Rami, aged 37, Manchester
At the age of 33 I was diagnosed with an illness that I had never heard of before. It was difficult to pronouce and spell. It would prove to be even more difficult to live with. Fibromyalgia - an awkward name for an equally awkward illness. Fibro (fibres) - my (muscles) - algia (pain) affects women 9 times more than men and it is estimated that 2-4% of the population have it. It can take an average of 10 years before a patient is correctly diagnosed.
Although Fibromyalgia has closed some doors for me it has also opened quite a few. It made me look at lifestyle changes that I needed to make. I am 3 stone lighter; I have learnt alot about myself and become a more positive person; I’ve taken up many activities that I never would have had time for before. Most importantly I have changed careers and found a better work/life balance. Fibromyalgia does not have to mean the end of the world and if you choose to engage in ‘mindful’ living it could even bring about, the start of a whole new one.
Things you can do
Sleep - If you can get into a better sleep pattern it will help ease your aches and pains. If you experience TMJ ensure you wear a mouth guard.
Graded exercise - Will help with moods, pain management and sleep. It is very important that the exercises are graded slowly and that you don't overdo it otherwise you will feel worse. Get one-on-one sessions with a trained physio. Hydrotherapy is an excellent and gentle form of exercise. Tai Chi is also very helpful as it is very gentle on the body and has the added bonus of stilling the mind.
Medication/pain management -The right medication can help with anxiety and pain. Have a review with your doctor to discuss your options. Be aware of side effects before trying anything and always start off on the lowest dosage. It’s a case of trial and error to see what works for you as everyone reacts differently.
Managing stress - Cognitive behavourial therapy is very useful as is biofeedback. It has been documented that a high proprotion of FMS sufferers are A-type personalities with perfectionistic tendencies. Pacing is key to recovery and it is beneficial not to take on too many tasks.
Diet - Although there is no specific diet for Fibromyalgia it has been shown that a lot of sufferers have difficulty with carbohydrates and as such benefit from monitoring their carbohydrate intake. Wheat, sugar, alchohol, chocolate, diary, caffiene, tomatoes, potatoes and citric fruits can also be significant allergens for FMS sufferers. 30% of people with FMS are also hypoglycemic. If you fall into this category you need to keep your blood sugars constant. Eat 6 small meals rather than 3 big ones and stay on a HG diet. Keep a food diary and note what works for you and what doesn't.