Healthy Living

Supporting a Loved One with Fibromyalgia

Supporting a Loved One with Fibromyalgia

Key Takeaways

  • The best way to adequately support your loved one with fibromyalgia is by talking to them about it.
  • Do your research and learn as much as you possibly can about the disease. 
  • Support a healthy lifestyle including exercise and a balanced diet, because being fit eases fibromyalgia pain.

Having someone that you love diagnosed with fibromyalgia may be challenging for you for various reasons. Some people find it difficult to process this kind of information, because they are afraid of disease and death in general. There are people who have a difficult time dealing with emotional situations, and they fall apart under pressure. Others will find it difficult to process the fact that their loved ones appear “normal” to them on the outside, but they are suffering from horrible pain inside. There are also some people who will immediately focus on finding ways to make their loved ones feel as comfortable as they can. This mini-guide is designed for all these people, because eventually all of them will come around to do whatever is in their power to help.

The things we can do are two-fold: some of them include practical support, like adapting the home and job place, changing dietary plans to try easing the pain, and trying alternative therapies. Other things we can do are more abstract, such as emotional support and understanding.

Research

Before you begin with anything, first you have to make sure that you completely understand the mysterious nature of this condition. Why is this so important? Because you would want to prevent yourself from falling into the trap called denial and rejecting. To avoid thinking that your loved one isn’t actually sick and it will go away soon, you have to find all relevant information you can. Luckily, today, with all of the advantages the Internet offers, research isn’t as complicated as it used to be. So, do your reading. There are dozens of excellent blogs written by experts or even better, people suffering from fibromyalgia. Their insight will be highly valuable because it may help you understand what your family member is going through right now.

On the other hand, articles and studies written by professionals will help you to understand the mechanism of this condition, possible complications, and outcomes. It will also help you to stay on track with the latest medical research regarding fibromyalgia and try new treatments. Knowing that someone out there works industriously to find a cure will be very comforting and motivational to stay positive and hope for the best.

Talk

The best way to adequately support your loved one with fibromyalgia is by talking to them. Only this way you can be sure that you really know how they feel and that you are helping. The common problem among people suffering from fibromyalgia is that they feel isolated and misunderstood. If you visit any fibromyalgia related forums you will see that many people say they would prefer having some other illness because then “people would understand”. Feelings of isolation and being misunderstood are dangerous, because they can lead to depression and we need to do everything in our power to prevent that. So, make some nice comfort drinks, sit and talk. And it’s completely okay to be honest and express that you don’t understand entirely the nature of this condition. But the important thing that needs to follow is expressing your willingness to learn. This will make them feel accepted and remove the isolation bubble.

However, you need to be careful when it comes to talking, because it’s important not to make some mistakes. For example, let your family member talk freely about their condition but don’t immerse into a pity party. I know that at the moment all of it will sound horrid to you, but catastrophizing about the situation won’t help much. Acknowledging their pain is good, but after you are done with that, change the subject and direct a conversation to honor their strengths and being brave. Many studies have shown that this kind of approach is effectively beneficial, and it helps reducing not only emotional but in some cases even physical pain.

Also, it’s normal that you feel down when you learn that someone you love is experiencing that much pain, but if you start feeling sorry for yourself more than focusing on helping your family member, you have stopped being a supporter and become someone who needs support. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that your feelings matter too, but you should try to address them in other situations and not in front your loved one.

Adapting the home and job place

One of the usual complications that come with fibromyalgia is joint pain and swelling. So, to minimize the chance of producing any extra and unnecessary pain for them, you can do a few things around the house or at their job place. To ease pressure on the hands, wrists and arms, buy some adapted household items like kitchen shears, spoons, forks and hair dryers. Opening jars and pill bottles can be tricky if lids have protection systems, so you can ask your pharmacist to place easy-to-open tops instead.

At work, a foot stool under a desk will provide some extra support for legs and reduce the joint stress that lengthy sitting is producing. Talk with their boss about adapting the workplace to better suit their needs by designing a more comfortable desk and chair. If they sit an 8-hour working day and type a lot, advise your family member to take short breaks for a light stretching, because this will ease the pain.

Treatments

Chronic pain is not an easy thing to handle, and we need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to mitigate the effects of fibromyalgia. Regular exercises bring many benefits for fibromyalgia patients, and to a certain extent prevent severe pains. However, due to chronic pain, many are reluctant to exercise and lack motivation. To encourage this activity, you can join and exercise together. A simple short workout in the park, light stretching, chair yoga and deep breathing are such simple exercises that can do wonders. This will not only ease the stress on joints and muscles, but it will also lift up a mood because it will make them feel that they are fighting and doing something for their health. However, caution is required, and getting overtired is not only inadvisable but highly counterproductive.

One more thing that works is applying hot and cold packs. These treatments are designed to alleviate existing pains. The packs normally serve as a relaxant for muscles when they are warm, or they numb the painful areas and reduce inflammation when they are cold. If you don’t have money to buy packs regularly, you can always use ice and warm towels as a substitute.

Diet

Being fit is not only a matter of good looks, but a matter of good health, especially if you have some medical problem. So, in case your family member suffers from fibromyalgia, losing excess weight is advisable. Overweight and obese people are in general more likely to suffer from joint pain, and reducing weight can contribute to less joint stress. Unfortunately, there is no magic diet which will cure fibromyalgia. However, there are people who report that avoiding or eating certain types of food help them ease the pain. To discover what works best for your loved one, you will have to encourage them to adopt healthy dietary choices, avoid processed food, and find out what their recipe for improvement is. A balanced diet is recommendable for everyone, so if you want to be supportive and at the same time care for yourself, you can join them in finding the right foods.

Help yourself

No matter how strong of a person you feel you are, this situation will take its toll on you. Having to be there for your loved one and helping them adjust to new life circumstances doesn’t mean that your life falls in second place. Try keeping as much of your hobbies as you can, and pay attention to both your physical and mental health. Keep in mind that each and every one of us has a right to be happy and feel satisfied. This is not because you care less about your loved one, it’s because you care about yourself too. Only if you are well, you will be able to provide them the support they need.