Reducing Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

Lifestyle changes that can help alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms include

  • avoiding caffeine (it can aggravate sleep disorders),
  • sticking to an exercise program,
  • avoiding nonessential activities,
  • performing tasks more efficiently,
  • establishing regular sleep routines, and
  • eating a healthy diet.

Learning relaxation techniques (e.g., meditation, biofeedback) may help control fibromyalgia symptoms.

Exercise
Routine low-impact aerobics and strength may help reduce pain, tender-point counts, depression, and sleep disturbances in patients with fibromyalgai. During aerobic exercise, hormone-like substances called endorphins are released. Endorphins help relieve pain and produce a feeling of well-being. Walking, swimming, and riding a stationary bicycle provide excellent low-impact aerobic exercise. Fibromyalgia patients should choose an exercise program they enjoy and stick with it, because exercise must be routine to be beneficial.

Physical Therapy
Depending on individual fibromyalgia symptoms, heat, ice, massage, whirlpool, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation may be used to reduce pain. Physical therapists can also design an exercise program to improve flexibility, fitness, and posture in people with fibromyalgia.

Behavior Modification
Behavior modification involves learning coping skills, relaxation exercises, and self-hypnosis. Pain perception involves both physical and psychological components and counseling or therapy may help patients with fibromyalgia learn better methods of coping with their illness, enhance self-esteem, and reduce stress.

Behavioral cognitive therapy effectively strengthens a person's belief in their own abilities and enables them to develop tools for dealing with stress. A specific goal of cognitive therapy is to change the idea that patients are helpless in regard to their pain.

Emotional Support and Education
Fibromyalgia patients who take an active role in their care can often improve their quality of life. Emotional support is very important when dealing with a chronic condition such as fibromyalgia. Some patients find support among family and friends, and others find support groups or group therapy to be helpful.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Dec 1999

Last Modified: 15 Sep 2015