As there is no cure for fibromyalgia and the experiences of people living with the condition will vary it is best to take holistic approach to management of its symptoms or, put simply, work in partnership with healthcare professionals to create a broad treatment plan that tailored to individual needs. Treatments are normally more effective if supported by friends and family. Possible areas to consider are listed below.
Physical therapy and physical activity
As many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia are felt physically, a doctor may refer individuals to specialists services such as physiotherapy, orthotics and occupational therapy who may be able to help with management of these symptoms.
Physiotherapists can assist with mobility, posture and may be able to provide a programme of activity that combines stretching and flexibility, aerobic exercise and strength and conditioning. It is a myth that people living with chronic pain conditions should not and cannot be physically active.
Research has proven that keeping physically active may reduce the severity of symptoms for people with fibromyalgia. It is important to keep active in order to avoid muscle wastage which may result in further pain. Any exercise programmes should only be undertaken with the advice of a healthcare professional with expertise in the condition.
Orthotics and occupational therapy
Orthotics and occupational therapy may also be able to provide supports and/or equipment to prevent pain flareups and to assist people in their everyday life such as wrist supports, easy grip cutlery or other laboursaving devices. They may also be able to suggest different approaches such as pacing activity throughout the day to make tasks more manageable.
Fibromyalgia is as much related to our mental well-being as it is to our physical and neurological well-being, especially if we are experiencing chronic (long-term) pain. This will take its toll affecting our mood and emotional state of mind. Stress, depression and anxiety are all conditions that have been commonly associated with fibromyalgia. Your emotional response to pain may cause you to feel sad, upset, angry or fearful and psychological therapies may be able to help you manage those feelings.
Psychological therapies include cognitive behavioural therapy, group therapy/support, mindfulness, goal setting or speaking to a clinical psychologist. Having the time to talk confidentially about your fears and concerns with a professional who is not emotionally attached to you, i.e. unlike your friends or family can sometimes ease emotional the burden of living with fibromyalgia.
Equally having friends to talk to, being part of an online support group or community with others who share the condition can also provide the much-needed empathy for some individuals
Medication will not cure fibromyalgia however individuals may benefit from drug treatments that will address the associated pain, sleep disturbance or depression. Taking prescription medication to ease the burden of these symptoms may also enable an individual to be more physically active and improve mental health and well-being.
Non-prescription treatment options such as freeze or heat gels or capsaicin cream (derived from hot chilli peppers) may provide some comfort or a distraction for some.
Complimentary therapies such as massage and acupuncture can provide temporary relief from fibromyalgia symptoms for some individuals.
Diet and nutrition
Whilst there is no recommended diet for the treatment of fibromyalgia health practitioners will generally agree that good nutrition is incredibly important to individuals suffering with chronic ill health.
Some research suggests that consumption of processed food containing chemical additives and preservatives may be harmful to people with fibromyalgia. In fact, wider studies have shown that consumption of processed food may also be harmful to the wider population. Therefore, a whole food diet, free from highly processed ingredients is more preferable.
There is also research to suggest that a diet free from dairy and gluten may be beneficial to people with fibromyalgia however, there is not enough clinical evidence to say that this should be considered as a treatment option for people living with the condition. Removing any food group from your diet is not recommended unless it has been identified as something that may be detrimental to your well-being, in consultation a dietician or healthcare professional.
For lots of tasty recipes free from dairy and gluten see FOOD & RECIPES.