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

While lifestyle changes and medications can lessen the severity of your fibromyalgia pain and fatigue, you will continue to have good days and bad days. Knowing that, you can plan for the bad days. The following tips can help take your mind off the pain and 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.

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 in 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.

If regular 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.

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 patients with fibromyalgia. Yoga and the Chinese healing art of qi gong, which combines meditation, controlled breathing and movement exercises, have also shown promise.

Not a yogi? 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 meditative state.

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 seems to make their pain worse.

If you'd like to try massage, find a therapist you like and who is familiar with fibromyalgia. Your doctor, physical therapist or other health care providers may be able to suggest reputable therapists in your area.

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 incorporating nonpharmacologic self-care strategies into your treatment plan. Not all therapies will help everyone, of course. Experiment and see what works for you.

April 28, 2014