Cheat Sheet

Fibromyalgia For Dummies

From Fibromyalgia For Dummies, 2nd Edition by Roland Staud, MD [with Christine Adamec]

To ease the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia, try getting regular exercise and considering topical remedies and alternative therapies. Living with fibromyalgia is made more difficult when your loved ones don’t understand your pain, so talk to family and friends gently but honestly about what you're experiencing. Dealing with fibromyalgia can cause emotional distress, so if you feel depressed or anxious, talk with a doctor about treatment.

Talking about Fibromyalgia with Your Loved Ones

Although awareness of fibromyalgia is increasing, many people don’t understand that it’s a real problem. This can be true even for the family and friends of people dealing with fibromyalgia. You have to be candid and patient when talking to people about your fibromyalgia. Try covering these points when you’re explaining it:

  • Fibromyalgia causes chronic pain that often moves around in the body. It also often causes extreme fatigue and problems with sleep.

  • Fibromyalgia can’t be cured but the symptoms can be improved.

  • Stress often makes fibromyalgia symptoms much worse.

  • Some days, fibromyalgia symptoms are really bad; other days, they aren’t. Predicting how you’ll feel next week or next month is impossible.

Easing Fibromyalgia Symptoms through Exercise

Incorporating regular exercise into your routine may help improve your fibromyalgia symptoms. Gentle, low-impact, paced exercising will loosen muscles and stiff joints and may help to ease pain down the road. Be patient and persistent. Keep these tips in mind when you gear up to exercise:

  • Start off easy. Don’t walk 5 miles or do 50 push-ups on your first day of exercising; if you do, you’ll get so tired you’ll probably give up exercising altogether. Instead, build up slowly. One main goal of aerobic exercise is to raise your heart rate for a short time, which seems to help patients with fibromyalgia.

  • Make exercise fun. Exercise with a friend at about your level of fitness. You may find that time flies when you exercise with a friend, whether it’s a walk around the block or aerobic exercises in your living room.

  • Mix up your exercises. On some days, go for a walk. On other days, consider water walking at a pool. Boredom is what causes most people to give up on exercising, so do whatever you can to keep yourself interested in your exercise routine.

Considering Topical Remedies for Fibromyalgia

Topical remedies can provide some relief for the muscle pain and tension of fibromyalgia although it may only last a few hours. Skin ointments are available at grocery stores and any pharmacy. Prescribed skin patches, like Lidoderm, can also greatly reduce muscle pain. Consider the following suggestions on topical remedies:

  • If you buy an over-the-counter massage cream, make sure whoever rubs the cream in is gentle rather than heavy-handed. Extreme pressure will take away the benefit of the cream.

  • Check whether your favorite drugstore chain has a topical cream with the same ingredients as expensive brands. Major drugstore chains often have their own versions of over-the-counter medicines.

  • If you use prescription Lidoderm, try cutting the patch into smaller pieces to place over your hurting areas. You may not need multiple patches, and you can save money by cutting one patch into pieces.

Considering Alternative Remedies for Fibromyalgia

Treating fibromyalgia with mainstream medicine is often effective, but sometimes alternative therapies can also ease your symptoms. Many people rely on alternative remedies, and this is especially true for fibromyalgia patients. If you’re considering an alternative therapy for your fibromyalgia symptoms, some people find these remedies work very well:

  • Sedating remedies (such as valerian and chamomile) may improve the chronic insomnia that many fibromyalgia sufferers experience.

  • Acupuncture often provides temporary relief from the muscle pain of fibromyalgia.

  • Homeopathic remedies may offer relief from pain and fatigue.

  • Some patients get relief from fibromyalgia pain with Botox injections.

Treating Depression or Anxiety to Improve Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Dealing with the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia can be so distressing it drives people into depression or anxiety and may actually worsen your symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the emotional difficulties you’re dealing with and the use of medications for these disorders which may also improve your fibromyalgia symptoms.

  • Antidepressants may help you sleep better, which will improve your fibromyalgia symptoms.

  • Anti-anxiety medications may help you to relax, decreasing your muscle tension and pain.

  • Progressive relaxation exercises can improve fibromyalgia symptoms, as well as your symptoms of anxiety.

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