Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain syndrome characterized by diffuse muscle pain, fatigue, memory problems, and mood changes. In addition to the above symptoms, patients may also complain of confusion and sleep problems. Sometimes, the symptoms of fibromyalgia aggravate or happen more frequently for a period of time; this called a flare. It generally occurs over several days or weeks.
There are certain triggers that bring about fibromyalgia flares. It is important to identify them in order to prevent a flare. Triggers for fibromyalgia vary by person, and include:
- Physical or psychological stress
- Temperature and/weather changes
- Hormonal changes
- Traveling and/or changes in schedule
- Changes in treatment
- Poor sleep
There is no specific treatment for fibromyalgia. It’s more about symptomatic relief and preventing flare-ups, which is less complicated than treating a flare.
Not all kinds of triggers are avoidable but it is highly useful to identify those you can avoid. One can try logging activities and events to that effect.
Avoiding or reducing stress is the best way to prevent a fibromyalgia flare-up. These patients already experience stress and feelings of depression, anxiety, and frustration as part of their syndrome, and therefore, are prone to more stress. Stress reduction techniques such as meditation or yoga may help manage stress. It is important to stay active and do light exercise. For mood related issues, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and group therapy can be helpful.
Fatigue is very common in fibromyalgia. It is important to have restful and regular sleep for these patients. Sleep hygiene practices go a long way in that regard. Having a properly made, clean bed with a comfortable room temperature are steps in that direction. Taking small naps during the day can help too.
There are no specific diet recommendations for people with fibromyalgia but there are certain foods that appear to make the symptoms worse. In order to identify diet-related triggers, an elimination diet could be tried, in which you exclude certain food groups each week to see if symptoms improve. Once identified, see how you can abstain from that ingredient while still maintaining a healthy diet. Proper nutrition in general boosts energy levels and general wellness, so it should not be compromised.
Fibromyalgia has several symptoms, which means that no one treatment will fix them all. Also, a treatment that works for one person may not work for another.
Various treatments in different combinations may have to be tried before someone finds a plan that works for them. The treatment plan will often be a blend of medication and lifestyle changes.
Medications that may be helpful in fibromyalgia include antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs naltrexone, etc. There is little evidence to show that alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage, and aromatherapy have any role in the treatment of fibromyalgia, but they may help to reduce stress.