As we talked about in a previous post, getting treatment for your fibromyalgia is always important. Putting off your treatment can allow symptoms to worsen, and when you do finally seek treatment, it may be more difficult to get symptoms under control. However, not all your fibromyalgia management has to come from physicians and specialists. While medical treatment should definitely be part of your treatment plan, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to help you live well with fibromyalgia, too.
1. Know your limits and pace yourself in order to live well with fibromyalgia
Plan ahead a little. If you know you’ve got a dozen errands to run this week, spread them out over several days instead of doing them all at once. Better yet, ask a friend or spouse to handle a few of those errands. You might even consider services like home grocery delivery, dry cleaning pick-up, or mobile pet groomers that come to your front door. If it makes your life more manageable, go for it.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance at stores. Request that the bagger at the grocery store keep your bags on the light side, or ask if someone can help you load your heavy new TV or bag of cat litter into your car. Once you get home, ask a neighbor to give you a hand carrying anything heavy or awkward.
2. Take the time to get enough rest
Appropriate rest can help you live well with fibromyalgia. This includes both during the day and at night. Avoid taking long naps late in the day, since they may interfere with your ability to sleep at night. However, it’s completely okay to lie down for ten minutes and just relax if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed.
When bedtime rolls around, try to find ways to get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. Avoiding long naps in the evening will help. You can also try any or all of these sleep tips. If nothing’s working, talk to your physician. Sleep may seem like a very small thing compared to pain, but it can impact every aspect of your day.
3. Exercise regularly
Another easy way to help yourself sleep better is to get some exercise throughout the day. Exercise is also one of the best ways to ensure you live well with fibromyalgia.
This doesn’t mean doing something extreme like running a 10K. It means working some moderate physical activity into your daily routine. Low-intensity exercises like walking, stretching, or light weightlifting can all be beneficial. Even your normal daily activities, like gardening, sweeping, or vacuuming, can count toward your exercise for the day.
Yoga is a very popular form of exercise for people with fibromyalgia. It’s a very low-impact, easy-to-modify form of exercise, so you don’t have to push yourself past your capabilities. Additionally, the breathing techniques, meditation, and emphasis on stress reduction in most yoga classes can go a long way toward helping you control stress-related pain.
4. Control your stress
Stress tends to make everything worse. If you’re already hurting, a stressful day will amplify your pain. Therefore, controlling your stress levels can really make a difference in your pain management and help you live well with fibromyalgia. Meditation and breathing techniques, like the ones taught in yoga classes, are a great way to manage stress. Exercise can also reduce stress. The simplest way to lower your stress, though, is to take some time to do something you enjoy.
Sit down with a good book. Take an afternoon tea break. Go for a mani/pedi (guys can go for clear polish to get the benefits without the fancy colors!). Splurge on a massage – which can help relieve painful muscle tension and swelling, in addition to helping you lose the stress.
Finding a creative outlet can also make a big difference. Creative therapies, which include music, art, dance, or drama therapies, have been shown to help manage mood disorders like depression. Since depression commonly goes hand-in-hand with fibromyalgia (and can even worsen pain symptoms), taking the time to find a creative hobby may help you reduce your stress and feel happier and healthier.
You don’t necessarily have to find a formal creative therapy class. Take up a creative hobby you’ve always been interested in. Just be careful to modify your new hobby for your pain condition. If you’re looking into dance, be careful it’s not so intense that it worsens your pain. If you’re considering taking up painting, set up a comfortable work station so you don’t get sore after hours of sitting on a hard stool. If you’re going to start writing, make sure you have an ergonomic desk setup.
5. Find ways to stay comfortable all day
This may seem pretty straightforward, but it’s a biggie. Make sure the chair you sit in all day is as comfortable as possible. If you’re reading, prop your arms up with pillows; consider getting an e-reader if you find yourself drawn to the really big, heavy books. As you go about your day, take note of times when you’re uncomfortable and try to find simple solutions like these to ease your pain.
Keeping warm can also contribute to your pain relief. Cold drafts should be avoided, so close your windows or call a handyman if your house is chilly. A warm shower can also head off some pain if you’re chilled.
Also, simple as it may seem, buy comfortable clothes. Go for pants with wide waistbands or drawstrings. Avoid very tight or constricting clothing. Try on clothes before buying, and make sure you stand, sit, bend, and walk while trying them on. Pay attention to fabrics that are more comfortable for you. Cotton, satin, or fleece tend to work well. Also, consider looking for clothes with printed tags, rather than sewn-in tags.
6. Watch what you eat and drink
Basically, try to eat a healthy diet if you want to live well with fibromyalgia. Get food from all five food groups (proteins, grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables). Choose fresh and natural over processed and preserved, when possible. Some foods have a tendency to make fibromyalgia pain worse, so if you can, try to avoid these foods:
- Foods high in saturated fats
- Foods high in calories
- Refined sugars
- Aspartame (an artificial sweetener)
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG, a flavoring used often in Chinese foods)
- Tobacco products
When in doubt, you can always try the “elimination diet.” Limit your food to the basics from each food group, and slowly add in one food at a time, paying attention to see how it affects you. This way, you’ll be able to see if pizza or Frappuccinos are to blame for the extra pain you’ve been experiencing.
What lifestyle changes have you made to help you live well with fibromyalgia?