An introduction to self help and fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a health condition that is said to affect up to 4% of people. Symptoms experienced include muscle pain, memory loss, poor concentration, excessive tiredness, digestive problems and sleep disturbances. For more information on fibromyalgia symptoms follow the link
People will experience fibromyalgia in different ways but almost everyone will complain of pain, tenderness and stiffness in muscles. These symptoms appear to come about because of an increased sensitivity in the nerves supplying these tissues of the body. For more information on what we understand to be the causes of fibromyalgia, go to our page on What is fibromyalgia?
As muscle pain is such a prominent symptom, treatment of fibromyalgia is often centered on alleviating these symptoms. Apart from using conventional pain-killers, many people reading these pages will be interested in the use of herbal remedies such as Arnica and Devil’s Claw to help relieve pain.
Before recommending any remedies however, naturopaths will always consider dietary and lifestyle changes. This page will provide you with information on self-help tips and what you can do to help yourself if you suffer from fibromyalgia.
Naturopaths believe that pain arises as a result of a disturbance in how the body handles and metabolises substances such as minerals. Altering your diet from one with a tendency to produce acids to one which is more alkaline will be the first step you can take when helping yourself.
In general, keep your diet as natural as possible. Eat wholefoods (instead of refined processed, ready-made foods), fruit and vegetables. Reduce your consumption of dairy produce, caffeine-containing drinks, alcohol and animal proteins.
However, there are certain vegetables which you should avoid and these are generally from the deadly nightshade family – potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines.
Read more about diet and fibromyalgia.
General self-help recommendations for fibromyalgia
- Reduce stressful influences as far as possible as stress worsens symptoms
- Magnesium, a vitamin B complex and herbal stress relief remedies will help your body cope better with stress and relax muscles
- Magnesium is also useful for reducing pain levels and improving sleep
- Do regular breathing exercises - poor breathing habits contribute to many aspects of fibromyalgia
- Get sufficient rest. Take a valerian based remedy if getting to sleep or staying asleep proves problematic
- Try Arnica externally for stiff and painful muscles
- Try Devil’s Claw to reduce pain in joints
- Try Ginkgo biloba if your concentration, memory or circulation need help
- St. John’s wort can be useful if you suffer from low mood
- Drink a cleansing detox tea to help your body remove toxins
- Supplement your diet with flaxseed or fish oils
- Return to normal levels of physical activity slowly and gradually, as strenuous exercise may cause a relapse.
Many people with fibromyalgia will benefit from a few simple breathing exercises.
Muscle pain and stiffness, especially in the neck, shoulders and spine, limits movement and this in turn causes breathing to be short and shallow. Breathing better will also help oxygenate blood more efficiently, relieve tension in the neck and shoulders as well as reduce any anxiety experienced in the mind by relaxing the body.
- Sit in a chair with arms and rest your own arms on them as comfortably as you can
- Press down with your arms so that you are not letting your shoulders come up towards your ears
- Breathe - ensure that your abdomen moves outwards at the start of inhalation (breathing in). This will guarantee that your diaphragm is moving properly and flattens at the end of each breath
- Inhale through your nose only, counting slowly up to 2 or 3
- Without pausing to hold the breath, exhale slowly through your mouth with your lips pursed (as when kissing), to a count of 4, 5 or 6. The breath-out should be slow and continuous
- Repeat inhaling and exhaling. Eventually you should be able to make the exhalation phase last to a count of 8
- Repeat until you’ve done at least 10 cycles. Do this for a few minutes every hour if you are anxious or if stress is increasing.