Fibromyalgia is a complex chronic pain disorder affecting as much as 5% of the U.S. population. Like many chronic diseases, fibromyalgia has physical, social, and psychological effects on people struggling with this life-changing syndrome. One of the most frustrating and challenging aspects of dealing with fibromyalgia is the lack of diagnostic tests, consistent symptoms, and any known underlying cause for this painful syndrome. The disorder is characterized by chronic fatigue, muscle, ligament, and tendon pain, multiple tender points across the body, sleep disturbances, and psychological distress, sometimes to the point of being debilitating and life altering. The disorder disproportionately affects women, who are 9 times more likely to be stricken by fibromyalgia than men. While there are no known links between fibromyalgia and other conditions, it is estimated that 20% to 30% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis or lupus also have fibromyalgia.
The complexity and variance of symptoms and effects makes coping with fibromyalgia very difficult, and can often cause ripple effects across both the personal and work life of people struggling with this disorder. HealtheHuman provides a software program to help people track, analyze, and organize all of the health information related to their treatment and management of fibromyalgia. HealtheHuman includes tracking and analysis tools for pain levels, symptoms, energy levels, moods, stress, medications, sleep, doctor’s visits, and much more. In fact, HealtheHuman is the only tracking software that provides one integrated tool to track all of the areas of your health and lifestyle that can be affected by fibromyalgia.
Key Health Information to Track for Fibromyalgia
Chronic pain and discomfort at various points across the body is the most common symptom associated with fibromyalgia. People report symptoms such as muscle spasms or tightness, leg cramps, weakness in their arms and legs, stiffness, headaches, jaw tension, facial tenderness, tingling, and sensitivities to odors, noises, bright lights, and cold. One of the other characterizations of fibromyalgia is additional pain when firm pressure is applied to specific “tender points” on the body, including the back of the head, between the shoulder blades, top of the shoulders, front sides of the neck, upper chest, outer elbows, upper hips, sides of hips, and inner knees. Pain management—finding effective methods to treat or reduce pain levels—is often the primary goal for people struggling with this disorder. Many people report fluctuations in pain levels throughout the day, with morning, late afternoon, and evenings tending to be the worse times, with 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. being the best times. Keeping accurate records of your pain levels throughout the day may provide valuable insights into activities or other things that could be triggering discomfort. HealtheHuman provides a comprehensive pain and symptom tracking tool that helps you record your pain levels by hour of the day for each of the areas on your body where you are experience pain or other symptoms.
Fatigue and low energy levels are a constant struggle for people managing fibromyalgia. Energy levels vary throughout the day, and are often impacted by other areas of your health, including your sleep patterns, diet, medications, mood, pain levels, and more. Tracking fluctuations in your energy level can help you better understand when to avoid certain activities, make adaptions in your routines, or lead to other helpful discoveries. There are a number of ways to track your energy levels in HealtheHuman, but the pain and symptom tracker lets you track your fatigue level throughout the day, providing an hour by hour rating of your energy levels with integrated charting and reports. You could also use the Quicktags feature to track an overall energy level for a day, or to simply mark the days with high or low levels of energy.
Many people with fibromyalgia report difficulties with concentration sometimes called a “brain fog” or the “fibro fog.” The symptoms include problems concentrating, memory shortfalls, and difficulty performing simply mental tasks. These episodes are often associated with changes in weather, specifically with colder weather and drafty conditions. They can also be brought on from overexertion. HealtheHuman provides options to track “fibro fog” with both the symptom tracker and the Quicktags feature, making it easy to track these symptoms either by hour of the day or as they occur.
Living with a chronic condition is hard, especially one like fibromyalgia that is characterized by pain, discomfort, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue. These symptoms can be very taxing, often leading to depression, anxiety, and other psychological effects. Monitoring your moods, and changes in mood during certain times of day or related to specific events, can be very valuable information in the management and treatment of fibromyalgia. The Mood Tracker in HealtheHuman makes it easy to track your moods throughout the day, and then analyze, chart, and generate reports of changes in your moods over time.
Stress has a significant impact on your health, especially when struggling with a chronic disease. Increased stress levels can heighten pain symptoms, interfere with sleep, raise blood pressure, increase anxiety, and impact the immune system, all of which can have adverse effects on the treatment of your fibromyalgia. Developing plans to limit stress, including adding in time for relaxation, are essential to your long term fibromyalgia management. Incorporating relaxation exercises such as deep-breathing or meditation can be very beneficial. HealtheHuman includes a Stress Tracking feature that helps you log your stress levels from various sources throughout the day. You can then use this information to find potential triggers of high stress levels and create a plan to reduce or eliminate them to improve your health.
As with any condition that includes chronic pain, it is very important to keep track of your use of all medications, both over-the-counter and prescription. While acetaminophen is a typical medication for fibromyalgia, many people also take antidepressants, sleep aids, muscle relaxants, and anti-seizure drugs. Providing accurate, detailed records of all your medications, vitamins, and supplements to your physician and health advisors can be very important in their treatment plans. It is also important to track and analyze the effectiveness of the medications on your overall pain management to ensure they are working well enough to merit their continued use. It is important to note that people who struggle with chronic pain are at significantly higher risk of developing dependencies on pain medications, both over-the-counter and prescription. Make sure you provide a complete and accurate medication profile to your physician so they know exactly what you are taking and how often to manage the pain and other symptoms from your fibromyalgia. The Medication Tracker and Supplement Tracker in HealtheHuman provides features to record all your prescription and over-the-counter medications, as well as vitamins and supplements, with detailed reports for your daily usage.
Many people get some relief by keeping a diary. Sometimes writing can provide an outlet for the frustration, anxiety, and depression that so often accompanies dealing with a chronic health condition like fibromyalgia. HealtheHuman includes a Health Journal feature that lets you keep a daily dairy of your good and bad days, how you are feeling, the details of your treatments, or anything else that you want to write into your health logs. These journal entries can be marked as confidential so they never show up on any reports, or they can be linked to Health Events or other important reports to share with your health advisors.
Largely due to significantly higher rates of fibromyalgia in women versus men, many believe that there is a correlation between hormone cycles, especially menstruation and menopause, and the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Female reproductive hormones may also play a part in how women experience pain. Women with fibromyalgia also report painful menstrual cycles. HealtheHuman includes a Women’s Health feature that helps track your menstruation, ovulation, pain, and other symptoms.
Problems or pain association with urination and bowel movements are common for people with fibromyalgia. Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and urinary urgency are all frequent symptoms, along with alternating episodes of diarrhea and constipation. Use of pain medications can also have adverse effects on the digestive system. Many fibromyalgia sufferers are also diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), although there are no known links between the two conditions. Tracking incidents or issues with bladder or bowel movements can help you and your physicians in your treatment plans. HealtheHuman’s Bladder and Bowel Tracker provides a detailed daily tracking tool to log the details of all your bathroom visits.
Staying active is always an important part of staying fit and healthy; however, people with fibromyalgia need to be consistent and even paced with their activity levels. Regular, appropriate exercises, such as walking, swimming, biking, and water aerobics, have been found to help control and decrease symptoms. Stretching, relaxation, and practicing good posture also help. But it is important to avoid overexerting yourself when you are feeling good and doing too little on the days your symptoms are flaring up. Keeping a consistent, moderate exercise plan is best for people with fibromyalgia. The Exercise Tracking feature in HealtheHuman can help you create workouts, track your activity levels, and keep you motivated by setting daily, weekly, and monthly fitness goals.
Sleep is very important to your overall health, and often people with fibromyalgia struggle to get regular, quality sleep. Without regular, quality sleep the body is much more susceptible to a number of conditions and ailments, and the impact on your mood can make coping with stress and anxiety much more difficult. People with fibromyalgia often wake tired, even when they are in bed for long periods of time, because of the frequent interruptions from pain and other possible disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Getting enough sleep is essential for people with fibromyalgia because fatigue is one of the primary symptoms. Make sure to allocate enough time for sleep and try to remain consistent with your sleep patterns. You can keep a log of all your daily sleep patterns and symptoms with the Sleep Tracker feature in HealtheHuman. You can log your duration, sleep quality, interruptions, feeling at waking, and many other characteristics of your sleep routine to discover insights and share this important information with your health advisors.
Fibromyalgia is not predictable or consistent, which is one of the most frustrating parts of coping with this syndrome. One of the primary benefits of using HealtheHuman to track your fibromyalgia is tracking all of the different parts of your health in a single, integrated tool. When flare-ups or other significant events occur, you can use the Event Tracker feature to create detailed chronological reports of all your health data before, during, and after. You can analyze these reports yourself, or bring them with you on your next doctor’s visit or other meeting with a health advisor to try to identify possible triggers, alternative treatment options, or other valuable insights.
While there are currently no lab tests to confirm a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, your doctor may order a number of other tests to monitor your health or to rule out other conditions. Often your doctor will run tests to check your blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, thyroid function, serotonin levels, growth hormone levels, or other tests to investigate the potential cause of your symptoms. Keeping track of these laboratory results can be valuable, especially if there are any changes or deviations in these test results over time. Tracking the results of your blood tests and tests for inflammation levels in the body can be important pieces of health data to monitor over time. HealtheHuman includes a detailed Laboratory Test Results Tracker to help you record, chart, analyze, and generate reports for all your test results.
Eating right is another important part of your overall health. The right foods can increase energy levels, fight fatigue, reduce inflammation throughout the body, and much more. Maintaining a healthy diet with balanced nutrition can be of enormous benefit to your management of fibromyalgia. Poor dietary habits could also contribute to your symptoms, especially fatigue. The Diet and Nutrition Tracker in HealtheHuman helps you keep track of your daily foods, including detailed daily nutrition totals for your key dietary information.
Like many other health conditions, being overweight or obese can increase your risk of complications, make symptoms worse, and impact your energy levels, activity levels, and fatigue. The joint pain often associated with fibromyalgia can be made worse by being overweight. It is important to maintain a healthy weight, especially when you are dealing with a chronic condition. HealtheHuman provides a number of ways to help you manage your weight including a detailed Diet and Nutrition Tracker, an extensive Exercise Tracker, and tools to track your Body Measurements and results from a Body Composition Scale.
Dealing with a chronic condition like fibromyalgia often involves working with a number of different doctors, specialists, and advisors. As you continue to manage your fibromyalgia through the years, you might see numerous doctors and advisors, so it is important to maintain accurate records for all the people who have been a part of your treatment. Providing details on all your health advisors, both past and present, can be very important to a new physician or specialist. The Advisor History feature in HealtheHuman helps you keep track of all your health advisors, including maintaining information of their contact details, prescription history, appointments, and related expenses.
Keeping your doctors informed on your medical history is an important part of your care, and could have an impact on their course of treatment. Make sure to provide your physicians and other health advisors with as much detail on your past medical conditions, procedures, surgeries, hospitalizations, or any other relevant aspect of your health. The various health history features of HealtheHuman can help you build and share your comprehensive health history with all your health advisors.
Fibromyalgia is difficult to treat and manage. One of the primary things you can do to help is come prepared for your appointments with your doctors, specialists, and other health advisors with a complete, accurate, and detailed health history. See your doctors and health advisors regularly and be actively involved in your care by tracking your progress and sharing this key information with the people involved in your treatment. A key part of having a successful interaction with your advisors is to be prepared with the information and questions to make your time with them as effective as possible. The extensive set of charting and reporting features found throughout the various tools in HealtheHuman help you provide the insight, detail, and history need to keep information flowing between you and your advisors.
Other Things You Can Do to Help Manage Your Fibromyalgia
While it is important to track your key health information related to your fibromyalgia, one of the main reasons to log all of this information is to create more effective and meaningful visits with your doctors, specialists, and other health advisors. Maintaining regular appointments with your treating physicians and specialists is vital to your long-term success managing fibromyalgia. It is important to keep your appointments with your doctor and to provide as much detail as possible to make their treatments, recommendations, and prescriptions effective.
Struggling with a chronic condition, especially a painful disorder like fibromyalgia can be very difficult emotionally. Many people have found it very beneficial to participate in support groups for both fibromyalgia and chronic pain. Talking about your experiences with family and friends can also help you cope with this often life changing condition. If you are struggling, you might also consider talking with a counselor, who can help you with coping strategies.
It may seem obvious, but it is important to find and engage in positive distractions from time to time. People who deal with chronic pain need to find healthy, positive distractions, like going to the movies, reading a book, or anything else that gives your mind something else to concentrate on for a while. Do something fun every day to give your body and mind a break.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia can be relieved with regular massage, especially for tissue soreness and joint pain. Regular massages also help your relax, which will improve your mood and decrease your stress levels. Make sure to tell your masseuse about your condition and any tender spots to avoid any discomfort or aggravation. Some insurance plans include options for massage, especially for the management of chronic diseases. Make sure to check or ask if you can get some or all of the expenses of massage covered by your health insurance.
Many people have found relieve in natural and alternative treatment options, like acupuncture and meditation. Make sure to discuss any natural or homeopathic treatments with your regular physician because there might be risks or interactions with your current medications or care.
Medical Disclaimer: All information on this site is of a general nature and is furnished for your knowledge and understanding only. This information is not to be taken as medical or other health advice pertaining to your specific health and medical condition.