Self-help for fibromyalgia – some really great tips

Fibromyalgia -where doesn't it hurt
Fibromyalgia -where doesn’t it hurt

Self-help for fibromyalgia

If you have fibromyalgia, there are several ways to change your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms and make your condition easier to live with.

Your GP, or another healthcare professional treating you, can offer advice and support about making these changes part of your everyday life.

There are organisations to support people with fibromyalgia that may also be able to offer advice. Visit UK Fibromyalgia’s support group section for a list of support groups across the country. You may also find it helpful to talk to other people with fibromyalgia on this online community.

Below are some tips that may help relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia. You can also read more information about living with pain.

Exercise

As fatigue (extreme tiredness) and pain are two of the main symptoms of fibromyalgia, you may find that you’re not able to exercise as much as you’d like. However, an exercise programme specially suited to your condition can help you manage your symptoms and improve your overall health.

Your GP or physiotherapist (healthcare professional trained in using physical techniques to promote healing) can design you a personal exercise programme, which is likely to involve a mixture of aerobic and strengthening exercises.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic activities are any kind of rhythmic, moderate-intensity exercises that increase your heart rate and make you breathe harder. Examples include:

walking

cycling

swimming

Research suggests that aerobic fitness exercises should be included in your personalised exercise plan, even if you can’t complete these at a high level of intensity. For example, if you find jogging too difficult, you could try brisk walking instead.

A review of a number of studies found that aerobic exercises may improve quality of life and relieve pain. As aerobic exercises increase your endurance (how long you can keep going), these may also help you function better on a day-to-day basis.

Resistance and strengthening exercises

Resistance and strengthening exercises are those that focus on strength training, such as lifting weights. These exercises need to be planned as part of a personalised exercise programme; if they aren’t, muscle stiffness and soreness could be made worse.

A review of a number of studies concluded that strengthening exercises may improve:

muscle strength

physical disability

depression

quality of life

People with fibromyalgia who completed the strengthening exercises in these studies said they felt less tired, could function better and experienced a boost in mood.

Improving the strength of your major muscle groups can make it easier to do aerobic exercises.

Read more information and advice on health and fitness.

Pacing yourself

If you have fibromyalgia, it’s important to pace yourself. This means balancing periods of activity with periods of rest, and not overdoing it or pushing yourself beyond your limits.

If you don’t pace yourself, it could slow down your progress in the long term. Over time, you can gradually increase your periods of activity, while making sure they’re balanced with periods of rest.

If you have fibromyalgia, you will probably have some days when your symptoms are better than others. Try to maintain a steady level of activity without overdoing it, but listen to your body and rest whenever you need to.

Avoid any exercise or activity that pushes you too hard, because this can make your symptoms worse. If you pace your activities at a level that’s right for you, rather than trying to do as much as possible in a short space of time, you should make steady progress.

For example, it may help to start with gentler forms of exercise – such as tai chiyoga and pilates – before attempting more strenuous aerobic or strengthening exercises.

Relaxation

If you have fibromyalgia, it’s important to regularly take time to relax or practice relaxation techniques. Stress can make your symptoms worse or cause them to flare up more often. It could also increase your chances of developing depression.

There are many relaxation aids available, including books, tapes and courses, although deep-breathing techniques or meditation may be just as effective. Try to find time each day to do something that relaxes you. Taking time to relax before bed may also help you sleep better at night.

Talking therapies, such as counselling, can also be helpful in combating stress and learning to deal with it effectively. Your GP may recommend you try this as part of your treatment.

Read more about stress management.

Better sleeping habits

Fibromyalgia can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep (known as insomnia). If you have problems sleeping, it may help to:

get up at the same time every morning

try to relax before going to bed

try to create a bedtime routine, such as taking a bath and drinking a warm, milky drink every night

avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before going to bed

avoid eating a heavy meal late at night

make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature, and is quiet and dark

avoid checking the time throughout the night

Avoid winter weight gain

Avoid Winter Weight Gain
Avoid Winter Weight Gain

 

Winter weight gain isn’t just an urban myth. Research has shown most of us could gain around a pound (half a kilo) during the winter months. That may not sound like much, but over the course of a decade it can add up.

“There’s good evidence that people put on weight over the winter,” says dietitian Sian Porter. “The more overweight you are, the more you tend to put on. And the most worrying aspect of this seasonal weight gain is that the pounds tend to stay on. People don’t seem to lose the extra weight.”

The three main reasons that people put on weight in the winter are lack of physical activity, comfort eating and overindulging at Christmas.

Cold weather and shorter days make it harder to exercise outdoors, so it’s easy not to do any exercise over winter. If you’re not outside as much, there’s more time and temptation to reach into the kitchen cupboard for high-calorie sweet snacks, such as biscuits and cakes.

Then of course there are the festivities surrounding Christmas. “What used to be a couple of days of parties and overeating now seems, for some, to be six weeks of overdoing it,” says Porter.

So what’s the solution? Here are four simple ways to avoid winter weight gain.

1. Stock up your kitchen cupboards

Keep your store cupboard stocked with staples such as cans of tomatoes, spices, beans and pulses, dried wholewheat pasta, wholewheat cereals, noodles, couscous and dried fruit.

Keep some extra bread in the freezer if there’s space. That way, you’ll be able to create a quick and nutritious evening meal, such as a lentil or vegetable soup or stew, at short notice. You’ll save money and avoid the temptation to order a high-calorie takeaway.

Here are 10 healthy hot meals for winter.

2. Exercise more in winter

When the outside temperature drops, it’s easy to give up on outdoor exercise. In winter, we stop doing calorie-burning outdoor activities such as short walks and gardening. But reducing the amount of physical activity you do is one of the biggest contributors to winter weight gain.

Cold weather and shorter days don’t mean you have to abandon exercise completely. Instead, rearrange your schedule to fit in what you can. You don’t need formal exercise to burn calories.

A brisk walk can be revitalising after being indoors with the central heating on, and it’ll also help boost your circulation. Put on some warm clothes and jog around the neighbourhood, or start a snowball fight with the kids.

Most leisure centres have heated swimming pools and indoor tennis and badminton courts. If you’d rather stay at home, buy some dance or workout DVDs, and always walk up the stairs at work rather than using the lift. “These little things can make all the difference when it comes to avoiding that pound of weight gain over winter,” says Porter.

Get more tips for exercising in winter.

3. Watch out for high-calorie drinks

It’s important to consume hot drinks throughout winter because it will help you keep warm. But some hot drinks are high in calories.

Milky, syrupy coffee shop drinks and hot chocolate with whipped cream can add a lot of calories to your diet. A Starbucks medium caffe mocha, for instance, contains more than 360 calories.

Stick to regular coffee or tea, or ask for your drink to be “skinny” (made with skimmed milk). Also, limit your alcohol intake as much as possible.

4. Get your winter greens

Eating a wide variety of foods ensures you get a range of nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. Don’t get stuck eating the same food every day.

Look out for root vegetables, such as swedes, parsnips and turnips, and winter veggies such as cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and artichokes. They’re filling as well as nutritious, so they will help you resist a second helping of trifle.

This recipe for a hearty vegetable soup is a great way to get more winter vegetables into your diet.

Living with Multiple Sclerosis – the 7 best exercises

Living with Multiple Sclerosis - the best types of exercise
Living with Multiple Sclerosis – the best types of exercise

Health Central have produced this excellent guide to Multiple sclerosis and Exercise entitled Living with Multiple Sclerosis – the 7 best exercises. We are sharing because we think it is an excellent overview.

We have covered the general area before . We looked at yoga for people with multiple sclerosis here. And general exercise options for people who suffer from chronic pain.

Got a Pain in the Neck? Incorporate These Stretches into Your Daily Routine

Think of all the injuries and pain you’ve had in your life. Some things are temporary—even momentary. A scratch on your finger, a blister from a fun day spent outside. All these things will pass, probably most of them with no more than a bandage or some ointment.

But that’s not the case with other injuries. Bones get broken. Deep cuts require stitches. And falls, overuse, or other injuries can create chronic pain in ways that we have a hard time getting over or getting through.

Take neck injuries: They can happen in all manner of ways, from car accidents to slips and falls and even just strain from overwork. That’s because the neck is in constant use. It holds up our house, of course. But it also helps in other ways, such as holding our phones when we talk or even just exercising and driving a car.

Unfortunately, neck pain becomes a problem for more than just a few people. In fact, neck issues can be an issue for up to 70 percent of all people at some point in their lives. And neck pain takes many different forms: It can become a migraine or a facial ache. It can transfer to the lower back. When it comes to neck pain, more women than men are affected by it too.

Many people’s first impulse may be to shy away from doing anything if they have neck pain. But they shouldn’t: Building those muscles is good work for the body and for the neck. There are a number of different tactics to take, including easy-to-learn stretches that work in low-level physical activity to help the neck muscles. This graphic offers alternatives to practice to help you combat and remedy nuisance neck pain for a healthier future.

You're Neck & Neck - Get Ahead of Your Pain. Simple On-the-Go Stretches.

Self-help tips to fight fatigue

Self-help tips to fight fatiguee
Self-help tips to fight fatigue
Many cases of unexplained tiredness are due to stress, not enough sleep, poor diet and other lifestyle factors. Use these self-help tips to restore your energy levels.

Eat often to beat tiredness

A good way to keep up your energy through the day is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours, rather than a large meal less often.

Read more about healthy eating.

Perk up with exercise

You might feel too tired to exercise, but regular exercise will make you feel less tired in the long run, and you’ll have more energy. Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.

Start with a small amount of exercise. Build up your physical activity gradually over weeks and months until you reach the recommended goal of two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

Read more about starting exercise.

Find out the physical activity guidelines for adults.

Lose weight to gain energy

If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting. It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic. Apart from eating healthily, the best way to lose weight is to be more active and do more exercise.

Read more about how to lose weight.

Sleep well

It sounds obvious, but two-thirds of us suffer from sleep problems, and many people don’t get the sleep they need to stay alert through the day. The Royal College of Psychiatrists advises going to bed and getting up in the morning at the same time every day; avoid naps through the day, and have a hot bath before bed (as hot as you can bear without scalding you) for at least 20 minutes.

Read more about how to get a good night’s sleep.

Try these NHS-approved sleep apps to help you sleep well.

Reduce stress to boost energy

Stress uses up a lot of energy. Try to introduce relaxing activities into your day. This could be working out at the gym, or a gentler option, such as listening to music, reading or spending time with friends. Whatever relaxes you will improve your energy.

Read more about how to relieve stress.

Talking therapy beats fatigue

There’s some evidence that talking therapies such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might help to fight fatigue. See your GP for a referral for talking treatment on the NHS or for advice on seeing a private therapist.

Read more about counselling.

Cut out caffeine

The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends that anyone feeling tired should cut out caffeine. It says the best way to do this is to gradually stop having all caffeine drinks (this includes coffee, tea and cola drinks) over a three-week period. Try to stay off caffeine completely for a month to see if you feel less tired without it.

You may find that not consuming caffeine gives you headaches. If this happens, cut down more slowly on the amount of caffeine that you drink.

Drink less alcohol

Although a few glasses of wine in the evening helps you fall asleep, you sleep less deeply after drinking alcohol. The next day you’ll be tired, even if you sleep a full eight hours.

Cut down on alcohol before bedtime. You’ll get a better night’s rest and have more energy. The NHS recommends that men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week, which is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.

Read more about how to cut down on alcohol.

Drink more water for better energy

Sometimes you feel tired simply because you’re mildly dehydrated. A glass of water will do the trick, especially after exercise.

Read about healthy drinks.