Fibromyalgia pain is still very much a medical mystery. While research is continuing on the condition, medical experts do not yet fully understand the origin or cause of the pain. Fibromyalgia affects muscles and soft tissues. The symptoms can include chronic muscle pain, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and pain in the joints. Because the underlying cause is not understood most traditional medicine focuses on treating the symptoms. Medications, changes in behaviors, and stress management can all help alleviate fibromyalgia pain. Many experts do believe that a holistic approach is best to treat the entire patient rather than concentrating solely on the pain they are experiencing.
Some patients with fibromyalgia pain can get the help they need through assistive devices. These devices are products or tools that are designed specifically to assist the patient with day-to-day tasks to provide a path to independence. Many such devices are used by patients with rheumatoid arthritis or other chronic conditions but they can easily be adapted to patients with fibromyalgia pain as many of the day-to-day symptoms are similar.
Assistive devices for fibromyalgia pain
Some common assistive devices used for a variety of chronic conditions, including fibromyalgia pain, are:
- Walkers, crutches, or canes: If you experience pain that makes it difficult to walk, an assistive device such as a walker or cane can help. The most common forms that it helps are knee or hip pain. If the pain is in one side, using a crutch on the opposite side of the body can provide added relief while walking.
- Braces or splints: If your pain is centered on a joint such as your knee or wrist, you may find relief from using a brace. They can support the joint and decrease the pressure that is placed on it during normal movements.
- Orthotics: Special inserts for your shoes can help with pain in your feet or legs when walking. There are over-the-counter options you can purchase to use immediately or you can work with a podiatrist to develop a personalized solution.
- Elevated furniture: If getting in and out of furniture is difficult and painful, elevated chair legs can help raise the seat height and make it easier.
- Wheelchairs: An event that requires a lot of walking can sound like something to avoid during a flare-up, but that isn’t necessary. Make use of a wheelchair to avoid missing out on favorite activities, like a trip to the art museum or the zoo.
- Scooters: Many public areas, such as airports or grocery stores, offer scooters for patrons to use if necessary. Rather than avoiding errands, make use of these services.
Where are some other places where assistive devices can aid a patient with fibromyalgia pain?
Help at work
For someone with chronic pain such as fibromyalgia, a flare-up can cause excruciating pain that makes it difficult to hold down a steady job. However, employment cannot only earn money, it can also improve feelings of self-worth. Issues with depression are not at all uncommon among people dealing with the effects of fibromyalgia pain, so any assistance in the workplace can be welcomed. In the office you may wish to use chairs and desks that have adjustable heights to sit more comfortably. Accessible phones and headsets can also make talking on the phone more bearable. Ergonomic keyboards and wrist braces can help with typing.
Help at home
Fibromyalgia pain can make everyday tasks seem impossible. For example, the idea of buttoning a simple shirt can sound excruciating if you’re feeling pain in your hand. Buttoning aids, zipper pulls, and shoehorns can all help.
If cooking is a cherished but complicated activity, there are a few things in the kitchen that can make it easier. Electric can openers can help avoid the strain on hands. Food processors and mixers make work easier. If a step stool to reach high cupboards is not feasible then a long handled grabbing tool may help get things off top shelves. Use utensils with large handles and grips to lessen the pain of using them.
Bathrooms can be a huge source of fibromyalgia pain triggers. Install handrails and bars in the tub or shower to help when getting in and out. Have easy-touse faucet handles installed for the sink and the shower. You can also add a raised toilet seat to make it easier to sit down.
Help having fun
Fibromyalgia pain shouldn’t mean a sentence of boring days and nights at home. While adaptations need to be made, social interaction is important for your mental well-being. Assistive devices while outside of the home can help facilitate this. If you’re driving you may wish to get a large key adapter to help turn the ignition and a gas cap opening to help with fill-ups.
If an inability to do certain hobbies is frustrating, some devices can help with gardening or quilting, for example. If you like playing card games with friends, a shuffler can make it easier to enjoy this activity.
Experts recommend some additional behavior modifications that can help make living with fibromyalgia pain a little easier. This is the science of ergonomics. Changing your environment to adapt to your condition is much easier than trying to adapt your condition to your environment. Here are a few ideas you can use today to help modify your movements and alleviate pain.
- Avoid reaching: Many patients with fibromyalgia have pain in the neck and shoulders. Reaching exacerbates this pain. Use grabbing tools and step stools to help avoid it.
- Stretch: While it may seem counterintuitive to use stretching to avoid fibromyalgia pain, experts believe that doing stretching exercises twice a day can help keep pain at bay.
- Recognize your limits: While you don’t want fibromyalgia pain to stop your life, it is important to keep yourself from overdoing it. Strike a healthy balance with your activities.
- Sleep: Fibromyalgia pain often results in problems with sleep. However, sleep medications don’t seem to provide real help as they can cause fatigue during the day. Natural sleep remedies may be a solution.
To learn more about assistive devices and how they can help you with everyday activities, talk with a licensed occupational therapist. They are trained to help patients learn how to handle day-to-day tasks with a focus on independence.
What assistive devices have you used to help with your fibromyalgia pain?
Image by Terry Ross via Flickr