Fibromyalgia 101: 6 Tips and Resources to Help

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Fibromyalgia 101 | Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body. It’s accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues, and can cause tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. In this post, we share everything you need to know -- causes, symptoms, and lifestyle changes to help you cope. From exercise to massage therapy, cutting out caffeine and more, here are 6 tips and resources for people living with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia can lead to pain, fatigue, and other uncomfortable symptoms. Managing these symptoms is key to improving your quality of life. While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are treatments and things you can do to feel better day to day. From exercise to massage therapy, cutting out caffeine and more, here are six tips and resources for people living with fibromyalgia.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body. It’s accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues, and can affect your neck, shoulders, back, chest, hips, buttocks, arms, and legs. People with fibromyalgia may also experience tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. It’s thought that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain and spinal cord process painful and non painful signals.

Symptoms often appear after an event, such as physical trauma, surgery, infection, or significant psychological distress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event. The pain may be worse in the morning or evening, and sometimes the pain lasts all day. The pain may get worse with activity, cold or damp weather, anxiety, and stress. Fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men, with women ages 20 to 50 being the most affected group of people.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown. However, the possible causes or triggers for fibromyalgia are:

  1. Physical or emotional trauma
  2. Abnormal pain response
  3. Sleep disturbances
  4. Infection, such as a virus
  5. Hormone changes
  6. Genetics- fibromyalgia often runs in families

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

  1. Widespread pain (a constant dull ache that lasts at least three months and occurs on both sides of your body and below and above your waist)
  2. Fatigue
  3. Less exercise endurance
  4. Trouble sleeping
  5. Cognitive difficulties like trouble focusing or paying attention
  6. Anxiety and feelings of depression
  7. Restless legs
  8. Pain or dull ache in the lower abdomen
  9. Dry eyes
  10. Rash

Fibromyalgia often coexists with other conditions, including:

  1. Irritable bowel syndrome
  2. Chronic fatigue syndrome
  3. Migraines and headaches
  4. Anxiety
  5. Depression
  6. Interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome
  7. Postural tachycardia syndrome

What Are the Treatment Options for Fibromyalgia?

Medications including duloxetine and pregabalin target specific neurotransmitters involved in pain processing and regulation. They have been able to reduce pain, improve physical function, and alleviate symptoms like fatigue and sleep disturbances in people with fibromyalgia. Pain relievers such as Tylenol, Advil, and Aleve can help reduce pain and improve sleep. Certain antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs have also been found to help with fibromyalgia symptoms.

Other non-medical interventions include physical therapy, adopting a healthy diet, low impact exercise and resistance training, and acupuncture. Many people find the most positive outcome with a mix of medication and self care techniques.

6 Tips and Resources for People with Fibromyalgia

1. Regular Exercise
Some people with fibromyalgia may find it difficult to exercise at first, but as muscle strength builds over time, pain and discomfort should decrease. Exercise brings so many benefits, so it’s important to make it a part of your regular routine. Talk to your doctor about a suitable exercise program- a physical therapist can help you set up a regimen that will work for you.

Low impact aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, and cycling can improve your cardio fitness, reduce pain, and enhance overall well being. Resistance training and mind-body practices like yoga and tai chi can improve physical function and reduce pain severity.

2. Diet and Nutrition
While there’s no specific diet that has proven to be a cure for fibromyalgia, adopting a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains can support your overall health and reduce inflammation. Some people with fibromyalgia may benefit from avoiding certain trigger foods, such as gluten, refined sugars, and processed foods, which can exacerbate symptoms.

3. Reduce Stress
Living in constant pain can cause mental discomfort and stress. Stress, in turn, can make fatigue and other symptoms worse. There are a number of things you can do to lower stress, which will make you feel better physically and mentally. You can manage stress with activities like yoga, journaling, massage, and meditation. You can also consider getting a therapist or joining a support group for people with fibromyalgia.

4. Cut Out Caffeine
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and speeds up your heart rate. It’s also known to make people jittery, boost anxiety, and make it more difficult to sleep. It’s best to stay away from caffeinated beverages including coffee, tea, and soft drinks. If you’re a coffee lover, try to drink decaffeinated coffee to help keep symptoms at bay.

5. Book a Massage
A massage with a registered massage therapist (RMT) will work wonders to reduce pain and decrease stress and anxiety. It involves the gentle manipulation of the body to increase range of motion and promote relaxation. Speak to your doctor to get the go ahead, then look for a massage therapist who works with patients who have fibromyalgia.

6. Know Your Resources
There are a number of resources out there that offer medically accurate information about fibromyalgia research, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. There are also resources that offer self care treatment options and current news so you can stay up to date. Non-profit organizations include the National Fibromyalgia Association, the American Fibromyalgia Syndrome Association, and the American Chronic Pain Association. There are also great online resources including The Pain Toolkit and CFS & Fibromyalgia Self Help.

If you or a loved one is living with fibromyalgia, try these tips and remedies to help manage your pain, fatigue, and other symptoms.

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Fibromyalgia 101 | Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes pain and tenderness throughout the body. It’s accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues, and can cause tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. In this post, we share everything you need to know -- causes, symptoms, and lifestyle changes to help you cope. From exercise to massage therapy, cutting out caffeine and more, here are 6 tips and resources for people living with fibromyalgia.

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