succeed” is open-minded. Implementing self-management strategies can have rich rewards: symptom relief and the resulting ability to function at a higher level so you enjoy improved quality of life.
Self-management requires not only self-awareness, but also diligence—active participation on the patient’s part.
With a positive attitude, self-awareness, and diligence, the resulting decrease of pain and tenderness, plus the increase of strength and energy, markedly improve our lives. Indeed, self-awareness and diligence can lead us back to a normal lifestyle.
The following suggestions are what I find work best, though certainly they are not for everyone, because we are all unique. In my view, our challenge—yours, and mine—is to “tune in and listen” to our body, discovering what strategies work best for us.
- Journaling: Take ten minutes every day to jot down things like what activities you did, what medication you started, how well you slept, or if you ate something new. Journaling is the key to discovering your flare triggers, so you can try to avoid them. It can take up to 48 hours for an event to trigger a fibromyalgia flare-up, and if it’s not noted somewhere, you might not remember or recognize the correlation.
- Delegating and Saying No: Many people with fibromyalgia are perfectionists and like to do everything themselves, from all the cleaning to all the cooking. But you have to learn to let others do things for you because even mild overexertion can lead to a severe flare-up.
- Stress Management: Stress tightens you up, and when you have fibromyalgia, the muscles don’t let go. Find something that reduces stress for you before it gets to that painful point. I like listening to books on tape, for instance.
- Standing Tall: Learning and maintaining proper posture is crucial to managing fibromyalgia, because posture errors that push the head too far forward or cause slouching can lead to muscle fatigue, followed by increased tension and pain.
- Proper Diet: Protein intake is vital to those with fibromyalgia, because it’s the only macronutrient that builds and maintains muscle. A diet low in protein results in more nodules, more pain, and consequently more exhaustion.
You can best assess whether a particular therapy is working by following these steps:
- Start only one new treatment at a time.
- See if you feel better when you use the treatment.
- Stop the treatment, and see if you get worse.
- Restart the treatment, and see if you improve again. If you do, you can be fairly confident that this treatment has a positive effect on you.
Finally, as hard as it may be, trying not to let fibromyalgia become the focus of your life is an important step in staying well and avoiding flares. Find something that brings you joy, whether it’s your pets, your garden, reading, or whatever. Without such an emotional outlet, chronic pain will become all you talk about, and that will impact your relationships. Strained relationships bring more stress and increase your symptoms—exactly the outcome you want to avoid.
Sharon Ostalecki, PhD