There’s no doubt that living with fibromyalgia can make routine everyday activities difficult: Tender areas can cause pain when touched, sleep may be affected, and even memory and thought processes can be disrupted. Medications may help some people, and so can getting exercise and restorative sleep. There are also specific steps you can take to accomplish all the daily tasks that so many others take for granted. Try these suggestions to get the important things done.
Whether you work in a factory, an office, or anywhere in between, it can be hard to do a good job when living with fibromyalgia. Fatigue makes it difficult to complete tasks, and concentration problems make it difficult to give those tasks the full attention they need. Add in pain and possibly missing time at work because of symptoms, and it’s a recipe for disaster in the workplace. When you’re trying to cope with fibromyalgia pain, try to break tasks into sections rather than jumping into everything at once. Be upfront with your employer and educate co-workers so that they understand any accommodations you might need.
Taking care of children when you have fibromyalgia can be a challenge. Lifting and carrying young kids can be hard on top of fatigue and pain. Also, fibromyalgia can cause sleep disturbances; when infants or toddlers have sleepless nights, you can be facing a difficult situation for sure. Make sure not to push your own needs to the side. Take time to de-stress, exercise, and eat right. Know your limitations and ask for help from your spouse, family, friends, and neighbors.
Maintaining a Relationship
Fibromyalgia may come with a host of mental health challenges, such as depression or mood swings. It can be further complicated by the fact that you look fine on the outside. “Understand that relationships are about giving and receiving,” says Charles Kim, MD, a clinical instructor in the department of anesthesiology at the NYU School of Medicine and a physician at Spine & Sports Medicine of New York. “Although people with fibromyalgia often find that giving is more difficult due to their symptoms, giving a little is better than not at all. This can be the giving of time and attention as well as listening to others’ problems and sharing in their pleasures.”
Cooking can be a tiring chore for anyone, but it may be especially difficult when you’re struggling with the fatigue that comes with fibromyalgia. It may be hard to keep track of all the steps of a recipe if you’re also experiencing decreased concentration levels. Leaning over to cut foods and reaching into low or high cabinets can be a struggle with fibromyalgia. For ease in preparing meals, try using pre-cooked meals and microwavable meals, and eating food such as raw vegetables that do not need to be prepared. When you want to plan a special meal, assign specific tasks, such as setting the table and washing vegetables, to different family members.
Housework and Home Upkeep
As with so many other daily chores, fatigue, pain, and stiffness can make housework difficult when you are living with fibromyalgia. “Don’t try to over-exert yourself,” says Dr. Kim. “Divide up cleaning into smaller tasks over time. Clean in portions — more when feeling better, less when not feeling well. Take breaks.” Keep frequently needed items handy to save energy. Try to figure out the best time of day for you to do housework. Finally, encourage family members to help — even young kids can learn to put away their toys.
Doctors' Visits and Medical Exams
Doctors’ appointments can be a challenge for people living with fibromyalgia, for a number of reasons. Collecting needed paperwork can be exhausting and remembering needed details can be hard if you have concentration problems. You may feel anxiety, and some people even have depression, which can lead them to try to avoid physicians. To help make each appointment easier, schedule it for what is typically your best time of day. Keeping a binder with test results, notes, and a pain diary of recorded symptoms and pain levels will make it easier to update your doctor and stay on top of your treatment.
Traveling with fibromyalgia can have its own set of challenges. Prolonged sitting, whether in a car, train or airplane, can exacerbate muscle aches and pains. Carrying heavy luggage can be exhausting and make pain worse. And any change in sleep schedule can be a challenge for people with sleep disturbances as well. To help make traveling as easy as possible, take breaks to stretch and walk around on your way to your destination. Use pillows and blankets to cushion your body. And take time to savor the trip — enjoy the new sights and foods, but don’t feel compelled to see everything.
Fibromyalgia: Does Your Family 'Get It?'