Fibromyalgia and You
Many of us have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. And when you have the chronic and painful condition known as fibromyalgia, you can multiply that morning pain and morning stiffness several times over. “People with fibromyalgia suffer from non-restorative sleep. This means they can sleep a full eight to nine hours, but still wake up feeling as if they haven’t slept,” says Nathan Wei, MD, a rheumatologist and director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, Md. “In addition, fibromyalgia patients also suffer from stiffness and pain, which makes movement uncomfortable in the morning.” Try the following tips to help soothe fibromyalgia pain and ease into your day.
Take a Warm Shower or Bath
One of the quickest and easiest things you can do to lessen morning pain, stiffness, and other symptoms of fibromyalgia is harness the healing power of water. “Warm showers or baths at bedtime and in the morning will help to relax muscles, and offer a fair amount of relief,” says Nicholas P. Scarpa, MD, a rheumatologist and medical director of the Arthritis Center of New Jersey. “Stay in the warm water for at least 10 minutes to obtain maximum relaxation.”
Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine
Thinking about a nightcap, a smoke, or a cup of coffee before bed? Think again. Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can disrupt restful sleep, which can make pain and morning stiffness even worse the morning after. “Many experts agree that caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol will exacerbate fibromyalgia symptoms due to their stimulatory effects on the body, especially if consumed just prior to sleep,” says Dr. Scarpa. “These should be avoided or ceased as much as possible.”
Practice Healthy Sleep Habits
Scarpa believes that getting a good night’s sleep might be the most important step in minimizing morning pain and stiffness for fibromyalgia patients. “Some tips to consider to achieve longer and ‘better’ sleep include not watching TV or doing work in the bedroom at night,” he says. Also, he adds, be sure to keep your bedroom temperature at a comfortable level — a room that’s too cold will increase stiffness, and one that’s too warm can cause muscle aches and increased pain. Other tips: “Exercising during the day will increase restful sleep at night. Finally, do not sleep during the day.”
Stick to a Set Sleep Schedule
Whether you have fibromyalgia or not, experts recommend setting a sleep schedule and trying to stick to it as much as possible. “The body likes routine, and going to bed and waking up at the same time each day helps to create this pattern and can improve sleep quality,” says Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, director of the Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and author of Pain Free 1-2-3: A Proven Program for Eliminating Chronic Pain Now. “On the other hand, especially with the sleep disruption seen in fibromyalgia, this is not always possible. Because of this, people need to see what works best for them.”
This natural supplement has helped many people with fibromyalgia pain get a good night’s sleep. “Melatonin is available over the counter and has been shown to improve the sleep hygiene in people who suffer from fibromyalgia,” says Bradley W. Carpentier, MD, a pain specialist in private practice in Austin, Texas. “You can enhance your natural melatonin production by being outside in sunlight during the daytime. This helps to regularize the normal secretion of melatonin.”
Try a Morning Self-Massage
Gently rubbing your own shoulders, neck, arms, and back first thing in the morning before you get out of bed might help loosen your muscles and make you feel more limber, easing morning stiffness and pain. Sheldon Solomon, MD, a rheumatologist with Arthritis, Rheumatic & Back Disease Associates in New Jersey, suggests trying this after you take a hot shower or bath in the morning for the greatest impact on fibromyalgia pain.