Fibromyalgia Self-Care

Fibromyalgia affects individuals differently.  You can actively help to reduce your symptoms. Here are some tips to minimize its potential effects on your daily life.    

EXERCISE – Overall physical deconditioning is very common and can cause pain due to increased joint stiffness and muscle weakness.  Research has shown that movement is necessary.  The following tips can help you get started on the right path!

  • Start slowly.  If you haven’t been exercising regularly,start with 5 – 10 minutes of light exercise and gradually increase time and intensity in order to build strength and avoid post-exercise soreness.
  • Stretch daily, especially before exercise.  Stretching after exercise can also help you feel better.
  • Moderate aerobic activity is highly recommended – it can help improve your mood and sleep, and reduce physical symptoms.
  • Post-exercise soreness is a normal part of the process and will decrease over time.

SLEEP -Pain causes poor sleep and poor sleep can cause pain.  Our bodies are able to heal better when we are getting adequate sleep.  Here are some tips for better sleep:

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule.  Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time – even on weekends.  Our bodies need that consistency.
  • Get as much natural light as you can in the AM.  Spend more time outside,especially in the late afternoon and evening. Our brains respond to the cycle of the sun, which regulates our sleep cycle.
  • Naps can be helpful to get through the day, but try to avoid a nap that is longer than 45 minutes and don’t take a nap after 3 PM.
  • Avoid caffeine as much as possible, but especially within 7 hours of bedtime!
  • More physical activity and exercise -especially in the afternoon – helps you sleep more deeply.  Be careful not to exercise too closely before bedtime.  Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality.
  • Alcohol and nicotine can negatively affect our sleep cycle.  A glass of wine may make you fall asleep more quickly, but as soon as your blood alcohol level drops, you may find yourself wide awake.
  • Modify your bedroom: Keep the room cool.  When the room is too warm, we’re more apt to not sleep as deeply and arouse easier. Minimize light and sound. Sometimes even the light of the alarm clock can be too much!  Invest in yourself with really comfortable pillows, bed linens and pajamas.
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine – and stick to it every night – so that your body knows that it’s time to sleep.  Listen to soft music, spend a few minutes breathing deeply or doing whatever works for you!

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF EMOTIONALLY – It is essential to develop coping methods to deal with the psychological stressors of life. Fibromyalgia can be hard for family and friends to understand.  It is possible that they may not fully comprehend what you are going through.

  • Learn more about fibromyalgia and how you can educate your friends and family.  A few helpful websites include:

Mayo Clinic:

National Fibromyalgia Association:

American Chronic Pain Association:

  • Consider an online or in-person support group. 
  • Discover ways to manage stress, such as meditation and visualization exercises.
  • Explore cognitive behavioral therapy with a mental health practitioner.  It can help you see how your thoughts and interpretations affect how you feel.
  • Take some time every day to think about the positive aspects of your life. 

Vehicle Ergonomics


Vehicle Ergonomics

Vehicle ergonomics can play a significant role in preventing and/or improving neck and back pain related to driving.  When we drive, all the fundamentals of ergonomics come into play:  posture, force, and repetition.  Just simply putting your hands on the steering wheel increases tension in the shoulders.  The most significant contributors to increased neck pain while driving is insufficient head room and inadequate positioning.  Maintaining good, balanced driving posture can reduce the amount of strain in the neck, shoulders and the lower back.  Here are some tips on how to reduce strain in your back and neck with driving:

Good, Balanced Driving Posture

  • Hips all the way back in the seat
  • Hips slightly higher than knees, if possible. Use a stress wedge if needed.
  • Midback supported by the backrest
  • Arms held in a neutral position and hands on the steering wheel at approximately 4 o’clock and 8 o’clock positions.
  • Feet can reach the gas and break pedals without reaching from the hips.

Vehicle Tips For Your Back:

  • A vehicle that sits high off the curb, an SUV, truck or van is better than a sports car
  • Enter a car by sitting down first, and then swing the legs in rather than climbing foot first into the vehicle.  Reverse this process when getting out, swinging both legs out first.
  • Automatic transmissions are less straining than manual
  • Adjust the lumbar support so it adequately supports the inward curve of your low back.  Or, you can add one using a small pillow, lumbar roll, or rolled up towel.
  • Use a foam wedge to elevate your pelvis and add extra support if your seat has lost some rigidity
  • The seat should be adjustable in tilt and height independently of each other, creating a space of 2-3 finger widths from the back of the knee to the seat

Vehicle Tips For Your Neck and Shoulders:

  • Avoid leaning forward as you sit in the seat, keep your shoulders back
  • Position the car seat so your arms are not fully extended
  • The back rest should come to shoulder height and not obstruct your rear vision
  • Choose an adjustable steering wheel, one that moves in/out and up/down, and tilt
  • Ensure you have proper head room and leg room
  • Look for a car with power steering

Nutrition and Control of Chronic Inflammation

Chronic, low grade inflammation is at the root of many health problems, such as cancer, digestive problems, and chronic pain. Inflammation is our body’s response to constant irritants including smoking, lack of exercise and diets that are high in fat, calories, and processed foods. As we approach the holiday season, eating healthy is a great way to reduce inflammation and promote better healing and overall health.

1: Choose foods that Decrease Inflammation & Support the Immune System:

Foods That Fight Inflammation (EAT)                             Foods That Increase Inflammation (LIMIT)

  • Omega- 3 Rich Fish (Salmon, Tuna, Oysters)
  • Red Meat
  • Whole Grains (Wild Rice, Oatmeal)
  • Processed Carbs
  • Beans and Legumes (Black Beans, Lentils)
  • Sugar
  • Nuts and Seeds (Walnuts, Almonds, Flaxseed)
  • Soda, Fruit Juice, Sports Drinks
  • Fruits and Vegetables (Berries, Leafy Greens)
  • Full Fat Dairy
  • Spices (Garlic, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Ginger)
  • Trans Fats Found in Processed Food and Pastries
  • Cocoa and Dark Chocolate 70% or Higher
  • Excessive Alcohol
  • Olive Oil and Green Tea
  • Aspartame (Artificial Sweetener) and Sodium

2: Maintain Blood Glucose Levels: Foods with high GI rating increase glucose rapidly, and then fall quickly. This spike in blood sugar leaves you feeling hungry sooner. Foods with low GI help you stay fuller longer.

Low GI Foods (EAT)                                                     High GI Foods (Limit)

  • Whole Grains
  • White Bread
  • Most Vegetables
  • White Rice
  • Dairy- Milk, Yogurt, Cheese
  • Corn
  • Most Fruits
  • Most Cereals
  • Nuts and Barley
  • Pretzels and Popcorn
  • Whole and Sprouted Wheat Bread and Pasta
  • Rice Cakes
  • Slow Cook Oatmeal
  • Some Fruits and Fruit Juice
  • Brown Rice and Quinoa
  • Sugar

3: Drink More Water!!  

4: Decrease Sugar Intake: Sugar has shown a significant impact on inflammation in the body. The AHA recommends daily intake not exceed 37g for men and 25g for women.

List of Words Meaning Added Sugar to LIMIT:

  • Brown Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Corn Sweetener
  • Raw Sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit Juice Concentrate
  • Syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert Sugar
  • Maltose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maple Syrup
  • Molasses
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • White Grape Juice
  • Lactose
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup

5: Decrease Sodium Intake: The DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) bases its diet on 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day and suggests further lowering salt intake to 1,500 milligrams per day. 2,400mg of sodium equals 6gm or 1 teaspoon of table salt.

Lower Sodium Options:

  • Buy fresh, frozen, or canned with no salt-added vegetables
  • Choose low or reduced-sodium versions of foods when available
  • Limit cured foods (such as bacon/ham), foods packed in brine (pickled vegetables, olives)
  • Choose fresh salsa instead of ketchup or barbeque sauces

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!!!