This article is part 2 of a 2 part series. For Part 1, click here.
Last month, we listed many great “pearls” of wisdom direct from patients suffering with Fibromyalgia (FM), some of which we would like to directly focus on this month and expand as these truly arise from the heart of the experienced and deserve more attention (plus, we couldn’t include them all last month and can expand on them now).
- “Keep a journal every day about what you do and how you feel.” Many times when discussing your symptoms of FM with your doctor, it is very hard to remember important details and keeping a journal is REALLY appreciated as it serves as a reminder for the patient of the things that trigger a flair-up. The journal can often save an immense amount of time trying to determine what can be done to help the patient, such as when to employ biofeedback skills, like visualization. This is performed any time or place where you may find yourself in a situation that is totally out of your control and you sense your ability to cope is failing. At uncontrolled times such as this, shutting the eyes and visualizing a calming and relaxing scenario is usually very helpful and can be exercised as often or for as long as needed. Again, write down the most effective visualization scenarios or thoughts so you can refresh your memory from time to time.
- “Sleep is very important. Try not to nap during the day so you can sleep better at night.” One of the biggest complaints from FM patients is sleep disturbance, whether it’s getting to sleep or waking up multiple times a night and/or not being able to return to sleep. Many “pearls” were found that dealt with sleep quality and methods for improving sleep. One of the most important issues is stated above – try to avoid napping during the day. Another is to go to sleep at the same time each night or to stay on a consistent schedule. Some recommended avoiding thoughts about the day that are stressful or situations you can’t control prior to going to sleep.
- “Exercise on a regular basis.” This too was a popular recommendation. Most felt “light exercises” was better, while a few favored strenuous exercises. Some gave specific recommendations like yoga, stretching, or swimming (“…because it’s easier on my joints.”). Some gave specific instructions like, “…Exercise! Keep those muscles and bones flexed and firm. But do not overdo it!” Another recommended wearing a sweat suit to keep the muscles warm. Most importantly, develop a routine that includes regular exercise doing something you like! This will ensure consistency and flow. Exercise also has the very important ability to reduce stress simply from “working out,” and stress reduction and control was mentioned by itself multiple times. Not mentioned is the fact that endorphins and enkephlins are released with exercise that can reduce pain, as they are “natural pain killing” morphine-like substances our body produces.
- Diet: This too was popular and frequently mentioned. Some gave very detailed information about what to eat such as, “Balance your meals with a low-fat, high-protein diet. Drink plenty of water.” A low-gluten diet is anti-inflammatory and very helpful.
- Miscellaneous: Educate yourself about FM by gathering as much information as possible, reading about FM on a regular basis, starting or attending a support group, and choosing a doctor who understands FM were also very common themes. Perhaps most important was, “accept your limitations,” and in doing so, don’t be afraid to ask for help – create a list of reliable friends and family who are willing to help out when needed.