Self help for fibromyalgia

If you have fibromyalgia, there are several ways you can 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 a number of organisations to support people with fibromyalgia that may also be able to offer advice and you can visit UK Fibromyalgia’s support group section for a list of fibromyalgia support groups across the country.

You can also go on an NHS-approved course to help you cope better with your condition. Here one woman with fibromyalgia describes how going on a confidence-building course helped her.

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


As fatigue (extreme tiredness) is one of the main symptoms of fibromyalgia, you may find you often feel unable to exercise. However, an exercise programme specially suited to your condition can help manage your symptoms, as well as 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 mix of:

  • aerobic exercises
  • strengthening exercises

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic activities are any kind of rhythmic, moderate-intensity exercises that use the large muscles in your legs and buttocks. The exercise should raise 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 cannot 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 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. 

Strengthening exercises

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, as otherwise they can make muscle stiffness and soreness 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 also reported that:

  • they felt less tired
  • they could function better
  • their mood was improved

Improving the strength of your major muscle groups can make it easier for you to move onto aerobic exercises.

Read more information about health and fitness including how to start planning your exercise programme.    


If you have fibromyalgia, it is important that you 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 information about stress management.

Better sleeping habits

Fibromyalgia can make sleeping difficult. The following advice is aimed at people with insomnia (difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep), but may also help if your fibromyalgia is affecting your sleep:

  • go to bed and get up at the same time every night and morning
  • try to relax before bed (see above)
  • 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 watching the clock throughout the night

Pacing yourself

Pacing involves balancing periods of activity with periods of rest. It means not overdoing it or pushing yourself beyond your limits. If you do, it could slow down your progress in the long term. Over time, you can gradually increase your periods of activity, while making sure they are balanced with periods of rest.

If you have fibromyalgia, it is likely you will have some days when your symptoms are better than other days. Try to maintain a steady level of activity without overdoing it. Listen to your body and slow down 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 right for you, rather than rushing to do as much as possible in a short space of time, you should make steady progress.

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