My Journey With Fibromyalgia By Ruth Sanders, MSN RN

August 2014

My journey with tenderness, stiffness, and pain all over my body started in 1994. I was in my forties and experiencing an excessive amount of stress.  My stressors were working full time being a wife, mother, caregiver to an aging parent, and working on my graduate degree.

In the 1990s fibromyalgia was not an accepted diagnosis by the health care profession. Individuals with the complaints associated with fibromyalgia were perceived as having psychological problems.  I knew that my condition was not psychosomatic.

A Typical Day

I wake up most mornings with stiffness and tenderness over my entire body. The discomfort is in my neck, upper shoulders, and hips.  The stiffness and tenderness will usually dissipate if I do stretching exercises. I had to learn this technique by trial and error.  This morning regimen is painful but missing it would be much more painful in the long-run.

Exercise Routine

My routine is to do 5-10 of the following exercises:

1.  Neck rotations (turn neck from right to left).

2.  Chin tucks (chin up and down).

3.  Scalene stretches (hands behind back clasped together turning head until a stretch is felt).

4.   Scapula squeezes (squeeze shoulders blades together).

5.   Thoracic extension (sitting in a chair putting both hands behind head arching back and looking upward).

It takes about 10 minutes for me to do my exercises. They help to reduce neck spasms and stiffness. I do the exercise before my shower. The warm water from the shower will also help to loosen and relax my muscles. I put my clothes on over the most painful arm first, this will help reduce extra pulling and tension on those muscles in that arm.

My stiffness and tenderness during the day will depend on my activities. If I am extremely stressful, anxious, or fatigued, the stiffness will worsen. I have learned that eating healthy, controlling my stress, taking vitamins, and exercising will help me to have a better day. I also do breathing exercise during the day. The breathing exercises help me to relax my jaw clenching (I wear a night guard to help reduce grinding my teeth).

Many people are unable to work because of the extreme fatigue. I perform my daily routine because I resolved not to give in to my aches and pain. I decided that I wanted to control my symptoms with exercise, herbal medicine and alternative therapies. Every “fibro” person is different and must discuss his/her case with their health care provider. I really did not have that option over twenty years ago because so little was known about the disorder. The plan of care for a “fibro” client is ongoing and must constantly be evaluated. This is another reason why good communication between you and your physician is very important.


When you have fibromyalgia you must get accustomed to your “new” body. The new body will have a “foggy” memory, abdominal discomfort, feeling anxious, depression, numbness (in face, arms, hands, feet, and stiffness). Many other disorders will have the same symptoms as fibromyalgia (such as menopause, cardiac problems, or thyroid problems).

I had two serious episodes of pain in my left arm that required an extensive diagnostic work-up. It was determined that the pain was not cardiac in nature but “fibro” related. I had to learn to keep a diary and pay close attention to the onset of pain, location, duration, and what relieved the pain. The two episodes occurred in January after the Christmas holiday.

Of course, holidays can be very stressful. The two episodes were very expensive. I had to find a health care provider that was willing to help me learn my new body. I am still learning to adjust to this new body.

Treatment Options

I have learned over the last two decades that treatment is ongoing and multifaceted. At first, my diagnosis was fragmented and was in a constant state of flux. I will list the best strategies that are presently working for me. I focus on exercise, sleep quality, stiffness, relief of stress, and improving optimal cognitive performance. Remember, as I stated above every patient is different. You must discuss any new possible plan of action with your Dr./health-care provider before starting anything new or stopping anything you are currently doing.

Listed below is my personal plan of action:


 Find a chiropractor that works well with “fibro” patients.

 Find a knowledgeable massage therapist.

 Walk daily (start slowly).

 Find exercises that the you enjoy (stretching, hoola, Yoga, Zumba, etc).

Exercise is like medication for me.  It helps my stiffness and alleviates tightness in my shoulders and neck.


 Exercise is a major stress buster.

 Meditation can help to alleviate stress.

 Reading scriptures helps with stress.

 Deep breathing throughout the day.

Sleep/cognitive improvement

If you are not sleeping well, it is difficult to be cognitively astute. These few things have helped my sleeping and cognitive improvement.

 Go to bed when sleepy.

 Keep the room cool.

 Avoid over stimulation of the brain prior to bed (one should avoid the use of the following at least one hour prior to bed: cell phone, computer, and other E-devices).

List of “natural”/herbal that I have used

It is necessary to check with your health care provider before taking any medication (that includes vitamins and other supplements).

 Omega-3’s (fish oil) take 500mg daily

 Vitamin D 2000 IU daily ( joint support)

 Black cherry concentrate 500 mg 1-3 daily with meals

 Turmeric ( comes in powder, roots, and capsules) dose if taken by capsules is 450-500 mg

 Pycnogenol 50-150 mg daily (helps to improve blood flow and oxygen to the muscles).


Living with fibromyalgia is a great challenge.  It is ongoing and the results do vary.  Healthy eating, daily exercise, proper rest and use of medications/supplements has allowed me to manage, not eliminate, this prognosis.

Ruth Sanders, MSN, RN  

You can email Ruth directly with any questions or comments at the address above.

For more information about Fibromyalgia on American RSDHope’s website please visit our Fibromyalgia section here.