It is important to look after yourself if you have received a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Here are some top tips for self care:
• Take time to relax
• Develop a good bedtime routine to aid sleep
• Avoid over use of screens i.e. phones and tablets (especially before bed time)
• Talk about how you feel, either with family, friends, experts or other people with fibromyalgia – this can help relieve some of the stress that may come with having a long-term condition
• Consider complementary therapies
• Live healthily e.g. stop smoking, exercise and eat well (read on to find out more about exercise for fibromyalgia)
• Make use of the support services available to you e.g. ask for referrals to physiotherapy or occupational therapy
• Seek medical advice and support if you are struggling to manage your symptoms
• Ask for help when you need it e.g. with chores, childcare, etc.
Read on to find out more about looking after yourself if you are living with fibromyalgia.
Exercise for fibromyalgia
If you are given a fibromyalgia diagnosis, you are likely to be advised to undertake exercise. You may feel as though this just is not possible – fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain and fatigue may lead you to feeling unable to move around, let alone exercise. However, avoiding exercise may create a vicious cycle, causing more fatigue and pain due to being inactive.
Being as active as you can will help avoid further problems developing, for example, weak or wasted muscles and arthritis or joint problems. Exercise will help keep your heart healthy and will improve your overall mood by releasing feel-good endorphins. People who undertake exercise do report that their fibromyalgia symptoms are more manageable, less severe and that they sleep better as a result. Fibromyalgia exercises could include walking, cycling, swimming, gentle weight lifting, toning with resistance bands, or anything that can be started off at a low pace and gradually built up as the body gets stronger and abler.
Professional advice suggests you should build up your activity levels gradually, to avoid over-exerting yourself or causing additional pain from overworked muscles.
Contact your GP to find out if you can be referred to the NHS physiotherapy service. Find out more about exercise for fibromyalgia here.
Healthy eating for fibromyalgia patients is important to help maintain a healthy weight and general good health. Eating the wrong types of foods, e.g. too much sugar, fat, salt, and so on, can lead to lower immunity and digestive problems, which cause further discomfort and illness in the body.
Some people believe that certain foods and drinks trigger their fibromyalgia, such as aspartame (a sweetener), caffeine, sugar, dairy and MSG (a flavour enhancer found in soy sauce, savoury snacks, etc). There is little evidence currently to support that these foods actually do have an effect on the condition, but if you feel that consuming certain things negatively affects you, speak to your GP for advice.
Some people choose to take fibromyalgia supplements such as vitamin d, fish oil and magnesium, but there is little evidence to suggest these actually have an effect on symptoms. If you are considering taking any supplements for fibromyalgia, talk to your GP first.
Read more about a healthy fibromyalgia diet here.
Fibromyalgia and employment
You may be wondering; can I still work with fibromyalgia? There is no definitive answer to this question, because each person with the condition experiences it differently. Lots of people with fibromyalgia do go to work or are able to continue the work they have always done, whilst others are not able to work.
This may have an effect on your sense of identity and wellbeing, and have lots of implications for your finances. If this is the case, it may be beneficial to talk to a charity that specialises in supporting people who live with chronic pain, such as Pain Concern.
If you are employed and have fibromyalgia, it may be beneficial to share your diagnosis with your employers. You may need time off, additional breaks, or other adjustments for when your fibromyalgia symptoms are difficult to deal with.