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Coping with Chronic Fibromyalgia Pain

Tips and Tricks for Better Living With Fibromyalgia

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Updated April 29, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Day to day life with chronic fibromyalgia pain can certainly be a challenge. Not only do you have to live with chronic pain every day, but you often have to deal with other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, such as sleep disturbances and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Like other chronic pain conditions, there are ways to cope with daily pain, including taking your medications as directed, keeping a pain journal and learning relaxation strategies. However, there are a few other things you can do that are specific to coping with chronic fibromyalgia pain.

Develop Healthy Sleep Patterns

People with fibromyalgia often have trouble sleeping. Despite the fatigue associated with chronic fibromyalgia pain, you may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. Some doctors prescribe sleep aids to their fibromyalgia patients. However, if you are uncomfortable taking sleeping pills, there are a few other things you can try.

  • Set patterns for sleep by going to bed and waking up close to the same time every day.
  • Set the “mood” for sleep by turning down the lights and the volume on the TV a few hours before bedtime.
  • Limit your caffeine and nicotine consumption in the afternoons and evenings.
  • Avoid napping during the day.
  • Take a relaxing bath before bedtime.
  • Try some aromatherapy: some people find the smell of lavender and chamomile relaxing.

Here’s a tip I learned from trying to get my newborn to sleep: combine a bath with aromatherapy. In fact, many infant bath formulas contain a blend of lavender and other relaxing herbs. Sometimes when I need to wind down, I use my daughter’s bubble bath myself!

For more on sleeping well despite fibromyalgia, check out Sleep Hygiene for Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Be Mindful of Your Diet

Eating better can help some people who have chronic pain, and this may also be true for those with fibromyalgia. Other related conditions, such as IBS, may be made worse by an unhealthy diet. Additionally, eating more nutritious food can help you avoid the weight problems that sometimes come with a chronic pain condition, which can in turn decrease the daily stress on your body.

For more information on diet and fibromyalgia, check out Changing Your Diet to Manage Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Exercise Regularly, as Tolerated

Exercise has several benefits for people with chronic fibromyalgia pain. First, it can help you tolerate more activity, which means that over time your daily routine should get less tiring. Second, it helps you maintain muscle strength and stamina. Finally, exercise allows your body to release chemicals that make you feel good.

If you are thinking of starting an exercise routine, be sure to talk to your doctor. Also, don’t jump in all at once: start with very light activity, gradually increasing the intensity over time. Consider low-impact activities such as walking on a treadmill at a slow speed, or Tai Chi. As you build your stamina, you can throw in more challenging activities like swimming or yoga.

For more on exercising with fibromyalgia, check out Exercise as Part of a Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia Treatment Regimen.

When You Need More Help

Sometimes, coping on your own is tough. Talking to someone who understands can help. Here at about.com, we have forums for both fibromyalgia and chronic pain. You can also check out local support groups.

Unfortunately, depression is pretty common for people with chronic fibromyalgia pain. In fact, in some cases the two can be hard to distinguish. Think you might be depressed? You may be depressed if you regularly experience some or all of the following:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Strained relationships
  • Difficulty concentrating on work or at school
  • Unusual weight gain or loss

Depression has many other symptoms as well. If you think you might be depressed, speak to your doctor. He may be able to prescribe medications that help, or refer you for counseling.

Sources:

American College of Rheumatology. Fibromyalgia. Accessed 4/24/10. http://www.rheumatology.org/practice/clinical/patients/diseases_and_conditions/fibromyalgia.asp

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Fibromyalgia: Questions and Answers About Fibromyalgia. Accessed 4/24/10. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Fibromyalgia/default.asp

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