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7 Ways Older Adults Can Manage Fibromyalgia Symptoms

By Lauren Robison, 9:00 am on

Fibromyalgia (FM) is often characterized by heightened pain sensitivity. The primary reason for FM is trauma, which can be caused by illness, injury, infection, surgery, or stress. Caring for a loved one with this disease can be overwhelming at times, but this challenge does not have to be faced alone.

New Hampshire home care providers are available to provide high-quality care to seniors on an as-needed basis. From assistance with mobility and exercise to providing transportation to the doctor’s office and social events, there are a variety of ways professional caregivers can help your aging loved one continue to live independently. Here are a few ways seniors can ease FM symptoms.

1. Medications

Pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure drugs are commonly used in treating FMS. It should be noted that there is no definite cure for fibromyalgia, and the drug effects may vary from individual to individual. Seniors should consult their doctors before taking any medications for FM.

2. Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can design a treatment plan for FM. The therapist may perform passive stretching by gently moving your loved one’s joints beyond limited range of motion. The movements will loosen tight muscles and stiff joints, thereby increasing flexibility. 

Exercise equipment further increases mobility and muscle strength. Using a stationary bicycle, treadmill, or elliptical machine can speed up the production of natural pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins. 

Some physical therapy practices have heated pools for aquatic therapy. Floating in water reduces the stress on muscles and joints. Aquatic exercises help strengthen muscles, since water creates resistance. 

TENS treatment relieves pain by using comfortable electric impulses that trigger endorphin production and block pain signals from reaching the brain. If your loved one finds TENS helpful, you can buy a portable unit for home use.

3. Acupuncture

Derived from Chinese medicine, acupuncture stimulates energy flow throughout the body. This treatment is based on the belief that blocked energy causes disease. Activating nerve centers releases endorphins and anti-inflammatory proteins. In addition to relieving pain, acupuncture can alleviate insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

This treatment consists of inserting thin needles into specific body sites. Needle application is barely felt. To enhance nerve stimulation, the doctor may gently twist the needles, apply heat, or connect them to an electric device.

4. Dietary Supplements

5-HTP

A modified version of the amino acid tryptophan, 5-HTP is available as a supplement. Our bodies use 5-HTP to convert tryptophan into serotonin, which elevates mood, promotes sound sleep, curbs appetite, and relieves anxiety, morning stiffness, and pain.

5-HTP is plant-derived. The dose suggested by the University of Maryland Medical Center is 50 mg, one to three times per day. 

NOTE– If your loved one is taking antidepressants, he or she should not take 5-HTP supplements. Combining the two drugs can result in sudden changes in heart rate and blood pressure, hot flashes, and possibly coma.

SAMe

SAMe is a natural substance present in every human cell. Our bodies make SAMe from the amino acid methionine.

SAMe is known to relieve depression and restore joint cartilage. Many people with FM find that it decreases joint stiffness and muscle pain. The recommended dose is 400 mg daily on an empty stomach.

NOTE – Like 5-HTP, SAMe should not be taken with antidepressants. 

5. Turmeric

The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin alleviates muscle pain, relieves depression and anxiety, and boosts cognitive function. As an antioxidant, it reduces tissue damage.

Foods containing turmeric boost brain health, and they are often recommended for seniors with cognitive health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Aging adults with Alzheimer’s disease can benefit from receiving professional Alzheimer’s home care. New Hampshire seniors need regular mental stimulation when managing memory-related conditions, and a reliable in-home caregiver who has extensive training in Alzheimer’s care can be a great asset.

6. Sound Sleep

During deep sleep, the human body heals tissue damage. FM prevents the mind from reaching this stage, and it can lead to insomnia. To help your loved one obtain sound sleep, consider the following tips:

  • Provide foam earplugs to reduce noise.
  • Block light in the bedroom using heavy drapes.
  • For bathroom breaks, install a nightlight. Exposure to bright light slows the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone.
  • Make sure your loved one does not consume caffeine six hours before bedtime.
  • Encourage relaxing activity prior to bedtime.

Also, serve sleep-inducing foods. Yogurt and milk contain tryptophan and soothing calcium. Walnuts are rich in melatonin. Bananas are packed with magnesium, potassium, and tryptophan that relax muscles.

Just before bedtime, scent your loved one’s pillowcase with lavender spray. The fragrance eases muscle tension and promotes better sleep.

7. Massage Therapy

Regular massage reduces stiffness, tender points, and pain. It also relieves anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Massage prompts the release of endorphins and serotonin. By increasing blood flow, it also enhances muscle flexibility.

If your loved one is uncomfortable during a massage session, he or she should tell the therapist immediately. The practitioner can then tailor the therapy to your loved one’s comfort. 

Living with a serious health condition can make it challenging for seniors to age in place. However, they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional live-in home care. New Hampshire seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more. If your loved one needs assistance with daily activities or managing his or her health condition, turn to Home Care Assistance at (603) 471-3004 today.