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5 ways to manage fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome marked by fatigue, body-wide pain and tenderness in the joints, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissues. Researchers estimate that approximately five million people suffer from the chronic disorder, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).

Women comprise a majority of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia, experts said. Doctors still do not know what causes the condition or how to cure it, and the uphill battle against ongoing pain can leave a person with fibromyalgia depressed and frustrated.  According to NIAMS, physical treatment, exercise and lifestyle choices can help alleviate symptoms. If you have fibromyalgia, here are five tips manage your symptoms:

1. Get enough sleep
Staying rested and relaxed can help mitigate the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia, according to NIAMS.  Many people with fibromyalgia have problems such as muscular aches, restless legs syndrome, or brainwave irregularities that can interfere with restful sleep, so it is important to discuss any sleep problems with your doctor.  Other relaxing activities like T’ai Chi and yoga can aide with sleep.

2. Try hot and cold therapy
Hot and cold treatments can reduce your joint and muscle pain temporarily, according to medical experts. Heat relaxes muscles, and heating pads, warm baths or hot towel compresses can all conduct heat to muscle tissue. Cold packs numb the painful areas, which helps reduce any inflammation. Cold packs for fibromyalgia serve the same function as a bag of peas on a black eye, doctors explain. While hot and cold treatments can be effective, the extreme temperatures may also cause skin damage. You should use a towel when applying treatment where bones are close to the skin’s surface. A pink flush may appear when you remove the hot or cold pack, which is a normal, doctors said.

3. Adapt your tools
The market is full of tools and small appliances designed specifically to avoid joint pain or stress. Many fibromyalgia-friendly tools are made with large rubber handles to ease pressure on hands, wrists and arms. These tools include adapted kitchen shears, hair dryers, spoons and forks. Experts say you can avoid spending money on new tools, utensils and household items by simply adding rubber fillers to the handles of your current items. Rubber bottle and twist cap openers are also available to help open jars and child-proof pill bottles. If you don’t live with children, you can also ask the pharmacy to replace the lids with easy-to-open tops. Many items used at work can also be adapted for fibromyalgia, according to NIAMS. If your chair is too high, the hanging and stretching of your legs can tax your joints. Slip a foot stool under your desk for leg support.An occupational therapist can help you design a more comfortable workstation or find more efficient and less painful ways to perform some tasks, NIAMS advises. You can even pick work clothes to ease your pain, using button down shirts instead of pullovers. If at any point you are faced with a painful task or situation, you are likely to find an assistive tool that can help, experts said.

4. Make every movement count
A regular exercise program is usually part of a comprehensive fibromyalgia treatment plan. Research has repeatedly shown that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia, according to NIAMS. Plus, every bit of exercise counts. Two-minute workouts like deep diaphragmatic breathing or arm circles can keep your muscles and joints relaxed. You can also try chair yoga at your home or office. There is no need to tire yourself out when you exercise, experts advise, and the benefits of minor exercise can motivate you to hit the gym. Managing fibromyalgia is a daily process, and every little effort can help reduce your pain and keep you moving.

5. Create joint-friendly chores
Household chores can be taxing for even the most healthy, and joint pain can make tasks like sweeping and dusting significantly more difficult. A few small adjustments in your method and routine can make cleaning your home much easier. Experts suggest sticking to small projects at a time. Instead of cleaning the entire house on the weekend, tidy up one or two rooms a day.  Tailoring your cleaning tools to your body’s needs will also ease your workload. Carry around smaller spray bottles or laundry detergents, and try leave-in cleaning solutions that will cut down on scrubbing. Replace your broom with a flat swivel sweeper, which will glide over floors more easily. Finally, try to cut down on how many trips you have to make when moving objects from one room to the next. Use a crate on wheels to move your stuff around, and leave a box at the foot and top of the stairs instead of constantly bringing things up and down.

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