Fibromyalgia: What to understand and how to manage (Part 2)

by | Apr 13, 2021

Fibromyalgia can be brutal. The pain, fatigue, cognitive mysteries, and more can make life terribly difficult. Being accurately diagnosed is crucial. Then it’s on to a tolerable coexistence. And there’s plenty to be hopeful about. Here’s how to manage…

Well, our friend continues to be in pain. She’s still fatigued and her thoughts remain scattered. But she worked with her doc and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Her expression has gone from desperation to contemplation, as she considers management.

We began a two-part series last week on fibromyalgia (FM), a chronic – incurable – medical condition featuring pain, fatigue, and cognitive issues. In part one we reviewed what it is and its causes. This go-round we’re going to discuss how to manage it.

Lots to review, so let’s dig right in…

How is fibromyalgia treated?

We know there is no cure for FM, but we also know it isn’t terminal. So that means living with FM comes down to managing what may be a wide variety of symptoms. So it’s best to use more than one form of intervention: medications, lifestyle changes, self-care activities, therapies. And you may need help from one or more medical specialists.

what is fibromyalgia

“I didn’t ask for fibromyalgia. But, I’ll do all I can to manage it.”

Here’s another factor to consider. If you have FM you’re dealing with a condition that’s often badly misunderstood – to the extreme of the uninformed questioning its legitimacy. That said, when you’re in need of insight and support, turn to people who are going to be open-minded and understanding about what you’re going through. The last thing you need is ignorance and intolerance.

And don’t allow yourself to question your illness. If you’ve been diagnosed with FM, you have a legit medical condition that requires dedication to management. Always believe in yourself and your ability to take good care of yourself.

What medications help with fibromyalgia?

There are a variety of medications that may help with the symptoms of FM. Here are some of the most commonly used…

  • Pain relievers: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), and naproxen sodium (Aleve, others). Opioids such as tramadol (Ultram) were once frequently prescribed; however, research has shown they’re not especially effective. And let’s not forget about issues of tolerance and dependence.
  • Antidepressants: duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella) may ease pain and fatigue. They may also help with sleep. Amitriptyline (Elavil) or the muscle relaxant cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) may be prescribed to promote sleep. It’s thought that antidepressants may help with FM by rebalancing neurotransmitters.
  • Anti-seizure drugs: Used to help with certain types of pain are gabapentin (Neurontin) and pregabalin (Lyrica).

Three of the above are FDA approved for the treatment of FM: duloxetine (Cymbalta), milnacipran (Savella), pregabalin (Lyrica). Beyond those I mentioned above, there are other meds frequently being prescribed off-label for the treatment of FM.

Non-med treatments for fibromyalgia

Even if you’re taking medication for FM, there’s so much more you can be doing to secure relief. I mean, why count on just one treatment if you don’t have to? Consider these non-med interventions for FM…

  • Stress management: Develop a plan to avoid or limit physical, mental, and emotional overexertion and stress. Daily relaxation time is a must.
  • Sleep care: Good quality sleep is essential, given FMs fatigue factor. Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day and limiting naps are important.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise may initially increase pain; however, getting into it gradually and doing it regularly often decrease symptoms. Find the activity that works best for you.
  • Pacing: Keep activity on an even level. If you do too much on your good days you may have more not so good days. But don’t limit yourself, or do too little, on days when symptoms flare-up.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Eat healthy foods, drink plenty of water, reduce sugar consumption, limit caffeine intake, don’t use tobacco products, and keep your weight in check. You know the drill.
  • Consider natural remedies: Acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, meditation, tai chi, supplements such as 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), and more. Do your research and chat with your doc.
  • Counseling: Helpful in confirming your ability to cope with FM, as well as managing the stressors it brings to life. And who doesn’t benefit from talking things out?
  • Physical therapy: You can learn exercises that will improve strength, flexibility, and stamina. Water-based work may be helpful.
  • Occupational therapy: Get help with adjustments to your work area or the way you perform certain tasks. It’ll minimize body stress.

Many more where these came from, right? Do what you can to research, learn and expand.

Keep moving forward

No doubt, the pain, fatigue, cognitive challenges, and other symptoms of fibromyalgia can be brutal. And being a chronic condition, learning how to manage them becomes a life priority.

If you have fibromyalgia, think you might, or know someone in the same boat, I hope you found the series helpful. When it comes to any life-interrupting condition, knowledge is huge. I wanted to give you that along with best wishes for your journey.

As always, keep moving forward, okay?

Once again, be sure to read part one to learn what fibromyalgia is, as well as its causes.

Thanks to Mayo Clinic and Healthline for the info.

Plenty to learn about the mood and anxiety disorders, which includes how to find relief. Review the hundreds of Chipur titles.

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