Fibromyalgia pain: Options for coping
Medically reviewed on Nov 11, 2017
Fibromyalgia pain tends to come and go throughout your body. On the days when your symptoms flare, everything can feel more difficult — and it's easy to become discouraged.
Sometimes, one of the toughest things to accept is that there is no cure for fibromyalgia. While lifestyle changes and medications can lessen the severity of your fibromyalgia pain or fatigue, you will continue to have good days and bad days.
Why prepare for a bad day?
When fibromyalgia pain or fatigue is severe, it might be tough for you to think clearly. A flare of fibromyalgia symptoms can send you spiraling into stress and despair if you aren't prepared. But having a plan to follow gives you a sense of control over your signs and symptoms.
Write down your options for coping. Keep your list handy so that you can grab it when you feel a flare starting.
Different strategies work better for some people than for others. Some may work fine for you on one day but not on another. That's why it's good to have a variety of options written down to choose from.
Avoid negative self-talk
Studies have shown that what we say to ourselves inside our heads can affect our perception of pain. Turning negative thoughts into positive ones takes practice, but it's worth the effort.
|I can't do anything because of my symptoms.||I can do many things. I just need to pace myself and take breaks.|
|I have no control over my happiness. The pain controls me.||I can control my happiness. I can be happy and enjoy life despite pain.|
|People at work are upset with me. They don't think I'm doing my share.||I will do the best job I can and feel good about my accomplishments.|
Tell someone when you're having a difficult day
You might be tempted to keep it to yourself, but resist that urge. While some alone-time is a good way to relax, isolating yourself for days can end up making you feel lonely. Tell an understanding friend or family member that you're feeling frustrated or overwhelmed — but don't dwell on your signs and symptoms.
In-person or online support groups can link you to people who also are dealing with fibromyalgia. In addition to the comfort of talking with people who are facing the same types of challenges, members often share coping techniques that might work for you too.
Try to avoid support groups that focus solely on challenges and limitations. It's much more helpful to find a group of people who focus on what they're able to do and share encouraging stories about techniques they've used to help them manage their pain flares.
Spend your energy 'pennies' wisely
Sometimes it helps to think of the amount of energy you have as pennies in a piggy bank. You need to prioritize tasks so that you won't run out of pennies before the day is done. Pace yourself and take frequent breaks to rest. This mindset is crucial on days when your symptoms flare.
Look at what's coming up on your calendar. Identify what's necessary and what's not. Focus your energy in the next few days on what's necessary. Prioritizing your tasks can help reduce your stress levels. People who are overly stressed often have tense muscles, which tend to amplify fibromyalgia pain.
Ask for help when you need it
Make a list of people who can help you on bad days. For instance, a family member may be willing to fix meals or run errands for a day. You may be reluctant to be a burden, but your friends and family love you and want to help.
Another option is to split chores up into smaller tasks that can be divided among everyone in the house. If everybody helps a little with cooking and cleanup of a meal, for example, no one person gets worn out.
Look for other community resources to help you complete necessary tasks when you're having a really difficult day. Short-term changes to try on a tough day might include online grocery shopping for pickup or delivery. Consider public transportation or ride-hailing for an easier, less stressful way of getting where you need to go. Or, recruit neighborhood kids to help with yardwork.
Identify activities that distract you from your symptoms. Examples include:
- Funny movies
- Quick-read books
- Outings with friends
- Favorite museums
- Beautiful walking paths
Set aside time for relaxation on your daily schedule. Add more relaxation time on days when your fibromyalgia symptoms flare. Relaxation techniques include:
- Deep-breathing exercises. Breathe in slowly and deeply through your nose to a count of six. Hold the air in your lungs for a count of one and then breathe out slowly through your mouth to a count of six.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. Tighten and then relax body parts one at a time, starting at either your head or your feet.
- Meditation. Focusing on the present moment, calmly and without anxiety, can help quiet your mind and relax your muscles.
- Visualization. Take an imaginary trip to a beautiful place. Use all your senses to experience the location as fully as possible. Feel the sun's warmth. Hear the birds.
You can also try yoga, prayer, massage, or listening to nature or other soothing sounds.
Practice makes perfect
The more often you use coping strategies, the easier they become. Figure out what works for you and understand that may change from day to day. Be flexible and try another coping strategy if needed.
If you have fibromyalgia, difficult days are inevitable. But planning ahead can help you take control of the bad days so that fibromyalgia pain doesn't take control of you.