Fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain all over the body with no clear cause, requires a combination of treatments. Because it doesn’t have a clear and simple cause (for example, there is no inflammation involved), there is no quick cure or perfect pill.
“Individuals need to have physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, medication management, and self-care,” says Anita Gupta, DO, PharmD, pain specialist. “[Self-management] is a critical component for patients to overcome the pain.”
To support patients' fibromyalgia treatment, doctors recommend the following self-care tips for patients:
1. Adhere to your medication regimen.
Taking your pain medication as prescribed is critical for controlling fibromyalgia pain. If a medication isn’t working for you, or is causing unpleasant side effects, talk to your doctor before changing or discontinuing use. They may be able to help you tweak your treatment regimen more safely and effectively.
2. Have good sleep hygiene.
Sleep challenges are common among people with fibromyalgia, so following through on good sleep habits can be an important component for fibromyalgia management.
To reduce sleep problems and improve quality of life, make the following sleep habits a priority:
“Ensure that you talk to your doctor about sleep; it’s an important part of your treatment,” says Dr. Gupta.
3. Manage your stress.
Emotional stress is a common trigger for fibromyalgia, according to the American College of Rheumatology. The relationship between stress and fibromyalgia is reciprocal, since dealing with fibromyalgia can also increase stress.
“Consult a psychologist,” says Dr. Gupta. “Cognitive behavioral therapy has been particularly effective for fibromyalgia and exacerbations of pain, for coping with pain, coping with stress, and also the symptoms related to fibromyalgia.”
It’s also important to find a supportive network of friends, family, or fellow peers with fibromyalgia (such as in a support group).
4. Enroll in physical therapy.
Staying active is a crucial part of fibromyalgia self-management. According to a 2017 study, therapeutic exercise was associated with reduced pain, improved quality of life, and reduced symptoms of depression for people with fibromyalgia.
“Oftentimes doctors will prescribe physical therapy to allow for fibromyalgia patients to stretch their muscles in a safe environment, to have guided strengthening of those muscles, to allow these patients to move, and also to improve their functioning,” says Dr. Gupta.
“Doing those simple steps will get them on the path of recovery early on in their treatment and ensuring that you’re empowering your own health,” says Dr. Gupta.