A new diagnosis of fibromyalgia might bring a sense of relief—there's a reason for your pain. But it may also bring new questions and concerns. For starters, there's no cure for fibromyalgia. So what can you expect as you start treatment for this condition?
Here's what you should know:
1. Your pain may have no physical signs. This may have made it hard to diagnose your condition, and it can make it hard to manage fibromyalgia too. Your best bet is to find a doctor who has extensive experience working with people who have this condition.
2. You’ll probably work with a team of caregivers. Treatment for fibromyalgia isn’t limited to medication prescribed by your rheumatologist or primary care doctor, says Dr. Carey Dachman, a rheumatologist with Pain Therapy Associates in Schaumburg, Illinois. You’ll also work with physical therapists and psychologists who can help you manage the pain.
3. Pay attention to your sleep. Sleep problems are a hallmark of fibromyalgia, so you’ll want to do all you can to improve the quality of your sleep. Your doctor might even have you do a sleep study to rule out other sleep problems, such as sleep apnea.
4. Exercise can help you. This may be hard to do when you don’t feel your best, but making the effort to move will help you in the long run. The American College of Rheumatology advises slowly adding exercise to your daily routine.
5. You may need therapies beyond medications. A number of alternative therapies may help you, including acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbal supplements and yoga.
6. Watch for other health issues. There are a number of concerns linked to fibromyalgia that you might experience. These include thinking and memory problems, morning stiffness, painful periods, and tingling or numbness in your hands and feet.
7. Monitor your mental health too. About 20 percent of people with fibromyalgia also have depression or anxiety. It’s important to get treatment for these problems from a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. Otherwise it becomes even harder to manage your fibromyalgia.
8. Familiarize yourself with your meds. Your doctor will probably prescribe a combination of medications to help manage your sleep and pain. This is not likely to include opioids except in severe cases.
9. Keep a log of what triggers your pain. You can learn through some careful study what causes you pain. Once you know this, you can decide what changes need to be made in your daily life. For example, it might help if you shift from sitting to standing or walking every 20 minutes. Or you might find that you need to stretch after a few minutes of looking at a computer screen.
10. Share what you're going through with family members and friends. The more they know about what fibromyalgia truly is and what your symptoms are, the better they can provide you with the emotional support you need.