Lifestyle Modifications for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that must be managed over time. NYU Langone doctors encourage people with fibromyalgia to proactively report changes in symptoms or the occurrence of new symptoms.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia. However, research suggests that symptoms, such as pain, can often be managed by making changes to your lifestyle.

An NYU Langone rheumatologist oversees your care and helps you to manage this condition. He or she may refer you to other specialists as needed to manage the symptoms that bother you the most. For instance, if fibromyalgia is affecting your digestive tract, your rheumatologist may refer you to a gastroenterologist for additional treatment.

There are also doctors at NYU Langone who are specifically trained in pain medicine, and apply a team approach to the treatment of complex chronic-pain conditions, including fibromyalgia.

Exercise

Increased sensitivity to pain can make you cautious about moving your body, which can lead to decreased muscle strength and tone and increased difficulty in performing everyday activities.

Your rheumatologist may recommend gentle exercises, such as yoga or light walking, to increase muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance. Exercise is also known to increase the levels of endorphins and other neurotransmitters in the body, which may lessen the experience of pain.

Sleep

People with fibromyalgia pain tend to have difficulty falling or staying asleep, contributing to chronic fatigue. Some people notice an improvement in sleep—and a subsequent reduction in fatigue—when they avoid strenuous activity and substances such as caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.

If you need additional help in getting a good night’s sleep, your rheumatologist can refer you to a sleep specialist at NYU Langone for evaluation.

Stress Management

For some people, tension and stress worsen fibromyalgia symptoms. Activities such as meditation and breathing exercises, taught in the pain management program at NYU Langone’s Hospital for Joint Diseases, can help to reduce stress and fibromyalgia symptoms.

Some people find that acupuncture also provides relief. At NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation, you can find doctors who specialize in rehabilitation medicine, called physiatrists, also certified in acupuncture. In acupuncture, specialists apply very thin needles to relieve tension in various parts of the body.

If you have trouble controlling stress, your rheumatologist can refer you to a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of therapy that helps you to identify stressors and change your response to them. CBT also helps you to identify and control the negative thoughts that promote the stress–pain–stress cycle that contributes to depression and prevents sleep.

CBT is a short-term treatment, with a 45-minute session scheduled once a week. Together, you and your doctor decide how long you need therapy, based on your progress.

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