Fibromyalgia is no fun whatsoever, but there are a lot of ways to cope with the symptoms & Co-Conditions in conjunction with, or in stead of, Pharmaceuticals. Here are some of the most common non-pharmaceutical ways to help manage your various FMS pains.
High up on the list of managing Fibromalgia pains are the various heating devices which can be found in multitudes of places. Folks usually have a heating pad lying around the house, and I’m betting you have already used that and found it wanting in the size department. Yep, we all have.
I myself went from there to a pad that covered my whole side of the bed and liked that a great deal, except for the part where it kept burning out and having to be replaced. It was also a bit stiff. Still, it does allow heat along your entire body length so it hits pretty much all the pain hot spots… Well, unless you’re 6’6″ like my husband, at any rate. So better, but not the best yet.
Next is a heated blanket. You can get these in various sizes with various heat settings. These can be had relatively cheaply if you look around. They will also likely go through the burn out–> replace–> burn out cycle of annoyance. You do not need any more annoyances in your Fibromyalgia-filled life.
The ultimate heating device for Fibromyalgia pain is an expensive heat pad/blanket. Mine is from OBH Nordica and ran about $160.00. It has been worth every red cent. It is velvety soft and has not burned out one time since I bought it almost a year ago, but even if it had, it has a full replacement warranty with no questions asked. I am fairly certain mine has a 5 yr warranty, but I bought it here in Scandinavia. It looks like they are carrying a 2 yr warranty on the Internet. Still worth it. While cheap heated blankets break easily when wrapped or crinkled, the expensive one can wrap all around your leg or ankle with no problem at all. I quite frequently sleep like this. DO make sure there is an automatic cut-off time though so you don’t get burned in your sleep.
One of the more annoying manifestations of Fibromyalgia is sensitive skin. I used to use the rough side of bath sponges in the shower and loved it. No more. I mean, I do still use that side because as the FMS progresses you will find yourself not able to shower as regularly as you once had. I find I need to use that harsh scrub because I can only manage one full shower a week. This hurts. It hurts oh so bad. Also, if my clothing has not been washed with buckets of fabric softener it is painful on my skin to wear them. Enter Lidocaine.
Lidocaine is easy to find at the moment since it is summer. Go to the tanning section of any store and look for after-care sunburn cream or gel. Those have lidocaine in them. This is a topical pain rub and it works very well for the sensitive skin caused by Fibromyalgia. Stock up now so you have enough to last through the winter.
Sometimes these help me, sometimes not. The pain patches do help other Fibromyalgia sufferers a lot. For instance, Becky Wamsley, the founder of the Fed Up With Fibro organization, swears by the Salon Patch brand and is one of the first things she recommends to folks who ask about more portable answers to the pain. I’ve not tried that brand, but I trust what Becky says implicitly. They’re cheap, so go ahead and try them.
I had been dealing with my own Fibromyalgia pain for a number of years before hearing about the TENS Unit in Becky’s support group. I immediately booked an appointment with my Physical Therapist to see if it would help me. She approved it immediately and sent me on my way with a CIFRO brand.
The TENS is a belt-clip power unit with wires coming out which have electrode conductor rubber pads on the other end. The rubber pads attach to your body. The box is where you control the voltage. Now, I’ve heard of people connecting this to particular areas of pain and have gotten relief. I was told to skip that bit and place them as close to my lower spine as possible without actually being on the spine. This way it is sending massaging current directly on the point where pain signals get sorted then sent to the brain.
Endorphins are the answer here. In Fibromyalgia sufferers this neurotransmitter is one of many that are failing to function properly. The four corner placement on the lower back trains the endorphins what to do. I used this TENS Unit for almost two weeks before mentioning I thought it was worthless. I was encouraged to give it a go just a little longer. I was tossed into the worst Fibro Flare I’ve had yet for 3 days. On the fourth day, though, it was all about Hallelujah! I mean I jumped out of the bed like I was 30 years younger. I cleaned a large part of the house, cooked a big dinner, etc etc. amazing result!
I then cycled between the hard-core flare-ups and the great days for a few weeks. The great days were worth the crashes. It is now mellowing out to a much more normal place in between the two. You see, it has to hit top and bottom before the happy medium occurs. I still have flares, but not as intense as before the TENS Unit, and they do not last as long. I have been able to significantly lower the amount of pain medications I was taking.
You can pick up a TENS Unit for anywhere between $30.00 and upwards of $160.00. Most Physical Trainers can supply one or write you a prescription so your Insurance can cover it.
Rubs, Creams, And Lotions
I personally go to the local Natural Health store for my current lotion, which is a combo of heat & Aloe. I use this at night on my ankles, legs, thighs… whatever is hurting at bedtime, in conjunction with the heating blanket. It is also good for those times you have a Fibro trigger point flare and can’t crawl into the bed. I understand now why Granny smelled like yummy peppermint all the time. I have also used various oils from people who make those sorts of things and they worked well also, but not as cheap as the health store lotions. The lotions are good stop-gap solutions.
I have just recently been recommended something called a DSMO Lotion. I researched these a bit and am going to order some. Traditionally it looks like it has been used for things like sprains & arthritis pain. Aside from the pain relief, it aids healing. I trust the person who recommended it, and she won’t go without it.
Other suggestions I’ve heard from Fibro folk are Tiger Balm and Ice Packs. For me heat is the best relief, but other people fare better with the cold. Try both to see which works best for your pain.
For those gnarly aches of Fibromyalgia in your shoulders and back, try putting a tennis ball on the spot needing attention, then lean back against your chair back and kind of roll it around a bit. Very good and inexpensive massage that does alleviate a bit of that nasty Fibro pain.
These are huge balls meant to limber up joints and muscles a bit. Ask your Physical Therapist what size is best for you and what movements suit your particular areas in need of relief. The ‘exercises’ I was given are no-impact movements. Nothing hard or difficult at all, but they do alleviate the back pain for me to some degree. Hey, take what you can get. Right? These various ‘a bit here, a bit there’ add up to be a huge help with the myriad Fibromyalgia pains. The ball is cheap. Get one.
Turn the phone off. Push everyone out of the house or lock them in the basement*. Run a bath as hot as you can take it and step in for a long soak. Something as simple as this gives amazing results. I like to light scented candles and kick back against a bath pillow with a good book until the water cools too much.
This should really be under the Hot Bath heading because this is where you pour them. I am putting them separate because you really should not pour them into a Hot Tub/Jacuzzi. Epsom salts have great healing properties. Boxes of it are also quite inexpensive. Epsom salts should be among every Fibromyalgia patient’s pain arsenal.
This is a revelation to me. I had not heard of these prior to asking the Fed Up Support group what they use besides the medications to control the pain of their Fibromyalgia. I am buying one of these wonderful Spa Mats as soon as I submit this article. What it is, is a mat that lies in the floor of your tub and produces bubbles via an air hose attached to a motor. In other words, it is an inexpensive and non-intrusive way to turn your bathtub into a Hot Tub. I’m told by one Fibromyalgia sufferer that she swears by these. After mine arrives, I will do a separate article about myriad massage devices. For now, I think this is a great solution to those of us who haven’t the money or space for a full hot tub.
There is no one thing that will make you free of Fibromyalgia pains, but by combining various natural methods you can bring the pain levels down a notch or two. I take a lot of medications along with the natural techniques listed here and have managed to get the pain down to a very manageable level for me. I still have flares. We will always have flares. We will also keep trying new things and eventually, who knows… Just keep an open mind and keep experimenting to find the right combo for you. Don’t give up. There are always new pain management ideas popping up. Information is your strongest weapon.
*That was a joke. I do not advocate locking anyone in the basement. Except perhaps my husband when he’s being stubborn. And the cats. Rude visitors…