Fibromyalgia symptoms fluctuate over time, even from day to day. Try these self-care tips to help you cope with difficult days.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Lifestyle changes and medications can lessen the severity of fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, but you'll probably still have some bad days. Knowing that, you can plan ahead for those bad days. The following tips may help take your mind off the pain and possibly ease your discomfort.

Music can have a powerful effect on moods and emotions. Music also helps reduce pain and increase mobility.

What music works best? Any music you like. So turn on some of your favorite tunes and let the music carry you away.

Music that's embedded with delta waves — a type of brain wave — may help improve your sleep.

Even on tough days, it helps if you can keep your sense of humor. Spend time with people who have a positive outlook and a great sense of humor. Rent a funny movie or read the comics. Laughter can help ease pain by releasing brain chemicals that enhance a sense of well-being.

Several studies have looked into balneotherapy for fibromyalgia. Balneotherapy, which means bathing to treat an illness, appears to reduce pain and stiffness.

This isn't surprising, given that warm water helps reduce muscle tension, promote relaxation and lessen pain. Add to that the generally pleasant experience of being at a spa or a similar setting.

But it's important not to spend too much time in the bath, or to frequently take long soaks. Staying in the tub for a long time may make you focus on how bad you're feeling, and it can actually make you feel worse. Instead look at an occasional short soak in your home tub or a spa as a treat.

If visits to a spa aren't your thing, try creating a spa-like ambience at home and have a soak in your own bathtub. Or look for a community center or gym with a heated pool or sauna rooms.

Exercise is known to be beneficial for people with fibromyalgia. And, combining exercise with an awareness of your body, the movements and the moment (mindfulness) may be even more helpful.

Research suggests that tai chi — a practice originating in China that involves moving the body slowly, gently and with awareness — may provide a benefit to people with fibromyalgia. Yoga and the Chinese healing art of qi gong, which combines meditation, controlled breathing and movement exercises, also have shown promise.

Meditation involves focusing your mind to pay attention only to what's happening right now, this moment. If you're not sure about meditation, try paced breathing — controlled breathing designed to lower your heart rate. Or listen to a CD designed to help you relax and ease into a more mindful state.

With guided imagery, you focus on pleasant images to replace stressful or negative thoughts. This allows you to imagine a different internal reality. This can be guided by a practitioner, or you can do it at home using a CD, DVD or phone app.

Massage therapy has been widely used as a complementary and alternative treatment for fibromyalgia. Most of the studies have found that massage therapy significantly improves pain, anxiety and depression in people with fibromyalgia.

But not everyone finds massage helpful. For some people, massage may make their pain worse.

If you'd like to try massage, find a therapist you like and who is familiar with fibromyalgia. The massage therapist may need to start with very gentle massage and work up to a greater intensity for your comfort.

Your doctor, physical therapist or other health care providers may be able to suggest reputable therapists in your area. Be sure to check with your insurance plan to see if massage therapy is covered.

Volunteer for a cause you care about. Read to nursing home residents or young children in child care. Or, ask your local animal shelter if they need any assistance.

Focusing on others can help take your mind off your symptoms for a little while, and you may find the experience very rewarding.

Because fibromyalgia can't be cured, it's important to have a variety of strategies for dealing with your symptoms. If you haven't already, talk with your doctor or other health care provider about nondrug self-care strategies.

Not all therapies will help everyone, of course. Experiment and see what works for you.

April 18, 2017