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I have no desire to be a martyr to pain, and I have no intention of being in pain for the next three or four decades of my life. I can live with a certain amount of pain in my day, but some days I need to avail myself of all of the pain relieving options Western medicine has to offer. I’ll take the pills, thank you. I take Gabapentin twice a day. I was fortunate that it was the first medication my doctor tried me on and it was effective at cutting down on the pain within a few weeks. This is main medication I take to treat my pain.

I can make it through a day with 10% pain (out of a 100% scale—0% is no pain and 100% is pain so bad it’ll kill me) if I’m going to work or doing difficult chores, 15% pain if the day is mine to arrange rest breaks as I need to. If the pain is any worse, I have to do something. If I have time, I’ll stretch or take a hot bath or shower. If those don’t work, or if I don’t have the time, I take a naproxen sodium. I have taken Tramadol, but it made me nauseous and even more drowsy than I already am. I’ve also take Cyclobenzaprine when my lower back has felt strained and vibrating. I think this is unrelated to the fibromyalgia, but I can’t be sure. I tend to assign the fibro label to any pain I feel and hope that it’s not something else. Again, though, the medication makes me drowsy so I only take it at night or if I have time to nap.

I also use a topical salve if my shoulders, elbows, wrists or calves are burning that day. It contains Calendula and chili pepper. It is made by a local woman who sells it at the farmer’s market. This salve and massage are as close as I get to using anything close to “alternative” medicine.

Heat therapy works for me. I remember the first winter I lived with fibro I spent many evenings with the heating pad wrapped around my wrists or draping my shoulders. I also spent a lot of time laying flat on an electric blanket to try to soothe my whole body. I started taking 20 minute warm showers twice a day. I did that most of my first summer living with fibro. I don’t need to do this anymore, but it helped when my pain was at is worst. Last year, when I was working full time, I ended up taking a warm bath with Epsom salt nearly every night.

Exercise is also important. I do as much as I can handle on any day. Some days I need to give myself a rest so I don’t do any exercise. I alternate yoga, walking, and bicycling. I started small with each type of exercise and have slowly worked my way up to doing longer workouts. Without the exercise I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now. I wouldn’t have my symptoms under control the way I do now.

Rest is vital. If I need a nap and I can fit it into my day, I take one. I sleep at least nine hours a night. I pace myself when I have physical chores to do. I also just rest, just sit and relax and do a quiet activity like reading or watching TV. Sometimes I feel like a lazy bum for sitting around so much, but I need to get adequate rest to manage my symptoms. It’s okay if I put off the dusting or the weeding until tomorrow.

I’ve discovered what works for me through the process of trial and error. Sometimes that’s all you can do with a condition like fibromyalgia. This is one of the hardest aspects of dealing with my condition. I know I’m fortunate to be in the place I’m in now, but there were some rough years to get through in order to get here. Ups and downs are part of living with it, and resisting the downs out of resentment because I don’t want to deal with them, I have learned, gets me nowhere except in more pain. So I take a deep breath and live with it.

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