It’s been more than 15 years since I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and the doctors suspect I had it long before then.

I’ve experimented with a lot of therapies, prescriptions and other things that are often used to reduce muscular pain.

Which means I’ve also found many things that can make fibromyalgia worse!

These are my top 10 things that help me manage and reduce fibromyalgia symptoms.

1. Enough sleep

This has to be the most important to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms.

If I don’t get 10 hours of sleep at night, my muscle and joint pain is much higher the next day. And it’s quite likely I’ll develop a headache, either sinus or from my neck.

Getting to sleep has generally not been a problem for me. Although, since I had cortisone for wrist pain, I have had some trouble. Valerian helps there, as does a good sleep routine - no electronics in bed, no reading, use ear plugs to block noise. Progressive relaxation can also help, if pain is making it difficult to fall asleep.

I still wake up many times during the night, but it’s a lot less than I used to. If I forget to take gabapentin (the full dose only at night before sleeping), then I don’t sleep at all. Not good.

2. Heat packs

I already used these a lot for endometriosis pain, but they also reduce fibro pain and help me deal with a costochondritis flare. Neck, upper back, chest and even jaw get regular heat packs applied. Especially when I freeze - what body-temperature control?!

On nights when I go to sleep with a sore neck or upper back, or in colder weather the heat packs go into bed first, and keep me warm as I fall asleep.

I currently have a mixture of wheat and mud packs, both normally heated in the microwave for a few minutes. I found the cherry stone and gel packs lost their heat far too quickly.

3. Massage

This is the best thing for shutting off the pain from aching muscles that is not caused by any underlying problem (neuroma, joint, ganglion).

Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten self-massage to work, and the electric shiatsu-style massage cushion causes bad bruises, so this needs a willing accomplice.

4. Sports rubs / warming balm

I don’t know whether it’s more the quick massage that helps, or the warming balm. A combination, perhaps?

I have tried a number of different sports rubs, and personally they always feel freezing cold to me (aren’t they are meant to be warming?) I currently use three different types of Tiger balm and a Kneipp arnica warming balm. In Australia, I also used Deep Heat.

5. Cooler weather - layered clothing and lots of blankets

My temperature regulation is completed screwed up. So I need to pull on and take off layers of clothing quickly and easily. I’ve found merino clothing to be good for warmth without too much bulk. Plus it normally comes in multiple thicknesses/warmths.

I have three levels of warmth for bed, and can add another couple of blankets and a quilt if I freeze despite my warm doona. And there are two blankets and a quilt for sitting on the sofa or at the computer.

Occasionally, a kitty joins me and provides extra warmth. Purring helps reduce fibromyalgia pain too!

6. Warmer weather - cold foot baths and ice packs

I only just discovered that I could stand ice packs, but only in really hot weather. I still can’t hold them or have them on my feet - that causes far too much Raynaud’s pain (a secondary symptom of fibro). But an ice pack resting on my back, side or chest keeps me much cooler in hot weather. I’ve even slept with a cold pack!

Despite ice causing a lot of foot pain, a cool/cold foot bath is ok and the quickest way to bring my body temperature down if I overheat, an easy thing for me to do in summer. Combine it with Epsom salts for a bit more muscle relaxation in my feet and calves.

7. Music and meditation

Only recently have they found that music can help broken bones heal faster, so it’s no wonder I’ve always found listening to music reduces my pain.

As a teen, I used the 1492 soundtrack to fall asleep to - a good trigger! These days, it’s usually the Riven or Last Samurai soundtracks that help me sleep.

I picked up the habit of daily meditation several months ago, and have found it has greatly reduced my reactivity to stressful situations, and therefore the physical pain this normally causes.

Meditation has been proven to reduce the perception of pain - something very useful for fibromyagia patients.

8. Feet up

If I sit with my feet on the floor, my calves and feet start to hurt and then go numb. To prevent that pain and recover from walking or standing, I need my legs up.

That’s why I got an L-shaped couch - I can sit of an evening with my legs up. I also use the foot stool of my rocker when I need to sit at the computer for long periods.

9. Clean eating

Although the actual task can cause pain, cooking from scratch has reduced, but not eliminated, headaches, eczema-like skin problems and bowel cramping (IBS is another common secondary symptom of fibro).

If I eat out, or eat a packaged meal, I have usually heightened pain the next day. Prepared sauces, especially in powder form, are a certainty to either give me a headache the next day, or extreme bowel cramping that night.

Whether that is placebo or not, I don’t know.

10. Custom-fitted shoe insoles

I’ve been told that my Moreton’s neuromas are a secondary symptom of fibro, a very annoying one too! If I don’t wear the insoles with the metatarsal ‘bump’, I can’t walk very far or stay on my feet for long.

At home, my feet are bare, unless I know I’ll need to be standing for a while (cooking / preserving / gardening / sewing). Then I wear shoes with the insoles.

What reduces your fibromyalgia symptoms?

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