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Coping with Fibromyalgia


Fibromyalgia Coping Strategies Coping with a chronic illness presents an enormous challenge. A patient with diabetes, cancer, multiple sclerosis, allergies, high blood pressure, or any other condition that does not resolve by itself has to make adjustments. Some illnesses require constant accommodation, while others may require fewer changes. For example, for those with high blood pressure, medication and a change of diet may be the only adjustments the patient has to make. Fibromyalgia, unfortunately, does not fall into that category. Patients with fibromyalgia must make profound changes in the way they live.

The key to coping with fibromyalgia consists of first acknowledging the illness, and then adjusting to its limitations. Acknowledging the illness must be the first step. If you cannot accept that you are ill, making the necessary practical adjustments will be impossible.

Acceptance of a long-term illness means that your new life is going to be quite different from your former life, which is a scary thought for most individuals. In this new reality all the rules are different. Fortunately, you can benefit from the wisdom and experience of many patients who have gone before you. These are some of the successful coping techniques patients with fibromyalgia have developed.

 

Minimize Physical Stress


When you have fibromyalgia, your body is not the same safe haven it used to be. Any form of physical strain, whether it's exercising, or simply walking into an air-conditioned room on a hot day, can set off a chain reaction that may leave you in bed for days. The first step toward relieving physical stress is to avoid it.
  • Avoid extremes of temperature - sudden changes in temperature provoke a surge in adrenal hormones. These not only depress the immune system, they place a strain on your endocrine system, which in fibromyalgia patients is already compromised.

  • Avoid strain - it's natural to want to help, but if someone needs assistance moving a heavy piece of furniture, say you have a bad back.

  • Maintain a regular meal schedule - your digestive system prepares for processing what you eat well in advance of your meals. By keeping to a routine, you will maximize your body's ability to digest food. Good nutrition is essential for recovery.

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule - maintaining a sleep schedule is problematic for those with insomnia, especially for people who have difficulty falling asleep. You may turn the lights off at 9 PM, but sleep may not come until hours later. It will help if you don't do anything stimulating for several hours before bed.
It is not particularly important when or how you perform your routines. The idea is to develop a regular and predictable pattern that helps structure your day and minimizes your body's need to adjust to change.

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Further Reading


Bruce Campbell discusses some good methods for handling stress

Chrousos, George P, and Gold, Philip W. "The Concepts of Stress and Stress System Disorders." Journal of the American Medical Association 267:1244-1252, 1992.

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