Managing Your Symptoms

By Adrienne Dellwo 

 Medically reviewed by Anita C. Chandrasekaran, MDPrint 

We’ve all been there: In spite of all the medications, supplements, stress-reducing techniques and lifestyle changes, some of your symptoms still impose themselves on your life.

Sick-looking woman lays on the couch.
Tom Merton / Getty Images

During those times, little things can make a big difference. Keeping certain little things close at hand can help you manage your fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Many of us “nest” when we have flares, basically holing up in one spot such as the bed or couch. These little are best kept where you nest, so you don’t have to get up to get them. Some are treatments and others aren’t, but they’re all things that might help you get through the day (or night,) don’t require a prescription and won’t drain your bank account.


A long-time arthritis pain reliever, capsaicin rids your cells of a pain messenger called substance P. That’s kind of like taking away a computer’s Internet connection — no messages get sent. Fibromyalgia is believed to be linked to extra substance P. (Learn more about capsaicin before using it.)1

Muscle Creams

While muscle creams (like Tiger Balm, Biofreeze, and Aspercreme) don’t do much against FMS pain, they can provide relief from muscles aches that can contribute to your overall pain level and make it hard to get comfortable or fall asleep. During nesting times, we can be especially sedentary, which can make muscle pain worse.

Massage Tools

Gently getting kinks out of your muscles can really help you feel better! I sometimes use vibrating massagers, but watch out for those! I have days when my skin almost seems to crawl and my nerves are really jumpy. On those days, the vibration does far more harm than good.

Rice Bag

A rice bag is uncooked rice inside a little pillow, usually made of flannel or some fabric that feels nice against your skin. You heat it in the microwave for a couple minutes and it releases a soothing, slightly moist heat. It’s a great alternative to a heating pad because it gradually cools off and won’t start a fire, so you can use it to help you sleep. (Mine also has a flannel pillow case so I have more control over how much heat is against my skin.)

Warm, Soft Socks or Slippers

Why is it that our feet are always cold, except for when they’re too hot? Keeping something close for when the chill is on is a must.

Cooling Off

When you get overheated and need help cooling down, cooling products are a must. However, you can’t exactly keep them cold next to your nest. A small electrical fan can be great in a pinch. You also might want to consider a battery-operated fan attached to a small water bottle — you can mist yourself, which helps the moving air cool your skin.

Dark Chocolate

It may sound strange, but dark chocolate may boost your serotonin levels, which means it can make you feel more awake and alert plus give you a mood lift. To get the full effect, get the really dark stuff — like 85{f3a6a30fe8ec83c88e3a096004ddf2d5481b76e701b36185325949387956c891} cocoa.2

Costa de Miranda R, Paiva ES, Suter Correia Cadena SM, Brandt AP, Vilela RM. Polyphenol-rich foods alleviate pain and ameliorate quality of life in fibromyalgic women. Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2017;87(1-2):66-74. doi:10.1024/0300-9831/a000253


Dry, itchy skin aggravates my FMS, and every time I scratch it can cause a lot of pain in the area. If the lotion has a soothing scent, it can do double duty by helping you relax. (Be careful about scented products, however — a lot of us are sensitive to them.)

Nail Clippers

This might sound like an odd one, but I’ve been kept awake more than once by too-long toe nails scratching against a sheet or blanket. Might as well be a chalkboard!

Blankets, Pillows, and Bedding

The more sedentary you are, the more important it is to have a comfortable place that’s ready for you at a moment’s notice. Even in the summer, I have a luxuriously soft blanket handy in my family room as well as a variety of cozy-feeling pillows. Also, coarse sheets are like sleeping on sandpaper! I prefer flannel or jersey, or a high thread count. Feel before you buy!


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