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10 Things to Keep Handy

Managing Your Symptoms


Updated June 26, 2014

We've all been there: In spite of all the medications, supplements, stress-reducing techniques and lifestyle changes, some of your symptoms still impose themselves on your life.

During those times, little things can make a big difference. Keeping certain little things close at hand can help you manage your fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) symptoms and improve your quality of life.

The following is a list of simple things that help me get through the day (or night) that don't require a prescription and won't drain your bank account.

  1. Capsaicin
    A long-time arthritis pain reliever, capsaicin rids your cells of a pain messenger called substance P. That's kind of like taking away a computer's Internet connection - no messages get sent. I prefer the bottle that looks like a Bingo dauber so I don't have to touch the medicine. (Learn more about capsaicin before using it.)
  2. Muscle creams
    While muscle creams (like Tiger Balm, Biofreeze, and Aspercreme) don't do much against FMS pain, they can provide relief from muscles aches that can contribute to your overall pain level and make it hard to get comfortable or fall asleep.
  3. Massage tools
    Gently getting kinks out of your muscles can really help you feel better! I sometimes use vibrating massagers, but watch out for those! I have days when my skin almost seems to crawl and my nerves are really jumpy. On those days, the vibration does far more harm than good.
  4. Rice bag
    A rice bag is uncooked rice inside a little pillow, usually made of flannel or some fabric that feels nice against your skin. You heat it in the microwave for a couple minutes and it releases a soothing, slightly moist heat. It's a great alternative to a heating pad because it gradually cools off and won't start a fire, so you can use it to help you sleep. (Mine also has a flannel pillow case so I have more control over how much heat is against my skin.)
  5. Warm, super soft socks or slippers
    Why is it that our feet are always cold? I can't answer that, but I know they are! I try to keep something close by for when the chill is on.
  6. Cooling products
    My temperature is all over the place, and some days I get too hot and just can't cool down. I've used a cooling "scarf" that you just put in cold water for awhile and then wrap around your neck. It feels heavenly and will eventually cool your whole body. I also keep ice packs in the freezer, either for cooling off or for muscle inflammation.
  7. Dark chocolate
    It may sound strange, but dark chocolate is proven to boost your serotonin levels, which means it can make you feel more awake and give you a mood lift. To get the full effect, get the really dark stuff -- like 85% cocoa.
  8. Lotion
    Dry, itchy skin aggravates my FMS, and every time I scratch it can cause a lot of pain in the area. If the lotion has a soothing scent, it can do double duty by helping you relax. (Be careful about scented products, however -- a lot of us are sensitive to them.)
  9. Nail clippers
    This might sound like an odd one, but I've been kept awake more than once by too-long toe nails scratching against a sheet or blanket. Might as well be a chalkboard!
  10. Blankets, pillows and bedding
    The more sedentary you are, the more important it is to have a comfortable place that's ready for you at a moment's notice. Even in the summer, I have a luxuriously soft blanket handy in my family room as well as a variety of cozy-feeling pillows. Also, coarse sheets are like sleeping on sandpaper! I prefer flannel or jersey, or a high thread count. Feel before you buy!
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