Fibromyalgia: The Dirty Dozen

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a common chronic condition that affects millions of people around the world. The overview of the symptoms is widespread pain in the muscles accompanied by pain, fatigue, and “…just feeling wiped out!” Sleep deprivation is a common problem and some experts feel sleep loss for any reason—stress, past injury, current illness, etc.—can result in FM and restoring sleep is a key component to treatment. Here are 12 key points to consider to effectively “manage” or gain control of FM (as there is no “cure”):

  1. Keep Moving: Exercise on a REGULAR BASIS. The presence of pain is NOT a reason to avoid exercise. Exercise is not only good for your muscles but it also helps improve the circulation, maintain bowel regularity, and reduce stress.
  2. Talk To Your Doctor: Always discuss your fitness plans with your doctor! It’s important to have a structured plan to follow and most importantly, START SLOWLY!
  3. “Learn” Your Limitations: Around the house, at work and in the gym, learn what you can handle by slowly introducing new activities into your routine. Don’t feel guilty about taking multiple breaks during your day!
  4. Remember to Stretch: Gentle stretching can be very rewarding as it can improve flexibility, improve muscle tightness, and reduce pain. Stretching can be done at any time of the day and also as a “warm up” and “cool down” before and after your exercise session.
  5. Make It Fun: Choose exercises you enjoy such as bicycling, swimming, or walking! Exercise in a location that is appealing such as walking in a park or in the woods. Take your dog  for a walk. Try to achieve thirty minutes of movement-based exercise each day.
  6. Set Realistic Goals: Don’t try to run a marathon on your first day of exercise. You need to determine what you can handle by gradually introducing the activity. For example, start with a 5- or 10-minute walk and set a goal of 30 minutes by the end of the 1st or 2nd week. Then, work on speed or pace. Make sure the exercises you choose do not aggravate your condition further.
  7. Make Sleep a Priority: Restless, non-restoring sleep is a common complaint of FM patients. Exercise can really help faulty sleep patterns. Set a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Also, talk to your doctor about nutritional options.
  8. Block Out Distractions: Use ear plugs, “noise machines,” or an eye mask to block out sleeping distractions.
  9. AVOID Caffeine: Coffee, chocolate, or caffeine-rich soda can disrupt sleep patterns well into the night. Avoid these for at least four hours before bedtime.
  10. Reduce Stress: Just struggling with FM is stressful enough! Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing and relaxation exercises can be extremely helpful is reducing stress.
  11. Learn To Say No: It’s OK to say “no.” We’re all too busy but with FM, additional worries and stress really take their toll!
  12. Socialize Wisely: Socialize with people who have a positive attitude—choose your friends wisely. Remember, the glass is always at least “half-full!”