Staying Positive Despite Fibromyalgia Pain
Chronic pain coupled with fibromyalgia fatigue can do serious emotional damage over time. Learn about helpful strategies to maintain a positive outlook despite your fibromyalgia symptoms.
By Madeline R. Vann, MPH
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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If you're one of the 5 million Americans living with fibromyalgia, it can be difficult to keep a positive attitude. In fact, studies show that many people with this disorder also struggle with stress and depression. But exercising, keeping an handle on daily stress, and getting support from others coping with fibromyalgia symptoms can help you live a full life, even though chronic pain and fibromyalgia fatigue may be pulling you down.
Better understanding the connection between physical fibromyalgia symptoms and their emotional toll is step one. In focus groups conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, patients with fibromyalgia revealed that fibromyalgia symptoms negatively impact their relationships and their work lives. The biggest problems they reported facing were:
If just reading that list shifts your mood from blue to deep indigo, don't lose hope. "Fibromyalgia patients can do many things to help manage their symptoms," says rheumatologist Chad S. Boomershine, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the division of rheumatology and immunology at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
Related: Coping With Fibromyalgia at Work
Here are five steps you can take to achieve a more positive mood and help you to overcome some of the obstacles you might be facing:
Exercise.This recommendation tops the list as a way to feel better, so make a plan to get moving. "Stretching combined with low-intensity resistance and aerobic exercise can decrease pain and improve energy level, sleep quality, mood, and stiffness," says Dr. Boomershine.
If you haven't been physically active for some time, Boomershine suggests getting your doctor's okay first. After that, you can follow a program that he recommends or develop your own. Boomershine's regimen begins with gentle stretches every morning when you wake up. Once you become accustomed to that routine, add resistance exercise three times a week, using a resistance band. Then you can add low-impact aerobics (like walking or water aerobics) three times a week on the other days."To avoid worsening fatigue, patients should exercise at a moderate pace and start with 5 or 10 minutes of exercise a day, gradually working up to 30 minutes per day," advises Boomershine. You might want to work with a physical therapist specializing in fibromyalgia or chronic pain to get back in motion if you need more direct assistance.
- Manage stress.Managing stress can help control fibromyalgia symptoms and prevent flares. Exercise is one way to reduce stress, but you can also try meditation and using other tools, such as journaling. Good self-care, including a healthy diet and making time for sleep, is also important.
- Join a support group.You might get a boost from time spent with other patients who can share their tips for coping with fibromyalgia symptoms, and offer both emotional and social support. Good company has the added benefit of reducing stress. Look around for a group that you feel comfortable with or start your own. Boomershine recommends the as a source for support.
- Get a massage.Consider this permission to indulge. Any massage can help you relax and feel more comfortable in your body, but Boomershine strongly recommends myofascial release, a form of soft-tissue massage that works on the fascia (connective tissues that surround the muscles).
- Work with your doctor.Pain management is crucial to improving your mood and outlook. "There are now three medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for managing fibromyalgia," notes Boomershine. If your current healthcare provider seems not to take your concerns seriously, shop around for one who will work with you to achieve your best level of pain management. Ask your doctor to evaluate and treat conditions you may have that can mimic or worsen fibromyalgia symptoms, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, hormone imbalances, psychiatric conditions, and sleep disorders.
Related: Helping a Loved One Manage Fibromyalgia
Living with fibromyalgia doesn't have to leave you feeling miserable and out of control. You can take charge of your condition and your mood by working on any one — or all — of these five steps to a more positive outlook.
Video: How To Stay Positive With A Chronic Illness
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