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The Basics About Fibromyalgia

Published: 18 June 2018

Fibromyalgia is a complex disorder that causes both physical and psychological symptoms which may include but are not limited to; widespread body pain, muscle fatigue, sleep issues, brain fog, and anxiety.  The pain associated with fibromyalgia tends to be on specific tender points on the body, including on the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs. The psychological symptoms can cause memory, concentration, and other cognitive problems as well as depression. It is not uncommon for people diagnosed with Fibromyalgia to also experience overlapping conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, restless legs syndrome, Sjögren’s Syndrome and Raynaud’s Syndrome.

About 80-90% of people who suffer from fibromyalgia are women, however, as it a much more common condition than you may know, it can most definitely affect men as well. Fibromyalgia is also seen in all age groups, from teenagers to older people, but symptoms more typically begin in a person’s 30s. Fibromyalgia occurs around the globe and appears in all ethnic groups and cultures.

For some, fibromyalgia symptoms may become present after an acute illness, injury or prolonged emotional stress which has lead researchers to believe fibromyalgia can be triggered by a trauma, either physical or psychological. Because there is no cure for fibromyalgia and the cause is not understood, the quest to find the best fibromyalgia pain relief is ongoing.

Standard treatments for fibromyalgia include painkillers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs which can help reduce symptoms such as pain, fatigue, and insomnia. However, a research report by the Jesse and Julie Rasch Foundation stated that pharmaceutical treatments may be ineffective for some people and may also cause unwanted side effects. Although these medications may help manage symptoms of fibromyalgia, many people find that self-care in the form of some basic lifestyle changes can also be effective in controlling the condition.

An important part of self-care is finding a supportive doctor who understands and cares for people with fibromyalgia and other pain disorders. Not being understood, dealing with chronic pain, and a lack of sleep can cause people with fibromyalgia to become depressed or develop anxiety. Being able to discuss different options with your doctor, including natural remedies and lifestyle option can be extremely beneficial.

 

There is a growing body of research in support of many non-pharmaceutical therapies to reduce and manage symptoms of fibromyalgia some of which we will discuss below.

 

Diet
There’s a lot of information on the Internet about “fibromyalgia diets”, yet there isn’t a perfect eating plan for fibromyalgia relief as everyone is different. Nevertheless, studies have shown that by including foods high in magnesium, omegas, and melatonin may have a positive effect on symptoms as well as decreasing caffeine and gluten. Foods high in anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties are also highly regarded as well as fermented foods and drinks. Many people find supplements to be extremely beneficial as well, it is advised to tell your doctor if you are taking any nutritional supplements to avoid possible negative interactions with medications.

 

Exercise
Studies have shown that a healthy and active lifestyle may help you decrease your fibromyalgia symptoms. Walking or water exercises will get your heart rate up without exhausting you too quickly, start slow and listen closely to your body, it’s important not to overdo it. Don’t increase your activity too quickly and remember to stretch your muscles before and after exercise. Always check with your doctor before you start any exercise program.

 

Sleep
Restless sleep, problems falling asleep and insomnia are quite common symptoms of fibromyalgia, the biggest downfall of this is that it becomes a cycle. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between symptoms and sleep patterns. With an increase in pain symptoms due to a lack of quality sleep which then impacts your sleep further, resulting in additional symptoms. Some recommended steps to improve your sleep patterns including; sticking to a sleep schedule, develop a relaxing bedtime routine, switching off the electronics (phone, tablet, television), and avoiding daytime naps longer than 20 minutes.

 

Alternative Therapies
Many people find alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, tai-chi and yoga very beneficial in combatting symptoms of fibromyalgia. Acupuncture is believed to change the blood flow and chemical levels within the body which may reduce pain and discomfort. Massage can aid in pain and stress relief, as well as muscle relaxation. Yoga and tai-chi are both gentle, slow-paced practices that combine controlled movements and stretching with meditation and deep breathing. These practices have shown to aid in relaxation, tension and stress release, pain reduction, muscle and joint mobility, sleep quality and mental clarity. It is advised to inform all alternative therapist of your condition as well as discussing these options with your doctor.

 

Emotional Support
Learning to cope with fibromyalgia can be a challenge, however, good emotional support can help. Reaching out to family and friends can help remove some of the stigma attached to fibromyalgia as well as allow them to be a source of comfort and support. Some days will be worse than others and acknowledging those days and giving yourself time to rest can be extremely beneficial for your mental state. There are also easily accessible support groups across the country and the world. Connecting to people who understand what you’re going through may prove to be very helpful as well as learning more about fibromyalgia, different symptoms, triggers, and remedies.