There are a bewildering number of treatment options for people living with chronic pain and fatigue. That’s both good news, and bad.
It’s wonderful to have choice, especially since research and clinical experience have shown not all treatments work for each individual. What’s bad about it? Some treatments won’t be effective for anyone, and as a motivated person seeking recovery, you need to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. You’ll find information on treatments throughout this site and with these guidelines, you’ll be able to make informed choices about what will work best for you.
Use Different Types of Treatments Daily
One thing research has shown consistently is that people with chronic pain and fatigue seem to do best when they use multiple forms of treatment. Because there are so many options, it’s easier to begin looking at them by grouping them into categories like these:
- Drugs and Supplements
Some treatments will overlap categories. For example, deep breathing exercises have effects on the physical, lifestyle and psychological aspects of chronic pain. A well-rounded treatment regimen will include treatments from each category and, ideally, some treatments that overlap categories. As time goes on, many of these treatments will become ongoing practices of self-care or habits. This is exactly what you want to happen; you want to program yourself for good health.
Adjust Your Expectations: Start Low, Go Slow
It takes at least 6 weeks to form a new habit. Many medications take at least 6 weeks to establish an effect. The same is true for most forms of treatment. It may take a period of up to 3 months of treatment before you see changes in your fibromyalgia symptoms. It may take many more months or even several years of treatment before you feel like your “old self”. Note the word “may”. Some people will experience change more rapidly, others more slowly. Some will experience setbacks with treatments before benefiting from them. Keep an open mind, don’t give up too quickly, and be willing to experiment. You may need to adjust dose amounts, and frequencies, as well duration of treatment. This is normal for people with fibromyalgia and is not necessarily indicative of treatment failure.
Exploit the Power of One Degree of Change
In the illustration above, you see that at the time a one-degree change begins (point A) the magnitude of its effect seems very small. But as time goes on, the magnitude grows (point B), even though it is still just one degree of change.
When your pain level is high and you are feeling exhausted, the idea of doing anything can seem overwhelming. This is where simple interventions that build effectiveness over time become crucial because they exploit the power of one degree of change. Recall how compounding interest builds up over time. Treatment effects are like this too. One degree of change, like one percent of interest, can build into something very impressive give some time.
This is why seemingly innocuous changes like doing deep breathing exercises and drinking enough water can make significant impacts on your pain and fatigue levels respectively, and why these interventions are especially well-suited to those whose symptoms are severe – you’re not going to stop breathing or ignore your thirst no matter how terrible you feel. And as these interventions become habits, it will make it easier for you to take on some additional treatments, thereby adding to the total combined impact on your symptoms.
Build a Toolkit
It’s important to experiment with a variety of treatment options because your needs will change over time, but those changes won’t always be favourable. From time to time, you will experience setbacks, often referred to as “flares”. During a flare, you may need to reactivate a treatment you had discontinued because you no longer felt you needed it. For example, when you reach a stage where you are feeling good, and it persists for some time, you might decide to stop taking medications and/or supplements. When you are in flared state, you may need to take these compounds again. Every treatment you try becomes a potential tool in your kit. The more tools you have at your disposal, the more effective you’ll be at responding in changes in your symptoms, and at circumventing flares.