What to Know About Fibromyalgia
Like many diseases, the cause of fibromyalgia is a mystery. There is no known cure or test to detect the disease. What is known is fibromyalgia affects approximately five million Americans age 18 and older, mostly women. As researchers continue to study fibromyalgia, interesting facts about the disease continue to emerge. The more you know about fibromyalgia, the better able you’ll be to manage your condition and feel like yourself again.
- 1. Fibromyalgia can happen to anyone.
It is most common among middle-aged women, but men, teens, and older adults get it too. Fibromyalgia can be mistaken for other disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. If you experience tenderness in your joints and muscles for more than a week, you feel tired, and have issues with memory, ask your doctor if you could have fibromyalgia. He or she can recommend lab tests and X-rays to rule out other health problems first.
- 2. Treatment starts with you.
Treating fibromyalgia often takes a network of doctors and other healthcare providers, such as a physical therapist. But you are the most important member of your healthcare team. For example, taking an active role in your own self-care by making time to relax each day and educating yourself about the disease can go a long way in reducing fibromyalgia pain and fatigue.
- 3. Alternative therapies are worth a try.
Acupuncture is the traditional Chinese medicine technique of inserting thin metal needles into the skin at certain points on the body. Acupuncture can help reduce fibromyalgia pain by engaging and unblocking qi, the energy of the body that has “pooled” near the location of the needle. Other alternative therapies that can relieve fibromyalgia symptoms include tai chi, qi gong, yoga, massage, and balneotherapy, which is a type of water therapy.
- 4. Smoking makes fibromyalgia pain worse.
The pain of fibromyalgia hits smokers harder. They feel greater pain than ex-smokers and nonsmokers, according to a study in Mediators of Inflammation. Better fibromyalgia pain control is a good reason to quit smoking. To kick the habit, don’t go it alone. Ask your doctor for cessation recommendations, or talk to a counselor by calling your state quit line: 800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). The line is staffed by trained tobacco-cessation specialists who can help you quit.
- 5. It pays to push yourself.
When your fibromyalgia flares up, you probably do not feel like moving much. But research shows regular strength training and aerobic exercise can reduce pain and give you more energy. Exercise can also lessen depression and improve your quality of life. Start with a daily walk and gradually work your way up to moderately intense activities. If you’re in good shape, even vigorous exercise like running is possible, but ask your doctor first.
- 6. Sleep helps control pain and fatigue.
Sleep plays a vital role in controlling fibromyalgia pain and fatigue. To maintain quality sleep habits, get in and out of bed at the same time every day. Wind down before bed by doing something relaxing, such as listening to calm music. If you can’t sleep or you feel tired during the day, ask your doctor about your medicine. Some pain medicine for fibromyalgia, such as pregabalin (Lyrica) and cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril) can help with sleep.
- 7. No diet can improve fibromyalgia symptoms.
Some people with fibromyalgia report feeling better after eating certain foods. Still, no specific diet has been proven to help. A healthy, balanced diet—complete with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and less saturated fat, salt, and added sugar—will give you more energy and help you feel better overall. It may also help you avoid other health problems.
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