Each person with Fibromyalgia will experience it differently, but remember that you are not alone and there is support available to help you manage your condition.
Some people find their Fibromyalgia has flare-ups (lasting varying lengths of time) and then is in remission. In between flare-ups, they may be able to do lots of normal things, enjoy hobbies and activities, work, do chores, etc.
Other people experience Fibromyalgia symptoms constantly and find that it affects their daily lives more severely. For example, some may have mobility problems due to dizziness, or balance issues or find chores and personal care exhausting.
This section explores medication and other help which may be beneficial, such as pain relief, diet, exercise and products to help sufferers with Fibromyalgia.
Currently, there is no cure for fibromyalgia so treatment usually focuses on trying medications designed to help ease symptoms, as well as therapeutic treatments to ease pain and enhance wellbeing.
Here are drug treatments that some people use to help manage symptoms and why they are not always effective. There are also physical therapies, psychological support and complementary therapies that may be helpful.
Physical therapies that may be beneficial for Fibromyalgia include physiotherapy and or occupational therapy.
You can ask your GP to refer you a physiotherapy service. A physiotherapist may help a person with Fibromyalgia to develop an exercise program to increase their activity levels gradually. However, Exercise is essential for anyone living with this condition, even though it may be the last thing you feel like doing. Exercise prevents muscle deterioration, may help improve sleep, and has mental health benefits. They may also be able to advise on posture and mobility if your condition is affecting how you get around.
Occupational therapists support people by finding ways of adapting everyday tasks, to ensure they can live as independently as possible. If some aspects of daily living are difficult, speak to your local social services department to find out if you are eligible for an Occupational Therapy assessment.
Some people use a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) machine to help relieve their pain; a battery-operated device available from many pharmacies. It sends an electric current into the body via electrodes attached by sticky pads.
Chronic pain is difficult to live with and the fatigue caused by Fibromyalgia may affect daily life and mood. If you are finding it difficult to manage your symptoms and are experiencing feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anger, anxiety or stress, you may wish to seek support such as counselling or psychotherapy.
- Sources of psychological support:
your GP may be able to refer you to a local service
- find a private local therapist
- contact the mental health charity MIND – Local MIND
- Various online resources available if you search online
It can be difficult to relax when experiencing chronic pain, and find mindfulness helps them to find a sense of wellbeing amidst their symptoms. Mindfulness focuses on being present in the moment, free of judgement. It is founded in meditation but you do not need to be spiritual or religious to give it a try!
There are many websites that give details of mindfulness activities and techniques to try. Possible activities to try are:
- mindful breathing
- meditation exercises
- mindful colouring
- body scan
Your GP may refer you to a pain management clinic if you ask them.
Since there are millions of people in the UK living with chronic pain, and so there are pain management classes, techniques, workshops and programs that may be available to you. For example, you may like to explore the Alexander Technique; a program that trains people to improve their posture and movements in order to relieve pain and stress.
Some people feel improved wellbeing and a sense of relaxation through complementary therapies such as:
- Acupuncture – involves insertion of very thin needles into the skin to stimulate nerve endings and release endorphins into the body, for natural pain relief.
- Reflexology – involves massage of the feet, concentrating on certain parts of the foot that are thought to be linked to other areas in the body i.e. massage of the big toe may relieve headaches.
- Reiki – a type of healing that involves a practitioner placing their hands on the body to relieve stress and pain, with the belief that this creates a flow of healing energy.
- Homeopathy – involves a practitioner prescribing diluted natural remedies to cure conditions, but has been found scientifically disproven.
- Aromatherapy – can be undertaken at home and be self-taught; involves using highly concentrated essential oils in massage or as an inhalant, to relax and provide stress relief.
There is little evidence to show that some of these therapies are effective. However, some people with Fibromyalgia find such treatments help them in some way. If you are considering embarking on any complementary therapies, you should discuss this with your GP beforehand.
Did you know…Some people find pain-relieving drugs, complementary therapies and exercise help improve their quality of life living with Fibromyalgia.
Many people take painkillers for their symptoms, e.g. Paracetamol or Ibuprofen. Some people find these relieve some of their pain, but, they do not work for everybody. Pain-relieving gels applied to the skin give temporary relief for some.
Drugs that help with nerve pain may be prescribed, such as Pregabalin, which may help.
For those with symptoms of low mood, anxiety or depression as a result of living with chronic pain, may be prescribed antidepressant drugs to help relieve these. These include:-
- Citalopram – selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication used to treat anxiety, depression and other low mood disorders
- Amitriptyline – used to treat Fibromyalgia and arthritic conditions, helps to relax muscles
- Duloxetine – a type of serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) medication, used to treat depression and other mental health disorders, which can also help reduce pain in some medical conditions
- Pregabalin – used to treat anxiety, epilepsy and nerve pain, sometimes given to people with Fibromyalgia
It is important to consider the side effects of the drugs you are offered as these may outweigh the potential benefits (see pain management section below).
Researchers have found that the agonising condition may be caused by insulin resistance, and it could be treated using a common drug taken for diabetes. Scientists from the University of Texas found that Fibromyalgia sufferers had higher levels of blood sugar than the levels in normal people.
The Fibromyalgia patients in the study had blood sugar levels that would be currently considered in the normal range. The study, however, looked at the levels normal for the patients’ age and this highlighted the differences between the patients and the control subjects. Neurology professor Dr Miguel Pappolla said that previous studies overlooked the connection between Fibromyalgia and insulin resistance or pre-diabetes. The study treated the patients with metformin – a drug used to combat insulin resistance in diabetes. All patients experienced reduced pain. The NHS has not allowed metformin for Fibromyalgia but following further trials there may be potential with this drug that is already available.
Much of living with a condition like Fibromyalgia involves self-management to prevent flare-ups and over exertion resulting in worsening of symptoms. A common management technique people with Fibromyalgia learn to use is known as ‘Pacing’. Please click on our page for further information on this strategy and how this may help
Pain Management and Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia sufferers have chronic (long-term) pain. Chronic refers to the duration of the pain and not to the severity. Public Health England found that long term prescribing of opiods for chronic pain but for most people they are ineffective when used long term; after a few weeks opioids start to lose their efficacy, meaning patients need increasing doses to achieve the same pain relief. The drugs may also have significant unpleasant side effects such as constipation, inability to sleep, loss of concentration and skin infections to name a few. Most Fibromyalgia sufferers also try drugs such as amitriptyline, pregabalin and gabapentin which also have a range of challenging side effects. Research has shown that Gabapentin only helps 12% of Fibromyalgia patients.
Due to these reports, pain management clinics advising patients to learn ‘self-management’ skills instead of taking drugs. We are being advised to pace ourselves, take up mindfulness, join a support group, try hydrotherapy, etc. It is often a case of trial and error to see what combination of which therapies and treatments you find beneficial.
This is no quick fix and often sufferers feel bewildered, especially as what one person finds helpful does not work for another. This may leave the person often very confused, increasing anxiety and feeling unsupported.
Fibromyalgia Friends Together, as your local support group we want to help you. Attendance at our monthly meetings may help you to understand what others find helps them. Furthermore, The Shuttlewood Clarke Foundation, where we hold our meetings, allow you to access a number of different therapies at reasonable costs.
Talking to Your Doctor
Fibromyalgia sufferers look to their GP for help. We may feel that we are not listened to or understood. It can be hard know how to explain the pain we are suffering. If we suffer from other issues such as arthritis, MS, lupus, etc., this makes it even harder. It is often very difficult for us to distinguish between the different problems and the arising pain, so how can we give a full picture to our GP.
Fibromyalgia has so many other symptoms, you may not suffer with them all, nor will another sufferer. In other words none of us will be suffering in exactly the same way. Your doctor will not know how you are being affected unless you present him/her with a full picture.
You could try completing the template about the symptoms you are experiencing on this website before you see your GP. If you give it to them, it may help you explain your pain better as you can discuss the different areas. You could also use it to evaluate the benefit of any new therapy you try.
We suggest that you read sections on this website of ‘and ‘Factors That Aggravate Fibromyalgia’ and ‘Myofascial Syndrome’ before completing the template.
Other tips for talking to your GP
*Make eye contact and use their name.
*Before your appointment workout what you are actually asking for i.e. what is the outcome wish to have.
*Write a list of your symptoms or things you want to discuss so you do not forget during your appointment.
It is vital 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 bedtime)
- Talk about how you feel, either with family, friends, experts or other people with Fibromyalgia – this may relieve some of the stress of living with a long-term condition
- Consider complementary therapies
- Live healthily e.g. stop smoking, exercise and eat well
- 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. Do not be afraid to reach out to others if you are struggling.
It is hard for a Fibromyalgia sufferer to lead a healthy life style. We are not able to exercise in the same way as a person who has no issues. A lot of our energy and thoughts must go into learning our limitations and managing to work within them. How many of us when we are feeling better do more than we should causing a crash which takes us such along time to recover from?
In this section we want to share latest news about foods, vitamins and other supplements which may benefit us or may harm us and make our condition worse.
Fibromyalgia and Diet
Healthy eating for Fibromyalgia patients is important to help maintain a healthy weight and general good health. Eating the wrong foods, with 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 currently little evidence to support that these foods do influence the condition. If you feel that consuming certain items negatively affects you, speak to your GP for advice.
It is easy to feel disheartened and to eat unhealthy foods – comfort eating. Many patients have the associated condition irritable bowel syndrome. (IBS) along with Fibromyalgia. Part of dealing with this painful condition is gaining an understanding of what irritates your bowels. You may wish to consider which foods make your IBS/Fibromyalgia worse.
It is recommended that all eat a healthy balanced diet with as many wholefoods as possible.
Some people choose to take fibromyalgia supplements such as vitamin D, fish oil and magnesium, but there is little evidence to suggest these influence symptoms. If you are considering taking any supplements for Fibromyalgia, talk to your GP first to check they are suitable for you and do not interfere with any medications you are taking.
The Daily Mail reported on the 15/02/2020 that cocoa may have improved blood flow to calves and improved muscle function. A fifth of people over 60 in the UK have some degree of peripheral artery disease (PAD); narrowing of the arteries that reduces blood flow to the legs. The symptoms often strike when walking and include pain, tightness, cramping and weakness.
A study was undertaken at Northwest University in Chicago. The participants were randomly assigned to drink either a mug of cocoa or a placebo powder three times daily for six months. The cocoa was unsweetened and contained 15 grams of cocoa and 75mgs of epicatechin. Professor Mary Mc Dermott said, “if our results are confirmed in trial, these suggest that cocoa, a relatively inexpensive, safe and accessible product, could potentially produce significant improvements in calf muscle health, blood flow and walking performance for PAD patients.”
This research is one of many reports of the benefits of cocoa which include improving brain function, improving skin condition, improving chronic pain conditions, mood enhancer, a good source of minerals and vitamins, etc. We would advise that anyone discuss taking cocoa with your GP for advice, including on any interaction with your drugs.
Exercise for Fibromyalgia
People with Fibromyalgia will be recommended to exercise by healthcare professionals. You may feel unable to move around – with symptoms such as pain and fatigue, let alone exercise. However, avoiding exercise may unfortunately create a vicious cycle, a causing more fatigue and pain due to being inactive. Being as active as you can will help to prevent 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.
Those with Fibromyalgia who undertake exercise report that their symptoms are more manageable, less severe and that they sleep better as a result. Exercises suitable for those with Fibromyalgia 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 becomes stronger and better able to cope with the exercises.
Professional advice suggests you build up your activity levels gradually, to avoid over-exerting yourself or causing additional pain from overworked muscles. It is important that you do not push your body too hard and work within your limits. Contact your GP to find out if you can be referred to an NHS Physiotherapy Service.
ukfibromyalgia.com has an exercise and diet guide available to purchase.
Fibromyalgia and other conditions
Fibromyalgia sometimes occurs with other conditions and also has many symptoms common in other conditions. We examine these here.
Myofascial Syndrome and Fibromyalgia
Ukfibromyalgia.com covers in more detail the subject explaining the differences in Fibromyalgia and myofascial syndrome.
They report that 72% of Fibromyalgia sufferers also have the clinical features of myofascial pain. The clinical features of each are different so you may have difficulty explaining our pain to our doctor. Response to drugs and therapies is different for these syndromes, also.
Myofascial Syndrome Clinical Features compared to Fibromyalgia Clinical Features
Local or regional pain Widespread general pain
Focal tenderness Widespread tenderness
Muscles feel tense (taut) Muscles feel soft & doughy
Restricted range of movement Hypermobile
Ukfibromyalgia.com gives an insight into why conventional massage, manipulation and acupuncture may only offer temporary relief and may aggravate the condition, if you have myofascial syndrome as well as Fibromyalgia.
Other conditions Fibromyalgia is Associated with include:
Migraine, IBS, Chronic Fatigue. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (including M.E.).
Aids to Help Fibromyalgia Sufferers
Below we suggest some daily living aids that may help with a variety of daily activities, which may have become difficult due to fibromyalgia symptoms. These aids are designed to make tasks such as chores, personal care, and mobility easier.
Products that help with certain areas of daily life:
- Resting when doing tasks around the home:
- Perching stool
- Reaching objects around the home:
- Getting around if you are unable to walk far:
- Transit chair
- Carrying things safely around the home:
- Walking trolley
- Getting around if you have balance problems, fatigue or pain:
- Walking stick
- Sitting down and standing up from chairs:
- Rise recline chairs
- Getting in and out of the bath:
- Bath lift
- Bath step
- Bathroom rail
- Getting on and off the toilet:
- Mowbray Lite toilet frame and seat
- Traditional commode
- Folding commode
- Avoiding falls around the home:
- Grab rail
- Sitting down whilst showering:
- Shower stool
- Helping to remember things:
- Memory aid pendant
- Gentle exercise:
- Pedal exerciser
- Resistance band
If you are unsure which products may help suit your needs, please consult your GP or an Occupational Therapist for further advice. They will talk to you about your needs and suggest suitable aids to help you.
The British Red Cross Shop is one place where you can buy such aids to assist with daily living.
All the content within these pages has been sourced through a variety of online medical and alternative therapy information sources, and at the time of publishing we believe them to be true statements.