Common Health Issues
Dr. Nancy

Living with Fibromyalgia: Tips for Maintaining a Great Quality of Life

May 20, 2019

"Practicing effective self-care may be able to reduce Fibromyalgia symptoms by 90%."

In today’s live with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD holistic nutritionist, we are going to be talking about autoimmune issues: specifically, fibromyalgia. We will learn the facts about the condition, the most common symptoms, as well as what causes fibromyalgia to flare up. Then Dr. Nancy will share some great tips to help avoid fibromyalgia pain and fatigue in the future, as well as share some healthy natural remedies.

Video Highlights.

  • 4:07: What is Fibromyalgia?
  • 5:50: Facts about Fibromyalgia
  • 7:55: Common Misdiagnoses
  • 9:52: How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?
  • 10:57: Three criteria for diagnosing fatigue
  • 12:29: Major Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
  • 14:48: Fibromyalgia Flare Ups
  • 16:15: Potential flare up triggers
  • 17:33: What can you do to minimize the pain and fatigue caused by Fibromyalgia?
  • 17:40: Stretch
  • 21:21: Practice Yoga
  • 22:46: Yoga Poses that are Ideal for Fibromyalgia
  • 30:13: Get a Massage
  • 31:50: Get Enough Sleep
  • 33:56: Exercise
  • 35:18: Eat an anti-inflammatory healthy diet
  • 37:42: Foods to Avoid
  • 40:42: Wrap Up

What is Fibromyalgia?

We hear so much about this mysterious condition. Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by a widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness. It’s commonly accompanied by fatigue, and issues with sleep, memory and mood. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals. While the jury is still out on the exact cause of fibromyalgia, it appears that symptoms often show up after you’ve experienced a physical trauma such as a car accident, a serious infection, or prolonged and chronic stress.

In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no specific triggering event. Also, there is strong evidence that contributing factors include unhealthy diets, autoimmune disorders, obesity, and chronic inflammation.

Facts about Fibromyalgia

  • Women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. In fact, current estimates indicate that roughly 10 million people are diagnosed with fibromyalgia each year, and a staggering 90% of those are women. Doctors think this could be related to differences in the way men and women feel and react to pain.
  • Fibromyalgia also appears to be genetic, meaning it often runs in families.

Common Misdiagnoses

Fibromyalgia is commonly misdiagnosed as a number of autoimmune conditions, including:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Anemia
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Lyme disease
  • MS; Multiple Sclerosis
  • Neuropathy
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other autoimmune disorders

A lot of these autoimmune disorders will overlap, so if you have any of the different fibromyalgia symptoms, then it could trigger a possible misdiagnosis.

How is Fibromyalgia Diagnosed?

This condition can be very, very difficult to pinpoint and diagnose. There is no specific test for it and the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia are very similar to other health issues, including thyroid conditions, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and especially Lyme disease. All these autoimmune diseases kind of mirror and overlap each other.

Doctors will often test for these conditions as a way to rule them out before considering fibromyalgia. The American College of Rheumatology has established three criteria for diagnosing fibromyalgia:

  • Pain and symptoms over the previous week plus levels of fatigue, unsatisfactory sleep, and cognitive issues.
  • Symptoms that have been ongoing for at least three months.
  • The lack of any other health problem that would explain the symptoms.

Symptoms of Fibromyalgia can appear at any time during a person’s life, but they are most commonly reported around the age of 45. Many people who have fibromyalgia also find that they experience the condition in tandem with tension headaches, TMJ, and irritable bowel syndrome. These people are also more likely to experience anxiety and depression.

Major Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia

  • Widespread pain — The pain associated with Fibromyalgia is often described as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months. It’s common for the aches and pain to occur throughout the entire body, on both sides and both above and below the waist.
  • Fatigue — It’s common for people suffering from fibromyalgia to wake up and feel exhausted despite sleeping for extended periods of time. It’s also common for sleep to be interrupted by pain caused by the condition.
  • Brain fog — This presents itself in many different ways: fatigue, extreme lethargy, decreased motivation, and difficulty focusing or paying attention, trouble concentrating, and difficulty forming and communicating thoughts, confusion, and fibro fog.

These are the most common symptoms of fibromyalgia. However, there is a whole host of other symptoms often observed with fibromyalgia, such as:

  • Jaw pain and stiffness
  • Pain and tiredness in the face muscles, especially around the jaw
  • Stiff joints and muscles in the morning
  • Headaches
  • Painful menstrual periods
  • Tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sensitivity to cold and heat

Fibromyalgia Flare-Ups

Those who have fibromyalgia do experience flare-ups. It can cause pain and discomfort on a pretty regular basis. For some people, the pain fluctuates and can be excruciating… even debilitating. Symptoms of Fibromyalgia vary from person to person and some people with Fibromyalgia may experience symptoms on a regular basis. Others experience pain that fluctuates and tends to increase, often worsening during specific periods of time. These episodes are known as flare-ups.

These flare-ups often happen without warning. They can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks and are often more likely to occur when the person is experiencing physical, mental, and emotional stress.

Potential Flare Up Triggers

There are several things that could potentially trigger a fibromyalgia flare-up. These include:

  • Changes to your diet
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Stress
  • Lack of exercise or being immobile
  • Not getting enough sleep

Interestingly enough, doctors estimate that medication to treat pain resulting from fibromyalgia reduces pain by about 20%. However, taking care of yourself or practicing effective self-care may be able to reduce Fibromyalgia symptoms by 90%. Self-care includes exercising, reducing stress levels, improving sleep patterns, and reducing inflammation.

What can you do to minimize the pain and fatigue caused by Fibromyalgia?

Stretch

Start by stretching every single day. You can literally just do it when you get out of the bed, walking around the house, stop and stretch. You can just start by holding each stretch for five breaths and then you can do it for a couple of minutes. Do gentle, simple stretches every day and you build from there. Fibromyalgia causes muscle and joint pain and stiffness, so light stretching is going to help you improve the ability to move and function with less pain.

Start with simply stretching your arms up to the ceiling, inhale, stretch your arms up high and exhale your hands back down. Make sure you’re standing with both feet firm on the ground, weight evenly distributed in both of your feet. As you inhale and stretch high, your gaze should be pointed up but keep your face soft and relaxed, then exhale back down. This is a very simple stretch. If you cannot straighten your arms all the way, that’s okay, make it wider so that it’s comfortable.

Pillow Stretch

Find a pillow and hug it. By clutching and hugging a pillow, this will help you stretch the back of the arm muscles. Hug and then bend your torso forward while looking straight down, relaxing your face and neck. This helps you stretch all the muscles in the back of your torso.

People with Fibromyalgia will be able to do these two stretches without pain or discomfort. As you stretch if you’re stretching without pain, gradually increase the time and the intensity of your stretches.

Forward Fold

Next, try the forward fold. Open up your feet, hip distance apart and distribute them with even weight and just hinge at your hips forward. Bend your knees as much as you can. Envision that your fingers are going towards the ground and you can straighten up your legs. Literally all you’re trying to do is create an inversion that releases your hamstrings and your lower back and it calms your central nervous system to give you a nice sweet sense of calm.

The more that you stretch the better you have a chance of getting better sleep and this translates to a better day.

Practice Yoga

Yoga involves moving your body with very intentional breathing. One simple stretch to start with is the mountain pose. This really is just a standing strong pose. It’s standing and breathing intentionally, being aware of your body and alignment. This gives you more space in the inner torso area of your ribs, and all of the nooks and crannies; it’s oxygen that’s being delivered into all of these areas.

When you breathe the air into your tissues and take time to stretch and hold the pose into your tissues, you are able to release trauma or physical pain in there. Inhale with the movement, exhale with the movement. Always breathing in and exhaling with every single movement.

Yoga Poses that are Ideal for Fibromyalgia

There are a couple of different poses that are specific to people dealing with Fibromyalgia. You can start slow with these and ensure that you get right the quality of the pose.

Research has demonstrated over and over again that practicing yoga and stretching helps provide relief for people with all kinds of fibromyalgia, as well as other autoimmune disorders. For example, an analysis in the Journal of Musculoskeletal Care reported that yoga helped to reduce fibromyalgia related sleep disturbances, fatigue, and depression. Just like stretching you don’t have to dive into a full scale hardcore yoga practice, but start with just a few gentle, consistent yoga poses and build from there. You can start with a couple of mountain poses and a few forward folds. Then move into the following gentle flow:

Gentle yoga flow

Start by sitting down on your sit bones, open up your knees and grab onto your feet. If you cannot grab on to your feet, grab on to your shins or your knees and pull your chest up, sit, and breathe. This stretch opens up the hip and groin, which tend to hold a lot of tension. You can also bounce your knees up and down gently, or you can stay still. Remember you’re reaching your feet and your shins closer to you and sitting up with a very tall spine. You can close your eyes and stay there for about five to 10 breaths. This is called cobbler’s pose.

After doing the cobbler pose, move to a table top position by going down onto your hands and knees, with your back flat. Push your sit bone to your heels, and straighten your arms, lowering your forehead to the floor. This is called child’s pose. Rest your forehead onto the ground and breathe there for five to 10 breaths.

After table top, go to child’s pose then back to table top and then just lay on your belly and prepare for cobra.

Cobra Is not as aggressive as an up dog pose. Up dog is lying flat on your belly but with your arms up and fully straightened. Cobra is lying on your belly but with your weight pressed evenly onto your forearms and your torso raised. Your gaze is down to the ground, your toes are relaxed and your whole leg is activated. So you’re flexing and pressing the forearms into the ground and lifting your torso. Relax your face, close your eyes, and breathe calmly for five to 10 breaths, and then push back up to table top.

Lift your tailbone up for a down dog, which is jut an inverted V, for just one breath, then step your right foot forward and keep your left leg planted down. Lift your torso up, inhale stretching both arms up, gaze up to your fingers, and then return to down dog. After a breath, switch sides, step your other foot up, plant the back foot, raise your torso, and inhale your arms up to the sky, lunging forward, then back down to down dog. Then move back to child’s pose, put your knees on the ground, heels together, knees slightly apart and splay your torso to the ground, relaxing your forehead onto the mat. Stay there for five to 10 breaths and then move back up to table top and bring your sit bones to your heels.

That is a very gentle flow that you can do, that is really, really effective for people that have fibromyalgia. It builds strength and gets into all the little nooks and crannies, and it’s a really fabulous starting point. Go slow and you can hold each and every single pose for about five to 10 breaths and you’ll get stronger and stronger.

Legs up the wall

Find a wall and lay on your back with your sit bone as close to the wall as possible. Bring your legs up. This is very relaxing. If this is too intense, you can bring the soles of your feet together and just relax. This is not intense and you can definitely relax and let gravity do the work of bringing your legs out. This is a great stretch for your inner groin as well. It’s an inversion and it helps to calm your central nervous system. Lay there for five to 10 breaths or longer if you like. To get out, roll on to your side and use your arm to push yourself out.

Other ways to relieve fibromyalgia symptoms

Get a Massage

There are plenty of massage places now that have monthly memberships. Massage is a time-tested and proven way to ease muscle pain and reduce stress. It helps improve your range of motion, just like yoga and stretching does. It also helps to improve mood and lightens the severity of both the depression and anxiety that can sometimes be coupled in with fibromyalgia.

More vigorous forms of massage may help relieve deep muscle pain from fibromyalgia. You cannot get a professional massage every single day, so it is recommended that you try to relieve some fibromyalgia pain yourself and you can do this by massaging the painful area with a foam roller, or a lacrosse or tennis ball. All you have to do is you lay on the places that you’re feeling intense tightness like the hip, back etc.

Get enough sleep

Fibromyalgia tends to rob you off your sleep because you’re dealing with a lot of the pain. Fatigue is one of the main symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, so getting sufficient sleep is essential. In addition to getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night, the quality of your sleep is also very important. Research also shows a clear link between fibromyalgia and poor sleep quality. Make sure that you are practicing good sleep habits such as getting up and going to bed at the same time each day. Our bodies are very smart and they like routine. This will help to set the circadian rhythms (the sleep and wake cycle inside of our body and our brain).

Limit daytime napping if you cannot get enough sleep at night. Avoid electronics, phones, and screen time at least an hour before bed. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine such as simple stretches, a wonderful bath before you go to bed diffused with essential oils, practice deep breathing exercises, or sigh out loud about five or six times. This really allows you to have a full belly breath and all of that oxygen will help to sooth you. If you do have essential oils, diffuse them in the air and also rub them onto your temples, inner wrist, behind your ears, and behind your neck, which are all great pulse points for your body to absorb the essential oils. You can also spray it onto your linens or onto your pillow before sleeping.

Exercise

This is really important as well. When fibromyalgia pain flares up, exercising might be absolute last thing that you feel like doing. However, physical activity and especially regular gentle exercise can help relieve pain, reduce stress quite a bit, and help improve your energy levels. Try walking, swimming, and simple body weight or chair exercises like arm circles or leg lifts while you’re sitting in a chair. These are all great effective options to consider.

Eat an anti-inflammatory healthy diet

Remember effective self care can minimize 90% of the pain associated with fibromyalgia. For this reason, it is a good idea to follow a healthy nutrient rich diet is essential and has plenty of organic fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats, probiotics and the right inflammatory fighting herbs and spices including oregano, basil, thyme, cinnamon, ginger and turmeric. Turmeric contains the powerful inflammation fighting compound curcumin. You can supplement this with your daily Smarter Curcumin which is essential for protecting you against the harmful effects of inflammation, including reducing swelling and pain in muscles and joints.

Also, remember to eat healthy high-energy foods that are low in sugar. These include foods such as almonds, beans, gluten-free oatmeal, avocado, and organic vegetables. These all contain plenty of fiber but no added sugar. These can help boost your energy throughout the day, helping to prevent more inflammation from happening, and reducing fatigue and other symptoms that occur as a result of fibromyalgia.

Foods to Avoid

Gluten – Studies suggest that gluten sensitivity can contribute to fibromyalgia. Removing foods that contain gluten from the diet may be able to reduce the pain quite a bit, even in patients who do not have celiac disease. Gluten contributes to a whole host of inflammatory conditions in your body. It is literally found everywhere; on soups, crackers and candies, anything fried, you name it.

It is nearly impossible to eat a processed food without gluten in it. Even those commonly said to be gluten free, including salads, have low-quality gluten in there. So youneed to be really mindful and read your labels. Supplements that are low quality, and lotions, makeup, and shampoos often have gluten in them as well. So if you have fibromyalgia or other kind of autoimmune issues, make sure that your beauty products are also labeled gluten-free. You really need to avoid gluten at all cost.

Processed foods — Do not eat processed foods. Things found in a packages are loaded with additives, chemicals, and toxins. Processed foods are terrible for our diets and our whole health. They are full of artificial ingredients that contribute to a whole host of health issues including fibromyalgia and fibromyalgia flare-ups. Research shows again and again that cutting out additives from our diets such as artificial coloring, high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, and sodium nitrate can significantly reduce the symptoms and inflammation.

Wrap Up

Fibromyalgia affects about 10 million people each year. It is characterized by a widespread musculoskeletal pain and tenderness and is commonly accompanied by fatigue, as well as sleep, memory, and mood issues. While it can affect anyone, 90% of people affected by fibromyalgia are women.

There isn’t an exact known cause for this condition, but stress, lack of exercise, poor diet, and lack of sleep often contribute to fibromyalgia flare-ups that can last for days or even weeks. Treatment generally focuses on managing the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. While there are many different symptoms of fibromyalgia the two most common are widespread muscle and joint pain, and fatigue.

Research has shown that practicing effective self care techniques can relieve up to 90% of the pain associated with fibromyalgia. There are a number of natural, healthy, and effective ways to reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia, and prevent them from impacting your quality of life. These include: daily light stretching, practicing yoga, self massage, professional massage, getting enough quality sleep and practicing good sleep habits, exercising on a regular basis, and eating a diet designed to minimize inflammation, joint, and muscle pain and stiffness. This includes avoiding sugar, processed foods, and gluten, but eating recommended natural and organic options that are rich in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

Implement these tips and find relief from the debilitating symptoms of fibromyalgia.

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