by Susan Fishell
Living Through Pain and Frustration – Tips and Techniques for Fibromyalgia Self Care
Slightly more than five years ago after thousands of dollars in medical expenses and numerous tests that all indicated “normal” test results, I finally received a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and began my journey of living with this painful and frustrating condition. During my journey, I have discovered a number of tips that can make the daily struggle of living with fibromyalgia a little easier and can alleviate some of the pain and discomfort. Soon after I was diagnosed, I stumbled upon a book by Dr. Ginevra Liptan entitled Figuring Out Fibromyalgia. Many of the ideas listed below came from this book and her subsequent publication The Fibro Manual. If you are struggling with fibro, I urge you to get a copy of The Fibro Manual. The information contained in this recent publication has been invaluable to me and my path towards healing and fibromyalgia self care .
At my very lowest point, I could not lift my arms to my mouth to eat my morning cereal. Now I have recovered my full range of motion and am the most flexible that I have ever been. You can get better. While listening to the radio station WPER Positive Hits 90.5, I heard Theresa Mills state that the word HOPE stands for Hold On Pain Ends. It is my prayer that each one reading this will find at least one thing that can make his/her daily life with this dreaded condition a little easier. As with anything concerning your health, please check with your doctor or healthcare provider before taking any supplements or starting a regime of exercising and stretching.
Since pain, fatigue and stiffness at times can make daily routines difficult, I have found a few tricks and tools to make daily living easier, especially on those bad days.
Protecting Fibro Backs
A long pair of tongs can be helpful for picking up things when bending or reaching is out. Use them to retrieve dropped items from the floor, take clothes out of the dryer, or reach things out of the cupboard.
A speaker phone can save your neck and back! Instead of crooking your neck to the side and holding the phone to your ear (remember that static locked positions are your enemy), put the phone on speaker to avoid prolonged awkward positioning.
If you love to read, you probably have realized that holding up a book or even a newspaper for a prolonged period of time may be too much. Using a tablet, books on tape, or a reading stand can help. (I have also found the tablet to be easier on my body for emailing and light computer usage.)
When taking a car trip, use pillows to prop up your arms and a towel or pillow to bolster your neck. A heat wrap (or heated seats if you’re lucky) can come in handy, too.
Driving can be your worst enemy of fibromyalgia self care; if you must do it often or for a single prolonged period of time (which could be as little as 10 minutes if you are really flared up). I never drive without a travel-sized pillow under each of my arms. The pillows fill the space between my lap and the wheel so I am not holding my arms locked in a stationary position with no support.
Stretch every day. I always begin my daily stretching in the shower so that the heat of the water also aids in loosening my muscles. Then. as soon as I towel off I continue with additional stretching while I am still loose and warm. Do each stretch slowly but avoid too much repetition (maybe two-three reps of each).
Tools for Fibromyalgia Self Care
Pillows, pillows, pillows … in the car, at the table, on the couch, in the bed. Extra pillows can keep you propped and supported. At bedtime make sure your primary pillow gives your neck good support. Fill in with support pillows as needed especially for the hips, arms and shoulders. Find a good mattress topper or mattress. Foam works best for me. Also, lavender aromatherapy can help enhance sleep.
Use a small ball, like a tennis ball or trigger point ball, to help roll out knots. You can lean against it on a wall, or lay on it on the ground, and take it with you when you travel.
A Theracane, basically knobs on a stick, can help you get precise pressure on your tender points. And it is great for reaching your neck, back, and shoulders without exerting yourself too much.
Heat wraps deliver moist heat help relax muscle tension. You can find ones that heat up in the microwave like a rice pack or aromatherapy pillows from Mother Earth.
Foam rollers target broad areas of your body at once. They are great for general tautness and large muscle groups.
Use your large exercise ball as a support when you stretch- especially good for stretching your back.
Magnesium, such as in an epsom salt bath or oil, can help ease muscle soreness and tension.
Lavender aromatherapy serves as both a natural stress reducer and sleep aid.
A Cranio Cradle can also help traction your neck and encourage rest.
The great outdoors is free. Get outside every day. No matter how bad you feel. The movement and sunshine (and nature) can help keep you going and connected to the world.
Many thanks to the staff at Nimbus Massage. Their compassionate, knowledgeable and skillful therapists literally keep me moving while maintaining my pain at tolerable levels. Without their encouragement and assistance, I would never have compiled this list of tips and tools. They are truly awesome!!
Some quality sources of information that have helped me include:
The Fibro Manual by Dr. Ginevra Liptan.
Healing Through Trigger Point Therapy by Devin J. Starlanyl and John Sharkey
The Fibromyalgia Partnership and their quarterly publication Fibromyalgia Frontiers.
YouTube always has helpful fibromyalgia self care videos for how-to’s on stretching and using tools.