5 Fun Ways to Fight Fibromyalgia Symptoms

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Simple Self-Therapies

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Treatment regimens for fibromyalgia are generally best when they're multi-layered. But those layers don't all have to involve medications, supplements, and endless appointments with some medical practitioner. Some of them can actually be … fun.

You're doubting me, aren't you? OK, I'll prove it! I'll offer you five enjoyable ways to ease your symptoms that have scientific backing. That's right – there's evidence for all of these things.

A quick note, though, that these aren't replacements for other treatments. They're little extras that can take the edge off when you need it. Think of them as add-ons, not instead-ofs.

Here we go!

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#1 - Music: Listening or Singing

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Just 20 minutes of calmly listening to relaxing music, or even just relaxing sounds, may ease your fibromyalgia pain, according to some research.

Other research shows that it can make you less depressed and more active, as well.

It may even help with your cognitive function. A 2015 study (Sarkamo) showed that singing every day for 10 weeks improved working memory and executive function in people with Alzheimer's disease. Fibromyalgia doesn't involve dementia like Alzheimer's, but they can impair those two types of brain function.

The great thing about music is that we can listen to it just about anywhere. And you never go anywhere without your singing voice!

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#2 – Laughing

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It's not just a column in those old Reader's Digests lying around your grandma's house; laughter really is good medicine!

Sure, you know that it feels good and can brighten your mood, but what's going on in your brain and body is kind of amazing. Studies on laughter in general and for multiple ailments (but not specifically fibromyalgia) suggest that it can:

  • Lower pain,
  • Relieve stress,
  • Improve your immune health,
  • Improve blood flow,
  • Mimic the effects of exercise.

You might feel like you have precious little reason to laugh. I get that – some days, it's hard to even muster a smile. What I suggest is finding a show or podcast or type of meme that always gets you chuckling, and rely on that during the dark times.

If you truly can't find anything to make you laugh, you may have major depressive disorder. A lot of us do, and it's nothing to be ashamed about. Talk to your doctor and, if necessary, start exploring treatment options. No one should have to live that way.

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#3 – Playing Video Games

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You hear a lot about negative health effects of video games, but studies show that they can have a lot of benefits as well. Yes, researchers actually study this, and quite a bit.

With good reason, too. Video games appear to have a big impact on our brains. For example, in research on neurological illnesses, they're shown to:

  • Improve multiple types of memory,
  • Lessen symptoms of depression,
  • Improve motor skills,
  • Speed up response time,
  • Improve multitasking.

On top of all that, in fibromyalgia, they also appear to distract our brains from the constant bombardment of pain signals. They don't stop the pain, but they make you less aware of it. That's good for us, because our brains are hyper-alert to pain.

Motion-controlled video games may also offer a form of low-impact exercise that we can tailor to our own abilities.

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#4 – Having Sex

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I know, you're in pain, you don't feel good about yourself, you have no energy, you don't want to over-exert yourself…. But really, who wants to lead a sexless life?

Besides, it offers some possibly therapeutic effects. The main ones are brain-chemistry changes: oxytocin and endorphins.

Oxytocin is often called the "love hormone." It's released during sex, and it's linked to relaxation, feelings of trust, and psychological stability.

Endorphins are the "happy chemical." You release a lot of them during sex, especially orgasm. The really interesting part of endorphins, when it comes to therapeutic value, is that they work on the same receptors in your brain as opiates. That's right – they're painkillers. Free, natural, no-side-effects-or-overdose-risk painkillers.

Yes, sex can be a problem for us, but you may be able to overcome or work around a lot of issues.

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#5 – Meditation

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OK, so compared to sex and video games, meditation doesn't exactly sound "fun." However, it can be a really enjoyable activity, especially once you get the hang of it and start to feel the benefits.

Meditation helps with a lot of things, including:

  • Stress reduction,
  • Lowering blood pressure,
  • Lessening pain,
  • Improving sleep,
  • Boosting visual memory,
  • Alleviating depression.

Meditation, especially a type called mindfulness meditation, is getting more research attention and showing some promising results. It might seem hard to get started on your own, but these resources can help you understand the whys and hows:

Sources:

Alparslan GB, et al. Clinical rheumatology. 2015 Aug 6. [Epub ahead of print] Effects of music on pain in patients with fibromyalgia.

Anguera JA, et al. Nature. 2013 Sep 5;501(7465):97-101. Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults.

Baniqued PL, et al. Frontiers in psychology. 2014 Jan 7;4:1010. Cognitive training with casual video games: points to consider.

Bennett MP, et al. Alternative therapies in health and medicine. 2003 Mar-Apr;9(2):38-45. The effect of mirthful laughter on stress and natural killer cell activity.

Berk LS, et al. Alternative therapies in health and medicine. 2001 Mar;7(2):62-72, 74-6. Modulation of neuroimmune parameters during the eustress of humor-associated mirthful laughter.

Berk LS, et al. The American journal of the medical sciences. 1989 Dec;298(6):390-6. Neuroendocrine and stress hormone changes during mirthful laughter.

Botella C, et al. Cyberspsychology, behavior and social networking. 2013 Mar;16(3):215-23. Virtual reality in the treatment of fibromyalgia: a pilot study.

Garza-Villarreal EA, et al. Frontiers in psychology. 2014 Feb 11;5:90. Music reduces pain and increases functional mobility in fibromyalgia.

Garza-Villarreal EA, et al. Frontiers in psychology. 2015 Jul 22;6:1051. Music reduces pain and increases resting state fMRI BOLD signal amplitude in the left angular gyrus in fibromyalgia patients.

HelpGuide.org and Harvard health publications. All rights reserved. Benefits of mindfulness: practices for improving emotional and physical well-being. Accessed May 2015.

Jones KD, et al. Explore. 2015 Apr 28. pii: S1550-8307(15)00067-1. Fibromyalgia impact and mindfulness characteristics in 4986 people with fibromyalgia.

Mahony DL, Burroughs WJ, Hieatt AC. The journal of general psychology. 2001 Apr;128(2):217-26. The effects of laughter on discomfort thresholds: does expectation become reality?

Matsuzaki T, et al. Rheumatology (Oxford). 2006 Feb;45(2):182-6. Mirthful laughter differentially affects serum pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels depending on the level of disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

Mercadie L, Mick G, Bigand E. Pain management nursing. 2015 Jul 8. pii: S1524-9042(15)00013-2. Effects of listening to music versus environmental sounds in passive and active situations on levels of pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia.

Picard LM, et al. Pain research and management. 2014 Mar-Apr;19(2):97-101. Music as a sleep aid in fibromyalgia.

Sarkamo T, et al. Journal of Alzheimer's disease. 2015 Oct 19. [Epub ahead of print] Clinical and demographic factors associated with the cognitive and emotional eficacy of regular musical activities in dementia.

Whitbourne SK, Ellenberg S, Akimoto K. Cyberpsychology, behavior and social networking. 2013 Dec;16(12):892-7. Reasons for playing casual video games and perceived benefits among adults 18 to 80 years old.

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