Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition in which someone experiences widespread muscle and tissue pain and fatigue. Many people also experience brain fog, headaches, anxiety, depression, digestive issues, and difficulting concentrating.1 Symptoms can change daily, and flares may be unpredictable at times.

If you are among the 5{f3a6a30fe8ec83c88e3a096004ddf2d5481b76e701b36185325949387956c891} of the population facing fibromyalgia symptoms, you may wonder how to manage them well.2 Self-care is one of the many pieces of the fibromyalgia treatment puzzle and includes stress management, improving your sleep and relaxation, and nourishing your body well.3

This article covers practical self-care tips to implement alongside medical treatment for fibromyalgia before, during, and following a flare.

Fibromyalgia Self-Care Before a Flare

Many people with fibromyalgia experience periods of symptoms, flares, and remission. Sometimes you can anticipate a flare, as stressful events can trigger it. Receiving upsetting news, becoming sick, weather changes, getting a physical injury, or having a difficult relationship may trigger you, but everyone is different.4

Having a plan before your fibromyalgia flares up can help ease some of the burden. Flares may be debilitating, making it difficult to leave the house, go to work, shower, or go about your daily routine.

It’s also important to recognize that it can be difficult not to try and “do it all” on days when you’re feeling good. It can be tempting to try and knock out everything on the to-do list when you’re not sure when the next good day will be. However, doing too much can potentially trigger a flare. Try to enjoy these good days and not overdo things.

Here are some ways you can practice self-care and prepare for a flare before it happens.

Stock Your Kitchen

Have shelf-stable and freezer foods readily available. This includes store-bought meals or dishes you prepare beforehand and freeze for later, such as a dish of lasagna you can toss in the oven or a container of soup you can defrost.

Pack your pantry with packaged snacks you enjoy and provide some nutrition. If you have allergies or have noticed that certain foods make your symptoms worse during a flare, be sure to have foods that will be more tolerable on hand.

Order Your Prescriptions

Ask a healthcare provider if you can order larger amounts of your prescriptions to have on hand, just in case you run out during a flare and can’t get to the store to pick up a refill. Alternatively, see if you can change your prescriptions from in-store pickup to mail-order delivery. Some services may allow you to set up automated refills and payments so you never have to worry about running out.

Have Other Meds On Hand

In addition to any prescriptions, be sure to have pain-relieving medications ready in case you need them during your next flare. Over-the-counter pain relievers are often used in fibromyalgia, and these should be easy to get before a flare.5

Pack an Entertainment Bag

Flares that keep you home longer than you’d like can also get boring. Consider some things that are easier for you to do during a flare that may be best saved for these periods. For example, if you enjoy reading magazines, doing crosswords, listening to podcasts, working on crafts, or coloring, pack these into a bag or box that can be easily accessible during a flare.

Fibromyalgia Self-Care During a Flare

The most common way to support restoration during a fibromyalgia flare is to physically and mentally rest as much as possible. In many cases, it’s difficult not to rest because symptoms are so debilitating.

There is no gold standard for treating a fibromyalgia flare. Helpful non-medical approaches for symptom management should include things that help you relax and adjust—but not completely stop—your routine as much as possible.6

When you’re in the middle of a fibromyalgia flare, these are some ways to practice self-care.

Accept the Flare

Be kind to yourself during this time. It can be easy to surrender to negativity during a flare. Allow yourself to feel frustration, anger, or sadness, and then let them go. Focus on giving your body the rest it needs and try to combat every negative thought with a positive one. Many people with fibromyalgia struggle with mental health, so know you are not alone.7

Enjoy Your Favorite At-Home Hobbies

This is an excellent opportunity to bring out the things you don’t usually get to do unless you’re sick. For instance, a particular coloring book to help keep your mind off the things you’re unable to do right now. Other ideas include reading a book (or listening to an audiobook) or snuggling up with your pet to watch a good movie.

Take a Bath

Sometimes the heat therapy from a warm bath can do wonders for relaxing muscles and alleviating achiness.8 It can also help reduce tension and mental stress. If you want to make the bath a little more exciting, try adding Epsom salt, bath beads, bubbles, or an aroma that brings you calmness. Just be sure there is someone else home just in case you need assistance getting out of the bathtub. Not a fan of baths? Try a heating pad at night for similar relief.

Focus on the Small Things

The middle of a flare isn’t the time to try and knock out your to-do list of home projects or work on fixing the car. Instead of tasks that can easily become overwhelming, keep your mind focused on what you can do.

This might look like folding laundry on your bed, calling that friend you’ve meant to catch up with, or doing light resistance training to stay mobile. Prioritize whatever you can do with minimal exertion and leave the rest for another day.

How Long Do Flares Last?

Fibromyalgia can affect everyone differently. Try not to compare your experience with anyone else’s. Flares may last for a period of days to several weeks. The duration of your flares may also be affected by other factors, such as diet, stress levels, sleep patterns, and what triggered the flare.9

Fibromyalgia Self-Care After a Flare

Coming out of a fibromyalgia flare can be relieving and overwhelming. You may be eager to start the tasks that had to be rescheduled, or you may feel mentally paralyzed by the things you need to catch up on.

Following a flare, the most important thing to do is take good care of yourself. You may feel tired after a flare, so give yourself the grace to get back into the swing of things.

Consider the following self-care tips when you’re recovering from a fibromyalgia flare.

Get a Massage

Having a flare can be stressful. Once you re-establish your everyday routine, consider getting a massage. This can help work out knots in your muscles and tissues, promote relaxation and stress relief, and it just feels good. Plus, research shows that enjoying massages consistently may help improve pain, anxiety, and depression associated with fibromyalgia.10

Seek Mental Health Support

Living with a chronic disease is challenging. The ups and downs can be unpredictable and inconvenient. It’s okay to need and seek mental health support. A therapist can help provide ideas for coping mechanisms and help you work through your feelings.11 Cognitive behavioral therapy which includes mindful meditation can be helpful. Consider trying relaxation apps such as CALM, which you can listen to in the morning or before bed. 

Get Moving, Slowly

If you’re used to being physically active when you’re feeling well, jumping back into your regular routine can be tempting. Give yourself time to ease back into exercise after a flare to avoid triggering stress in your body.12 Research has found that resistance training and aerobic exercise are beneficial for improving physical and mental health in people with fibromyalgia.1314

Eat Plenty of Anti-inflammatory Foods

This is a good idea all of the time, but as you’re getting back to your daily routine, be intentional about incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into your diet pattern. During flares, eating whatever is convenient and comforting can feel the easiest. When you’re feeling better and can plan meals more regularly, add more antioxidant and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and omega-3-rich foods like fish or an algae oil supplement.1516

Ultra-processed, packaged foods high in added sugar and sodium and animal products high in saturated fat can have the opposite effect. Evidence suggests that a plant-forward diet may help improve pain and functional challenges among people with fibromyalgia.17

Things That Can Make Fibromyalgia Worse

While making a self-care plan before, during, and after a flare, it’s also important to consider what may have the opposite effect. Some things that may worsen flares include poor sleep, unmanaged stress, eating an inflammatory diet, and being sedentary for long periods. While these things are a normal part of life sometimes, avoid making them the majority of your lifestyle.9

Asking For Help Outside of Fibromyalgia Self-Care

It can sometimes feel isolating when you have a chronic disease like fibromyalgia and are going between flares and remission. We were never meant to do life alone; we all need help sometimes.

As difficult as it may feel to ask for help, remember that most people genuinely want to help where they are needed. Whether it feels like something small, such as getting your mail for you, or something more significant, such as providing food for a few days, don’t be afraid to ask for support during a flare. Chances are good that someone in your circle will be happy to step in where needed.

Having a community around you is essential even when you’re not having a flare. While your friends, coworkers, and family can help in some areas, they may not completely understand what you’re going through or how to be supportive. Consider finding a fibromyalgia support group in your local community or online. If you’re unsure where to look, ask your healthcare provider for recommendations.

Summary

Living with fibromyalgia isn’t easy, and every day can be different. Fibromyalgia can affect physical, mental, and emotional health between unpredictable symptoms and flares that disrupt daily life. In addition to adhering to your medical treatment plan, incorporating self-care practices can make a big difference in your quality of life. Have a self-care plan before, during, and following a flare, and be patient with yourself as you ease back into your routine.

17 Sources

By Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD
Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD, is a plant-based dietitian, writer, and speaker who specializes in helping people bring more plants to their plate. She’s a highly respected writer in the health and nutrition space and loves talking about the power of diet. Lauren aims to connect people with the information and resources to live their healthiest, fullest life.

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