I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in the early 2000s. At the time I was in so much pain that it was hard to believe that fibromyalgia was an accurate diagnosis and as a result, I ended up seeing three different rheumatologists who all came to the same conclusion. Fibromyalgia impacts the way that the brain processes pain causing reactions to even a minor pain experience to last well past normal time spans. It causes me to have mood swings, anxiety, fatigue and issues with my memory.

Fibromyalgia is one of the “invisible illnesses” where it is often difficult for friends and family to understand and/or sympathize with what you are going through because there are limited external signs of the illness. This can be especially challenging when trying to explain problems with getting out of bed to face the day, lack of interest in doing activities outside the home or even an inability to complete routine daily tasks.

As with most challenges we face in life, I was tasked with finding ways to manage my pain levels. It was important for me to do so without relying on prescription medications. The things that I found most helpful have beeen gardening, massage, excercise, food choices and rest.

I found early on in my gardening journey that being active in the garden was helping me to feel more relaxed and calm. It also helps me to relieve stress which is one of the main triggers of my fibromyalgia symptoms. I am a morning gardener which allows me to set the tone for the rest of my day.

I also use massage to help manage my fibromyalgia symptoms. Having a full body massage followed by drinking lots of water removes toxins from the body. I’ve found massage to be most effective following flare ups but tend to get them on a regular basis for pain management.

Exercising is extremely helpful in managing my pain symptoms. Initially I thought that exercise would make the pain worse but I was pleasantly surprised that a variety of exercies can be extremely helpful. My exercise routine can include walking, light weights, yoga, aerobics and boxing. The exercise and stretching how to ease joint pain and stiffness.

Making proper food choices is critical to alleviating many chronic pain issues because things we eat can cause inflammation. Some things that should be avoided are sugars, processed meats, certain oils and refined carbohydrates. This is a challenging area for me as I’ve struggled with using food for emotional relief and in that regard, my choices are not always the best. As time goes on, I’m finding more information and delicious recipes which have helped me to place the needed focus on making better food choices.

The last item that I want to touch on is getting proper rest. I have difficulties sleeping at night. This is very common among people suffering from chronic pain illnesses. I’ve learned to find times during the day to rest. I find that getting a brief nap anywhere from 15 – 30 minutes is sufficient to help me get through the balance of the day. When I’m not able to nap, I like to pause and sit quietly for whatever time is available.

Please check out my IGTV video on Instagram for more details about my chronic pain journey. If you are living with chronic pain and have questions or tips for how you manage, please leave them in the comments. I would love to chat with you!