So you’ve been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia? A diagnosis of this illness often brings with it it’s own set of challenges, whether it is expected or whether it is a surprise. For some, it is a helpful label to cover what they have been feeling for a long time, for others it may feel like a life sentence. Despite much of the grim information about Fibromyalgia made available on the internet, by medical professionals, or what you may have heard by word of mouth, it is entirely possible to still live a happy and fulfilling life with Fibromyalgia, and many people are able to manage their symptoms into remission.
Below, you will find some tips and suggestions to help manage your pain and make lifestyle adjustments to make life that bit easier.
Maintaining some form of exercise is extremely important for those with Fibromyalgia. Though exercise may feel like the worst imaginable idea, it will get easier, and there are many benefits. However, it is important to be careful:
- Start easy.
- If you have never exercised before, start with short walks around your neighbourhood, or even around your property.
- Resistance training has been found to be effective in strengthening muscles and reduces much pain from Fibromyalgia, as well as improving mental state.
- Ask your physio for some Thera-band exercises, or see a trainer for a light weight programme.
- See a qualified personal trainer, fitness instructor, or physio who has experience with Fibromyalgia to write you an exercise programme
- See a qualified instructor to learn correct exercise technique
- Wear appropriate attire, and especially get shoes fitted with any insoles or support you may need
- Start with low-impact exercise, and get advice from your health professionals before starting high intensity exercise, heavy weight-bearing exercise or other exercise that may put excess pressure on your muscles and joints
- Ensure you stretch properly and incorporate both warm ups and cool-downs into your exercise routines
- Build “Exercise Snacking” into your day.
- These are small movements, such as doing knee raises while you’re brushing your teeth; raising your arms above your head while you watch TV; or stretching your hamstrings while you read your emails.
- The point is for these to be small exercises that can gradually get your body used to movement, and they don’t require a gym membership or special equipment.
- Remember that everybody’s body is different- so challenge yourself to do a little more than yesterday, but be mindful to not push yourself too hard as you’re starting out.
- If you’re working with a professional, or attending any kind of class, make sure you advise the instructor that you have fibromyalgia and ask if they have any suggestions. Otherwise, feel free to take exercise at your own pace.
Maintaining good nutrition is essential for anyone to live a healthy life, even more so when you have the added impacts of fibromyalgia. If you can, try to make an appointment with a nutritionist or your GP to make some improvements to your nutrition, or write you up a comprehensive nutrition plan. Everybody’s body is different, so what your body may be healthiest eating is not necessarily the same as for someone else. However, if you’re unable to get a personalised nutrition plan, some good ideas to start are:
- Reduce processed foods, and focus on more whole foods (like vegetables, whole grains).
- Reduce your sugar intake, both in pre-packaged products, and what you add.
- Try to gradually cut down your caffeine intake- try one fewer coffee per week to start.
- Ensure you are getting enough protein and iron to keep you going.
- Try to make sure that the carbohydrates (like breads, pasta, potatoes) are complex carbohydrates- such as brown bread, wholemeal pasta.
Mindfulness and meditation practice can be an important part of your management programme. This evidence-based practice can help improve your sleep, cognitive abilities, and your perception of your pain. You can start with as little as five minutes, a few times per week. If you have a smartphone, there are many apps that can guide you through a meditation until you are comfortable with your own practice. However, the University of Auckland C.A.L.M. website also has a number of guided meditations, as well as detailed information about meditation practice, all based in the most up to date scientific evidence.