As we know, Fibromyalgia can be quite debilitating at times. There are a number of ways that I have successfully relieved pain and other symptoms on a short-term basis and these should certainly be in any fibro-warrior’s arsenal. There’s nothing very profound or earth-shattering in this section and most likely you have already discovered these, but just in case, I will list these successful ways I have gotten some immediate relief when I am feeling rough or in a flare.
Hot Bath: I love a hot bath when I am achy or just feel bad. It really helps for hours or sometimes can even cool a flare down completely.
I always use a very healthy amount of Epsom Salts or other Mineral Salts that have a ton of magnesium. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and I think it is best when absorbed through the skin directly into the achy muscles. I also put some lavender essential oil in as well, which smells so good, to make this a feel-good-fest. I also add hot water periodically to keep it at a nice hot temp. Inevitably the pain eases down but sometimes you don’t realize how much until after the bath when you are laying in bed and you realize that the pain has come down at least several notches.
Hot Shower: A long hot shower can really help. What’s good about a shower is that you can let the water run over your head and neck and back. I like to do a little gentle stretching of my neck muscles and sideways stretching of my back while under the hot water. As you get more used to the water temperature you can periodically increase the heat a bit to a really hot but pleasant level.
In both cases, hot bath and shower, I recommend making sure the bathroom is well heated (I use a little space heater) to keep you warm during your soak and so you don’t get cold when you get out.
Muscle creams: such as Arnica Cream can also help. There are a ton of brans and options on this. I don’t like using creams that are full of chemicals and unnatural things that go right into my bloodstream through my skin. ProSirona , MyoNatural Pain Cream and Rub On Relief are some options you might try.
Heat: Heat can often help achy muscles. For inflammation you should use cold, like an ice pack that is covered. But for sore or achy muscles heat works great. There are numerous ways you can get heat into your muscles. Of course a hot bath or shower provides lots of wet heat and I have found wet heat to be very helpful. But sometimes while we are working or doing other things, having some additional heat into those achy muscles can really help. Here are some things you can do:
- Heating pad – which you can put over your back or shoulders. I have an extra long one that works great over my shoulders.
- Thermacare Heat Packs – I love these. They have different shapes and sizes. They are great to put on under your clothes and usually last for 8 hours or longer. I use them on my back and shoulders or a particularly achy joint.
- Infrared Sauna: I bought a great little infrared sauna on Craigslist for a greatly reduced price. The infrared seems to get the heat deeper into my muscles and this really helps. I do some stretching and then spend 20-30 minutes in the sauna and love it.
Rest or Naps: I use to always battle my fatigue and force myself to push through it (which I don’t recommend). When it was so bad that I finally relented and took a nap, I would often pass out for a couple of hours. Afterwards I felt less fatigued but felt really out of it and would always have a hard time sleeping that night. This made me more resistive to napping. But what I have found that works well is either a) just lying down and resting (watching a show on TV or a video on my computer) or b) taking a short nap for like 15 or 20 minutes where I don’t go into a deep sleep. I have my husband wake me or set my phone to buzz after 20 minutes. Either of these have helped to refresh me and ease off the fatigue without adversely effecting my sleep that night.
Therapeutic Massage: I think any kind of massage helps ease some pain by improving blood flow through the muscles. Of everything I have tried, I have gotten the greatest benefit from an actual massage therapist who hones in on trouble spots and really works out the kinks in those more painful or locked up areas. I also like deep tissue massages as long as they don’t go too hard. If you prefer something softer and more relaxing, a Swedish massage can be great too. Trigger point therapy and Myofascial release are two other methods that you may find helpful or relieving as well. I think you should try different ones and find what works best for you.
For Christmas my brother bought me a Brookstone massager and this is really easy to use on my neck and back. Since I don’t have the funds to get professional massages that often, this little machine has been a godsend.
Chiropractic Adjustments: I have been to a lot of Chiropractors and have tried a number of different theories and techniques. I often experienced a lot of pain when being adjusted which of course I didn’t like. When I tried gentler methods I didn’t really experience much relief. For a while I gave up, but later I found a happy place with Chiropractic. I found that if I either got a really good massage before getting an adjustment or if I if or the Chiro massaged the muscles around the spine well, he could adjust me much more gently with very good results. For me, I found one out of probably 10 different Chiropractors that I did well with. But now I have been able to get an adjustment from him when I need it and it really helps to bring down pain. If you try Chiropractic, I recommend being vocal about what you can tolerate and working with him or her to find the right techniques and level of force that works best for you.
Acupuncture: This is something that I am embarrassed to say I have never tried as I just get a bit weirded out about lying there with a bunch of needles stuck in me. Anyway, since I know this is pretty stupid and I have heard from many others that acupuncture can be very helpful, I thought it really should be included in this section.
OTC Anti-Inflammatory or Sleep Meds: I use to heavily depend on these to ease pain so that I could keep working and to get a good night’s sleep. I have popped a lot of Advil and OTC sleep meds in my day. Being that they were over-the-counter, I could get an endless supply of them. What I hadn’t done was read the fine print on the box, the warnings about long-term use and the clear instructions that you are only supposed to take them for a short period of time. Since then I have read up on the dangers and bad side-effects of long term use of NSAIDs, Tylenol, etc.
So while they can provide short-term pain relief, I have stopped using them at all unless I really have to on a very rare occasion. Here is an article (one of many if you search on the internet) that you should read that gives some very good information on this. http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20030130/when-relieving-pain-raises-risk
A similar danger is in use of OTC sleep meds, most of which are antihistamines, in that they have been linked to Alzheimer’s and dementia. I cover more information on this, as well as alternative aids to help you sleep, later in this book.