- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Advice from Fibromyalgia Patients- Methods That Relieve Fibromyalgia Symptoms (Without the use of Pharmaceuticals)
Why Some Patients Don't Use Pharmaceuticals
Although some fibromyalgia patients benefit from prescription medication, pharmaceuticals present certain problems. The most common medications given to fibro patients is those that treat pain. Several drugs are specifically approved for fibromyalgia (like Savella), and some drugs are given to fibro patients off-label (such as Nuerontin). Most patients will suffer side effects from these medications, and many patients decide that the side effects make the drug completely undesirable. There are often long-term risks associated with medications, and they have a risk for abuse. Doctors agree that many medications will cause the body to build a tolerance, which in turn leads the patient to need even more medication. When one medication causes a side effect such as heartburn, the doctor may give another pharmaceutical to relieve that symptom, and another med may cause even more side effects- this is an unfortunate effect of relying on pharmaceuticals. Some people are simply against using chemicals due to personal belief, and they would rather use natural methods to relieve their fibro symptoms.
Movement and Activity
Any fibromyalgia sufferer will explain how difficult it is to move around. Each person is different, and some people may become bed-ridden from this syndrome. Any amount of exercise is helpful, as long as the individual know his/her own limits. This takes some trial and error, because one day it might feel great to go running, then you may be in severe pain the next day, realizing that you over-did it. Once you find a comfortable level of exercise, it is good to make it a routine, so that your body will continue to regenerate its joints. Here is an informative article on joint health: http://inspirehappy.com/2011/05/24/how-to-keep-healthy-joints-youve-got-to-move-it-move-it-like-a-madagascar-penguin-back-up-dancer/
Exercise is effective for improving sleep, along with building muscles, improving digestion, and burning calories. Keeping active is good for cardiovascular health and simply moving around can help with energy and mood levels. Exercising outdoors is even better, as long as the weather is suitable. Most fibromyalgia patients do not like extreme heat or cold, so on inclimate days, exercising indoors or at a gym is ideal. Most fibromyalgia patients like mild forms of exercise, like Tai Chi, yoga, swimming, and walking. Many doctors will refer their fibromyalgia patients to physical therapy, which may or may not help. It is of utmost importance that the physical therapist is familiar with fibromyalgia and knows exactly how to assist the patient with gaining strength, improving range of movement, and soothing symptoms.
Soothing Aches and Pains
Most fibromyalgia sufferers will tell you that it is difficult to completely rid the pain from their bodies. Some people find that topical solutions can offer some relief to aching muscles and joints. Ointments such as Tiger Balm or Bio-Freeze use ingredients like camphor and menthol to provide a numbing effect when applied to the sore area. Others swear that magnesium oil rubed into the skin is a great way to soothe aches and pains. Some creams contain capsaicin, the compound that makes peppers spicy, which helps bring blood flow to the sore area. There are companies that make stick-on patches that attach to the skin to deliver constant heat or menthol pain relief.
Heating pads and electric blankets will help keep sore areas warm and relax muscles at the same time. Most people will feel better once they take a hot bath, even better if the bath is made with epsom salts or magnesium flakes. Many patients will take measures to protect their bodies from the elements, by using natural suncreen and proper clothing to reduce exposure and control body temperature. In some cases, people will relocate to a state with a more suitable climate, such as Arizona. Some people use ice packs to numb pain and reduce inflammation. Compression gloves or stockings and orthopedic shoe inserts can help reduce pain as well. TENS units are available without a prescription now, and they help some avoid feeling pain in the electronically stimulated area. Acupuncture is beneficial for certain people, while other feel better after seeing a chiropractor.
Other methods to relax muscles and reduce pain can be found in the natural medicine sector. Some herbs and supplements can be consumed to help with pain and reduce inflammation. The top anti-inflammatory supplements include: curcumin, ginger, and bromelain- which is the extract from pineapple. Many fibromyalgia sufferers will state that cannabis therapy helps with pain, fatigue, nausea, and insomnia. It can be agreed upon that resting after exertion is essential. Most patients will complain of insomnia, and several natural remedies can help with sleeping problems. Many find that valerian root, melatonin, 5-HTP, or a simple cup of warm milk can help ready the body and mind for sleep. Fibro patients must take special care to ensure they get some sleep, because tiredness creates even more pain and fatigue, leading to an endless cycle,
"I simply cannot get comfortable!" is a common complaint from fibromyalgia sufferers. Many people will strive to obtain items that give their body some relief. The most important thing that is needed for comfort is a good quality mattress. People have different preferences of what is most comfortable, and luckily there are so many options for purchasing a mattress Some report that the Sleep Number bed is great, while others rave about the Temperpedic Brand mattress. One cost effective option is to put a memory foam topper over your mattress, because these toppers are cheaper than buying a new bed. Some feel more comfortable in a recliner or in an adjustable bed that raises the head and/or legs. A good pillow is essential, and memory foam pillows are a favorite of mine, along with foam wedges to snuggle in between my arms and legs. Some people like using body pillows. Massage therapy is a great way to calm down and feel relief from sore muscles.
Part of getting comfortable is finding relaxation. Temperature control is important, and keeping warm in winter and cool in summer are absolutely necessary. It helps to elevate legs and feet. Use coconut oil to soothe dry skin, scalp, and lips. When patients feel anxious, they may turn to relaxation teas made with Valerian or chamomile, or some like a product called Rescue Remedy. Aromatherapy helps, and the scents of lavender or vanilla can be especially pleasing. Avoiding stress is difficult, but very important. Some people like to meditate or listen to soothing music, some like to call a friend or watch a comedy. Many people partake in hobbies to "get their mind off" of the pain. Some like to make crafts, while others like to play games or do puzzles.
One problem with fibromyalgia is that sufferers are very prone to injury. Fatigue, lack of sleep, loss of muscle tone, dizziness, and fibro-fog make us very accident-prone. It is best to wear gloves when doing chores involving sharp tools or when washing dishes, so that you can keep a good grip. Electric can openers and other convenient gadgets prevent the straining that leads to injury. It is good to have handles and a seat in the shower, and banister rails on the side of stairways. Non-slip shoes and comfortable clothing is a must. Many patients take advantage of braces, especially ones that brace the knees, back, and wrists. Bring a seat cushion for long car rides or sporting events. Fibromyalgia patients have ultra sensitive hearing, so earplugs or noise-blocking headphones can be a lifesaver. Heavy lifting and over stretching is a huge non-no and it never hurts to ask an able-bodied friend for some extra help with a difficult task.
Avoiding Chemicals and Toxins
It is common sense that toxins and chemicals can exacerbate fibromyalgia. Some fibro patients are sickened by chemicals and strong smells. It is best to use organic, simple products in the home, and stay away from toxins that can make you sick. Avoid cigarette smoke and vehicle exhaust. Don't use chemical pesticides or fertilizers in your yard or garden. Use natural, unscented products for washing your clothing. Use body products that are organic, and search for recipes to make your own products at home. Coconut oil is great for moisturizer, olive oil work well for shaving, and pure castile soap and baking soda are superb for washing the body and hair. You can make a simple air freshener by combining essential oil, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and distilled water in a spray bottle. Homemade toothpaste can be made with 5 tbsp. baking soda, 5 tbsp. coconut oil, and 15 drops pure peppermint oil. If you have access to non-GMO produce, it is recommended over conventional. Grass fed, free-range, hormone and antibiotic free animals are the best sources for healthy meat, milk, and eggs.
Supplementing Your Diet
Diet and Supplements
There are many great websites, articles, and books available to learn about healthy eating. As a fibromyalgia patient, you must keep your body running at its optimum level with proper nutrition. Educate yourself on which foods reduce inflammation and help the body get energized, and learn which foods are toxic and detrimental. Some fibromyalgia patients try an elimination diet to see if there is a certain food group (like dairy or gluten) that they are intolerant to, and they will learn to avoid this type of food. Some choose the Paleo or Anti-inflammatory diet. Many people eat a diet that keeps their body in an alkaline state. It is best to maintain a healthy weight, in order to keep extra pressure off of tender joints. A diet full of healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado, olive oil) and vegetables will help the digestive process, which is a source of distress for many fibro sufferers.
Ideally, we would get all of the nutrients we need from our daily meals, but this is often not the case. Patients should be sure to get enough protein, good fats, eat lots of green leafy vegetables, and stay hydrated. Some people use special "juicing" machines to extract nutritious liquid from fruits and vegetables. It is important to have a doctor test your blood for nutrient deficiencies, because many patients are lacking in certain areas. B12 is essential for energy, D3 is good for immunity and overall health, and you must get some magnesium, because a magnesium deficiency can cause a host of problems. Omega 3 fatty acids are beneficial for heart and brain health and for digestion. Vitamin C will help boost your body's natural defenses. You can't control how fibromyalgia effects you, but can control what we eat. Your diet can either help or hurt your body's defenses and strength, depending on what you consume
An Alkaline Diet
Take Things One Day at a Time
Fibromyalgia certainly has its ups and downs. Usually, the pains and muscle stiffness prevent patients from doing many things, but with daily adaptations, fibromyalgia is manageable. My fellow support group members have offered these suggestions, along with my own experiences, to make a list of ways to find comfort. We are all in this together, and emotional support is, without a doubt, the most necessary tool for fighting this illness. When you know you are not alone, you feel empowered and validated. When you read other patients' success stories,and hear that they have maintained a good quality of life, you feel confident that you'll be able to do the same. Every person with fibromyalgia suffers differently, but each individual has the power to find personal treatments to help make daily life so much better.