As fibromyalgia affects the whole body it makes a wide range of tasks rather difficult to carry out, causing not only increased pain and fatigue but mind-blowing frustration and escalating irritation at a lack of independence. Our current technological age can offer a few rays of hope as we battle with everyday tasks, providing useful devices and adaptive techniques to help us overcome our frustration. Here are some useful devices and techniques I use to help me overcome fibromyalgia and achieve independence.
Voice Dictation Software
The constant repetitive movements involved in typing can irritate pain in your hands and wrists, making it difficult to achieve much more than a few emails and leaving your hands too painful for other daily tasks. Learning to use voice dictation software can alleviate the need to even touch the keyboard and enables you to produce documents effectively and efficiently; a single page can take several pain-free minutes and feel as though you are simply chatting on the phone.
I must admit that when this software first appeared on the scene, its many limitations simply added to the frustration of getting words on the screen. You had to sit there deliberately dictating one word at a time, stopping to correct any mistakes immediately and thus totally losing your train of thought. The nubmer of times I almost gave up and threw the computer out of the window is too great to count. However, these days it is so technologically advanced that you simply talk naturally without even looking at the screen, and then can go back and make the odd correction in your own time. I have found this so liberating and it has even enabled me to start part-time work.
To get started all you need it is a microphone, a decent soundcard and the patience to read the computer a short story so that it learns the inflections of your voice. Then you are all set to write letters or emails to friends, surf the Web, or even to write that novel that has been in the back of your mind.
For more information, go to www.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/.
Using a headset like one of those telesalespeople means that you can totally relax in a comfy chair or even on your bed while chatting on the phone to friends and family, without wondering how long you can continue to hold the receiver due to the pain building up on your arm and shoulder. If you have a cordless phone you can even tuck it in your pocket and carry on with whatever task you were involved in when the phone rang, which is ideal if you are involved in manning a fibromyalgia helpline.
Swim Belt (Aqua Jogger)
A swim belt ties round your waist and holds you upright in the water, allowing you to exercise and stretch with total freedom in the pool. It is also ideal for floating on your back, which can be very relaxing. I always take my swim belt with me on holiday so I can enjoy being in the sea playing with friends and family and not having to struggle to stay afloat. You can simply bob up and down in the waves or float on your back. It also allows you to snorkel as you can float just as easily on your front and can enjoy the vista of colorful fish and corals as you float along; this has become one of my favorite accessible activities on holiday.
Ask in your local sport shop or leisure center, or go to http://aquajogger.com/default.htm.
Audio books are ideal for keeping your mind pleasantly occupied and can help you to switch off from worries and anxieties. I used to find that when I had my rest time in the afternoon I would either lie there restlessly going over all the things that needed to be done or I would simply fall asleep, which would mess up my sleep cycle. Nowadays, I look forward to my rest times as I always have a good book that I can listen to. My mind is transported into another world, pushing aside the daily worries and keeping me awake but pleasantly relaxed.
This form of reading is also a great alternative if you find sitting still to read and holding a book uncomfortable, or if you struggle to focus on printed text. Audio books are usually available from your local library on cassette or CD and nowadays there is a wide range to choose from. Check out what your library can offer.
We all know we need to do as much exercise as possible and walking is an ideal way to enjoy the outdoors while increasing your heart rate. However, there are those times when your friends are going out for a long walk or you're on holiday and want to explore a new city and know that you are likely to overdo it. I was always a very outdoorsy person and greatly missed hiking and horseback riding when I developed fibromyalgia. I have found that using a wheelchair can help me to pace myself and allow me to join in with those long walks or days out I would otherwise be excluded from.
Just because you take your wheelchair with you doesn't mean that you have to sit in it all day. It gives you the freedom to walk as far as you can and then ride for a bit and rest while keeping up with your friends, before then having another short walk. You could even use a pedometer to measure the distance you walk each time. I find my friends and family are more than willing to have a go in the wheelchair while a walk, I even have to fight to get it back sometimes! This technique has enabled me to explore many foreign cities, go on 10 mile walks and generally enjoy being out and about—doing some exercise but pacing myself carefully.