After writing "Coping with Fibromyalgia, One Woman's Story", I got a lot of feedback from friends and family saying that I had not written all I could about coping strategies. They felt I had left out some important points that needed to be made, so it lead me to write this article. Most of these are commonplace things with some alternative therapies thrown in. All are things that you can try. As I said before, nothing can substitute for your doctor's advice but here are some more strategies for coping. You have a life to live and you need to live it with hope, not fear.
Here are some of suggestions that my friends and family have made that have made my life easier and for the few that have Fibro have made there lives easier.
One friend said that the best way to talk to family and friends was to explain about the symptoms and ask that each of them to repeat back what she said. There are many complicated terms and much misunderstanding that she wanted to be sure everyone understood that this was not all in her head. Another friend said having her doctor explain it to her family helped. He was able to explain anything they did not understand. Your family and friends are going to be shocked that this bad thing happened to one that they love, so be patient. A couple of counseling sessions might not hurt. A family friend also suggests talking with your minister or mental health care professional if depression becomes a big problem. This friend also recommends hanging on to your faith. Mental attitude has been shown to affect our body's ways of fighting disease.
I guess the biggest suggestion that came from them was hydrotherapy. Just soaking in a warm tub of water has given me and mine the biggest relief. My daughter bought me a home spa that bubbles in my bathtub. It can work wonders on the days that I wake up stiff and sore. Half an hour in the tub and I feel like a new woman. Heat and bubbles soothe my muscles but it also can make you sleepy, so be sure that you also have time for a nap. I love bath salts so I make my own with Epson salt which also helps with the pain. Bath spas are pretty inexpensive at Walmart, but if you can't afford one try freecycling one. It can be a lifesaver.
Another friend copes using small rest breaks during the day. She says she does not sleep, just takes a 10 -15 minute break to relax. She calls these her 'coffee breaks." She does not do anything for those breaks. If the phone rings, she just lets it ring. If it bugs you to hear a ringing phone, turn off the ringer. That is why we have answering machines.
"Don't let yourself get chilled" is advice from my chiropractor. Dress warmly, even if it means wearing a sweater in the house or in the summer. Cold tightens your muscles and that can cause them to spasm. Keep your house warm during the winter. Keep a lightweight blanket at your computer or on your couch. An electric blanket turned on in the winter can also help. You can always heat up your bed and then turn in off.
I have friends who can't stand to sleep in the same bed with someone else because of their tossing and turning. It hurts them. A solution would be two twin beds pushed together. Then you can be together, but their motion will not affect you.
Another friend suggests keeping a food diary. She is a firm believer that certain foods make her feel worse, so she keeps track of these and does not eat them. She also believes that, during the winter months, the more fruit she can eat with a lot of vitamin C helps her not to get as sick. She has found that a eating a lot of wheat products make her feel sluggish and increases her pain. Another friend swears that dairy makes her feel worse. I find that protein in the morning gives me more energy in the morning and that a sandwich with chicken or turkey helps that mid-afternoon lag. I drink milk at night to help me sleep. My friend also takes the glucosmine chrondrotin for pain and stiffness.
Another friend suggests that an acupuncture treatment helped her a great deal. She says that once she got over her fear of the needles that she got real help from the treatment. She says that some insurance will even pay for these treatments. But here in Colorado where I live, the treatments run about $ 75.00 to $100.00. If it gives you relief, it can be cheap at any price. She is also a big believer in getting at least 40 minutes of sunshine a day to aid in making more serotonin in her brain to help fight depression.
If acid reflex or Gerd is part of your fibromyalgia, my chiropractor suggests the noodle treatment. I know this sounds silly, but it really helps me. I bought a pool noodle and cut it in half. When I get back spasms and my reflex kicks up, I lie on the noodle on my floor. I start in my lower back and lay there until the pain backs off and then move it up and lie there until that pain subsides and keep moving it up until it up under my arms. I never asked my chiropractor why this helps but it seems to re-align my spine and helps take the pressure off my spine. By the time I am done, I am in less pain and the acid reflex is gone. The noodles cost me about $1.25 and believe me when I say that it is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Comfort pads are another thing another one of my friends swear by. She makes them herself and they help to alleviate some of her pain. She buys remnants of polar fleece and makes little pillows out of it. She fills them with rice or just plain stuffing. When she has pain in her face or in her elbows or wrists or knees, she warms them in her microwave and applies them to where ever she hurts the most. She also moistens them a little bit for warm moist heat. She also scents them with lavender or rose essential oils.
Gentle massage can also help. A friend of mine who is a massage therapist says that deep tissue massage can hurt more that help and suggests that you always tell the massage therapist that you have fibromyalgia so that they can stay away from your trigger points. She also says that hot stone massage can help with the pain and stiffness. This is mostly a spa treatment but she says that instructions can even be found on the internet for giving a massage. Massage schools are a good place to go and get inexpensive massages; students give the massages, but are constantly monitored by teachers.
Another friend found that walking around a track at the local high school carrying baby bottles filled with sand or rice gave her some exercise in her arms which hurt her the worst. She bought the baby bottles that look like little dumb bells at the dollar store and the filled them with about a half a pound of sand or rice. She says she does not swing her arms, she just carries them and that the weight of the bottles stretches her muscles just enough to give relief.
One friend was afflicted with migraine headaches, she uses ice packs wrapped in a washcloth across her neck and forehead. She swears that this takes down the swelling in her head. She also swears that aromatherapy helps her. She burns incense in her bedroom to alleviate her headaches. Personally, incense gives me a headache, but I had my husband plant a big Lilac outside my bedroom window and roses right near it. The smell of the flowers when I have a headache helps. Another friend swears by the Febreze machine that changes scents every half hour. But to my way of thinking, they are too expensive. I spray my pillows and sheets with lavender perfume when I have a headache and it helps to ease the pain when my lilacs are not in bloom. Lavender also helps me to sleep.
Another friend says that, when she is laid low and has to spend time in bed, her favorite thing to do is go on her wireless laptop computer. She says that surfing the web helps her to forget the pain. Now these can be bought a pawn shops for pretty reasonable prices. She says keeping in touch with her friends helps keep her from being depressed. She also downloads free e-books to read and audio books that she burns to CD's to listen to when she is laid low. There are sites on the internet where you can find audio books for free.
Another friend says that yoga helps her. The Fitness channel runs a yoga exercise program twice to three times a day in their programming. If you don't have the Fitness channel, ask a friend to tape it for you. My friend tapes these programs and then does yoga once a day to help stretch her muscles. PBS also has a senior exercise program that is very gentle that you could also tape. Most senior centers also have organized yoga classes. My friend also took a belly dancing class that she says helped her.
Another friend says to watch your salt intake and drink lots of water. She says this flushes out the toxins that build up in your muscles and help contribute to the pain. She also says to use sea salt or other natural non-iodinated salt. Her research says that iodine can help trap toxins in your system. This friend also says that drinking cherry juice from the health food store helps with her pain. Here in Colorado, we have an orchard in Canon City that makes a fresh cherry juice that I mix with limeade in the summer and it helps with my fluid intake but also seems to make my pain better. Check around your area, you may find that there is an orchard near you that makes their own juice. Now I know that Sonic sells cherry limeade, but the cherry in their limeades is synthetic, so it is not what we are talking about. It needs to be real cherry juice.
Fibromyalgia is a disease that not even all medical professionals believe in and, even though their are many websites out there claiming that they can cure you, I would consult with a doctor on any thing you want to try. Personally, I have known friends that searched high and low for new and innovative drugs and treatments and only hurt themselves in the process. That is why I have only written about proven and common sense alternatives. I am not saying not to try anything that will help heal you, just be very, very careful. Well, I hope that some of these other suggestions will help you cope. I wish you all sunshine and warm days and gentle hugs.
Read Debra's previous article here:
About The Author: Debra Frick is a mother of 5 and a grandmother to 7 grandsons. She is a published author and poetress. Born in California, she now lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and many pets. Her hobbies include crocheting, reading, arts and crafts and bargain hunting.
I have had fibro since at least 1987. Whenever I am asked to explain the pain I tell people to imagine broken glass in every muscle, tendon and tissue of their bodies. For some reason this seems to do the trick.
Love the idea of having friends/family repeat back what you said & having them in on sessions with MD & suggesting therapy sessions! This works for so many illnesses that don't "show" - likie depression or bipolar or other mental illnesses - or allergies or chronic pain, etc. Too often if even loved ones can't "see" the problem, the tendency is to write it off as neurotic or as hypochondrical - whereas these are very real conditions!
I've had the dreaded FM since atleast 89. That's when it was dx anyway. The way I explain the pain is to say I feel like I ran a marathon all night long. I also have CF & the fatigue of that diables me more then my other problems.
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