Though classified as a disorder of the musculoskeletal system, the condition is now seen as a central nervous system problem. Symptoms include increased sensitivity to pain, achy and stiff joints, fatigue, and specific tender points on the back, chest, arms, and legs. Migraines, sleep disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome are also common complaints.
According to the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) in the USA, the condition affects between three and six percent of the worldwide population and is usually diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. Women are 9 times more likely to develop the disorder than men.
While you may already know to reduce stress, exercise, eat a healthy diet and improve sleep, here are some specific suggestions that may help accomplish these lifestyle goals:
1. Plan Some “Me” TimeSchedule time each day to relax with deep breathing, meditation, or other methods. Enjoying your favourite hobby or listening to music may also help you de-stress. Placing this control mechanism into your daily / weekly schedule will ensure that this become the norm!
2. ExerciseThis is vital. Afternoon exercise may help you sleep more deeply. But exercising before bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep. Stretching, walking, yoga, swimming, water aerobics and strength training may all be helpful exercises. The important thing is to do something you like, not in excess, and make it a regular part of your life style.
3. Sleep Well
If you need to nap, make it short so it doesn’t interfere with night-time sleep. Try taking a soothing bath before bedtime and going to bed at the same time every night. Studies show that people sleep better in a cool room.
4. Work with Physical and Occupational TherapyLearn new ways to perform everyday tasks that avoid painful movements. If you are finding it difficult to complete tasks or enjoy activities, an occupational therapist might be just the thing to help increase your independence.
5. Vitamin DStudies show that vitamin D deficiencies can cause bone and muscle pain, and increasing levels of this hard-to-get vitamin may help. A 2008 study found that pain patients with low levels of vitamin D required almost double the dose of painkillers as those with adequate levels.
6. Eat Omega-3The fatty acids found in fish like salmon, as well as walnuts and flaxseed, may help pain patients. A 2007 study found that after just three months of supplementing omega-3 fatty acids, symptoms such as morning stiffness and painful, tender joints decreased.
7. Cut Caffeine
Caffeine has a wake-up effect that lasts and may compound stress. It’s best to avoid it well before bedtime. That includes not just coffee, but also tea, colas, and chocolate.
8. Seek Psychological HelpDepression can deepen a patient’s experience of pain. Mental health professionals may play a complementary role in treatment, but it’s a vital one. Cognitive behavioural therapy can relieve depression and help patients identify sources of stress that magnify their symptoms.
9. Support Structure
Build a support structure around you. Family, friends and colleagues who can recognise when you are in a poor place and may need a little more help from time to time. They can also help you continue with your exercise program.
10. Discuss your plan with your GP or pain physician
While the whole idea is that you control your symptoms it does help to have a regular recap with you doctor to ensure you are on the right pathway. Sometimes medication or interventions can help relieve specific painful areas to ensure you keep your rehabilitation going.