Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition that produces widespread pain that can literally change the life of a FM patient, but as they say, “..life must go on!” Therefore, this article is dedicated to discussing ways to empower you with tips to make FM as least activity restricting as possible. Ways to gain self-control of FM include the following:
1. Exercise: There are two forms of exercise you should include in your self-management program. One is light aerobic exercises such as walking and/or water exercises with the objective to increase your heart rate. The other is strength training with a low-weight / high-repetition approach emphasizing the part of the exercise where you slowly release the weight back to the start position (the eccentric part of the exercise). Here is a list of tips from the National Fibromyalgia Association that should help:
- Start slow – don’t overdo it the first few times you exercise. Post-exercise soreness is normal but it’s exaggerated in the FM patient.
- Listen closely to your body’s feedback! Increase the activity according to your tolerance – NOT TOO QUICKLY!
- Start with only a few minutes of gentle exercise and work your way up.
- Walking is a GREAT form of exercise. It can be done inside (in the winter, for example), outside, and/or in water (to reduce weight-bearing loads).
- Track your progress by keeping a log of what and how much you’re doing. This can be accomplished by wearing a pedometer (that measures steps), a heart monitor (that measures pulse rate), and keep track of the distance and time, when possible. Make notes as to how you felt both during and after the exercise.
- Stretch before and after exercising.
- Keep your chiropractor informed and work as a “team” to advance your program.
2. Sleep: A poor sleep pattern is the “norm” for FM patients. The pain associated with FM usually interferes with sleeps, which leads to more pain followed by more sleep disturbance – it’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken. The National Sleep Foundation and others recommend the following steps to help us sleep:
- Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed at a similar time each night, even on weekends.
- Room temperature – keep it cool, not too warm!
- Avoid caffeine especially towards evenings (coffee, tea, soda, and/or chocolate).
- Avoid alcohol before bedtime as it can keep you awake.
- Exercise in the afternoon, NOT before bedtime.
- Nap as needed but ONLY briefly – like 20 min. max.!
- Be comfortable – wear soft pajamas and consider a white noise machine.
- Bedtime routine – consider reading, listening to soft music – whatever works for you! Once you find a routine that works, stick with it!
3. Diet: Talk to your chiropractor about food allergies, gluten sensitivity, diabetes, thyroid function, medication/vitamin use, and any other unique issues that pertain to you.
4. Emotional control: Engage your family, good friends, your healthcare providers, and consider FM support groups. Meditation, deep breathing, and visualization exercises as well as cognitive therapy can also be very effective.