Self-help for fibromyalgia 

If you have fibromyalgia, there are several ways to change your lifestyle to help relieve your symptoms and make your condition easier to live with.

Your GP, or another healthcare professional treating you, can offer advice and support about making these changes part of your everyday life.

There are organisations to support people with fibromyalgia that may also be able to offer advice. Visit UK Fibromyalgia's support group section for a list of support groups across the country. You may also find it helpful to talk to other people with fibromyalgia on this online community.

Below are some tips that may help relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia. You can also read more information about living with pain.

Exercise

As fatigue (extreme tiredness) and pain are two of the main symptoms of fibromyalgia, you may find that you're not able to exercise as much as you'd like. However, an exercise programme specially suited to your condition can help you manage your symptoms and improve your overall health.

Your GP or physiotherapist (healthcare professional trained in using physical techniques to promote healing) can design you a personal exercise programme, which is likely to involve a mixture of aerobic and strengthening exercises.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic activities are any kind of rhythmic, moderate-intensity exercises that increase your heart rate and make you breathe harder. Examples include:

  • walking
  • cycling
  • swimming

Research suggests that aerobic fitness exercises should be included in your personalised exercise plan, even if you can't complete these at a high level of intensity. For example, if you find jogging too difficult, you could try brisk walking instead.

A review of a number of studies found that aerobic exercises may improve quality of life and relieve pain. As aerobic exercises increase your endurance (how long you can keep going), these may also help you function better on a day-to-day basis. 

Resistance and strengthening exercises

Resistance and strengthening exercises are those that focus on strength training, such as lifting weights. These exercises need to be planned as part of a personalised exercise programme; if they aren't, muscle stiffness and soreness could be made worse.

A review of a number of studies concluded that strengthening exercises may improve:

  • muscle strength
  • physical disability
  • depression
  • quality of life

People with fibromyalgia who completed the strengthening exercises in these studies said they felt less tired, could function better and experienced a boost in mood.

Improving the strength of your major muscle groups can make it easier to do aerobic exercises.

Read more information and advice on health and fitness.    

Pacing yourself

If you have fibromyalgia, it's important to pace yourself. This means balancing periods of activity with periods of rest, and not overdoing it or pushing yourself beyond your limits.

If you don't pace yourself, it could slow down your progress in the long term. Over time, you can gradually increase your periods of activity, while making sure they're balanced with periods of rest.

If you have fibromyalgia, you will probably have some days when your symptoms are better than others. Try to maintain a steady level of activity without overdoing it, but listen to your body and rest whenever you need to.

Avoid any exercise or activity that pushes you too hard, because this can make your symptoms worse. If you pace your activities at a level that's right for you, rather than trying to do as much as possible in a short space of time, you should make steady progress.

For example, it may help to start with gentler forms of exercise – such as tai chiyoga and pilates – before attempting more strenuous aerobic or strengthening exercises.

Relaxation

If you have fibromyalgia, it's important to regularly take time to relax or practice relaxation techniques. Stress can make your symptoms worse or cause them to flare up more often. It could also increase your chances of developing depression.

There are many relaxation aids available, including books, tapes and courses, although deep-breathing techniques or meditation may be just as effective. Try to find time each day to do something that relaxes you. Taking time to relax before bed may also help you sleep better at night.

Talking therapies, such as counselling, can also be helpful in combating stress and learning to deal with it effectively. Your GP may recommend you try this as part of your treatment.

Read more about stress management.

Better sleeping habits

Fibromyalgia can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep (known as insomnia). If you have problems sleeping, it may help to:

  • get up at the same time every morning
  • try to relax before going to bed
  • try to create a bedtime routine, such as taking a bath and drinking a warm, milky drink every night
  • avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol before going to bed
  • avoid eating a heavy meal late at night
  • make sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature, and is quiet and dark
  • avoid checking the time throughout the night

Read more insomnia self-help tips.

Page last reviewed: 01/03/2016

Next review due: 01/03/2019