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Living with fibromyalgia means a lot of changes to the things we do and how we do them.  Being able to manage fibromyalgia is crucial and will make you feel like you are in charge of the disease instead of the disease being in charge of you.  This will help to boost your self esteem and allow you to live well. The following are some tips and tricks that our team has found to be useful.

Finding a doctor and other healthcare professionals to help you is a critical first step.  Medication, whether pharmaceutical or natural, can help to ease the symptoms; as can alternative therapies such as physiotherapy, chiropractic and massage to name a few.  The challenging part of finding an effective treatment is that finding the right combination is very individual and unique to each patient and often takes trial and error.

Feeling alone and misunderstood are two big complications of the disease.  A great way to get around these feelings is to surround yourself with people who care.  Family and friends play a huge roll here but we have to keep in mind that if they don’t have fibromyalgia, they can’t totally understand it.  By taking your spouse, or another close family member or friend with you to appointments, your doctor can help to explain things to them. Finding a support group, whether online or in a meeting setting, you can find many others who do have fibro and will understand.  Often we make socialization a secondary priority in our lives, but with fibro you have to remember that it is an important part of a healthy life. We need to put the effort into making sure we use some of our energy into staying connected with others.

We all know that stress is not our friend but did you know that stress can actually make your pain worse?  When we are under a lot of stress our bodies are in a constant fight-or-flight state. This causes our bodies to produce stress hormones such as cortisone which causes inflammation which guessed it...PAIN.  One of the ways to help lower your stress level is to acknowledge and accept that you have fibromyalgia and can no longer do the things you used to do. The key is to find a way to reduce stress, work through the stress we can not avoid, and care for ourselves in stressful times.  There is no way to live life without any stressful events, but learning to deal with it effectively will help a great deal.

Getting to know your limits and not exceeding them takes time and a whole lot of trial and error but is paramount in managing your fibromyalgia.  Practicing the 4 Ps is good place to start. The 4Ps are Pacing, Planning, Problem solving and Prioritizing.   Keeping a schedule, using lists and remembering to add lots of rest breaks throughout the day, goes a long way to cutting through brain fog and making your day as productive as possible.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help if it is needed, and accept it if it is offered. Remember that it’s ok if you can’t get everything on your list accomplished. There is always tomorrow and the next day.  If you maintain a healthy activity level, your body will slowly become use to it and then you can increase your productivity. It is a matter of recovering function slowly and steadily with as few big setbacks as possible.

Eating a healthy, nutritious diet can help to ward off inflammation and weight gain.  Inflammation is one of the key symptoms in fibromyalgia and there are certain foods that can cause it.  It is wise to avoid these foods as much as possible: sugar, processed food, artificial additives, refined grains, citrus fruits and nightshade vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes and peppers. Keeping a log of the food you eat and your pain levels may help  you identify foods your body is sensitive too. Talking to a dietician about your changing dietary needs can help you to proactively improve your health.

Staying mobile and active is extremely important when you have fibromyalgia.  Doing some gentle exercises such as swimming, walking, tai chi and yoga can all help to ease symptoms as well as help to ward off depression, heart disease and obesity.   Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise and be sure to start out slowly. Remember that with any new physical activity, even a healthy body will experience some discomfort.  With fibro you may find that it takes a smaller increase for you to notice this, but that only means you have to build up more slowly. If your symptoms are getting worse be sure to contact your doctor.  Fibro pain can and will get worse the longer a person is inactive. You do not need to go to the gym or have fancy equipment to improve your situation. Go for a walk, play with the kids, add a new hobby that gets you moving.  As your body acclimatizes to its improved condition add a little more.

Last but certainly not least is getting a good night’s sleep.   Our bodies do all kinds of cool things while we sleep. Our muscles relax, our blood pressure drops, blood supply to our muscles increases, there is new tissue growth and repair of old tissue and our energy is restored.  If we don’t get enough sleep we are less able to concentrate, make sound decisions and we don’t fully engage in work, school or play. Here are a few things we can do to increase our ability to sleep: limit daytime time naps to no more than 30 minutes once per day, avoid eating or drinking a few hours before bed, spending as much time as we can out in the sun and fresh air during the day, do some gentle exercise during the day, establish a good bedtime routine and making sure that our bedrooms is not used for anything other than rest and sleep.  Don’t make your bedtime routine too complicated. Teach your body that at a regular time it should start shifting into sleep mode by giving it signals. Turn off electronic devices, brush your teeth, wash your face, write a list of things to remember for tomorrow so you can forget about them tonight or read a few pages of a book. The goal is to do the exact same thing every night so your internal clock is prepared for sleep.

Fibromyalgia has the potential to be a very devastating disease in our lives.  It is more than just the pain that makes the battle so challenging. The exhaustion, disruptive symptoms, depression, anxiety, sleepless nights and more, make it a life altering disease, but we can fight back.  It is not as simple as a prescription from the doctor. Often a sense of helplessness and hopelessness can make it hard to imagine life getting any better. The good news about fibromyalgia is that these tricks and tips can slowly help you regain ground in your life and prevent this disease from taking anymore.  The gains may be slow, and the battle may be long, but living the best life you can is worth the battle.

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