The Bionic Woman

by Kim Stowers

Kim Stowers was introduced to Fibromylagia when she was 21 years old. She was devastated when the symptoms took control of her life. As a passionate college student with an eye on graduate school, waking up every day with the pain and fog has been challenging. Her dream to become a research psychologist keeps her going. In the meantime, Kim lives life one breath, one flare-up, one nap, and one foggy effort at a time.

Do you ever feel helpless in the face of your pain? I think we all do at one time or another. Living with fibromyalgia can be exhausting for both the body and the mind. Biofeedback has made a tremendous difference in my management of pain. Yes, I still have pain every day, but I am no longer scared of it or controlled by it. Thanks to biofeedback, I am able to control my pain instead of letting it control me!

What is biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a way of training people to control bodily processes that normally happen without our knowledge. With biofeedback, you can learn to slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, equalize your skin temperature, and decrease muscle tension. All of this can be done with your mind.

Wait, what?

The idea of controlling your own body in such an intimate way may sound bizarre, but it is perfectly doable. With some help from a biofeedback therapist, some fancy equipment, and diligent daily practice you can become a mind-master in just a matter of weeks. You have more power than you think you do!

So…How does it work?

There isn’t complete agreement among researchers and doctors about how biofeedback works. However, it appears to be a matter of learning to relax properly. All of the things I mentioned above are characteristics of being in a relaxed state.

Of course, relaxing is easier said than done, especially if you’re in constant pain. That is why successful biofeedback relies on guidance. Your biofeedback therapist will hook you up to equipment, lead you through mental techniques for relaxation, and allow you to view your body’s activity on a computer screen. Over time, you will be able to see your own success as your vital functions slow down and you learn to relax properly. Eventually, you will be able to relax on your own!

But how will it help me?

Learning to relax properly has far-reaching benefits. Your body works less when you are relaxed, allowing you to breathe more easily, sleep more easily, and cope with pain more easily. In contrast, when you are stressed, your body can have a hard time relaxing, causing disruptions in sleep and daily functioning. For this reason, biofeedback has been found to be particularly useful in people who are experiencing high levels of mental and physical stress. By bringing the mind and body from a stressed state back to a relaxed state, many difficulties can be alleviated.

People with fibromyalgia experience chronic physical stress through pain, making fibromyalgia patients great candidates for biofeedback therapy. At the same time, having such overactive pain signaling systems can make the journey more challenging for fibromyalgia patients than for people in the general population. The important thing is to be willing to practice and persevere!

What should I expect?

You will be hooked up to several devices. Devices used in biofeedback therapy can vary with the therapist. You may have items attached to your fingers for measuring pulse, blood pressure, and skin temperature. You may have a probe attached to a shoulder to measure muscle tension. You may have probes attached to your head to measure brain wave activity, or a probe attached to your wrist for measuring skin conductivity.

These items are non-invasive and usually held on with tape. But to a fibromyalgia sufferer, anything that touches the skin may feel invasive. If you feel too sensitive, try going to therapy on days when you are in the least amount of pain, or talk to your therapist about alternate ways of learning to relax.

You will need to have several weekly sessions. Start biofeedback therapy during a time in your life when you know you can find a reliable way to go to therapy on a weekly basis. Each session will likely last less than an hour, but your therapist will recommend you come in for 5-10 sessions, or even more.

You will need to practice every day. Biofeedback therapy is a type of training. You are training your body to learn new habits, and you are training your mind to take control. You won’t get far doing this once per week and then forgetting about it for six days. If you want to feel the long-term benefits of biofeedback therapy, you should practice what you learn at each session for several minutes every day following that session.

What will I learn?

The following are techniques I learned over a span of 5 therapy sessions. You can do them on your own, but it is easier to master them when you are hooked up to equipment and able to see how your body is reacting!

Diaphragmatic Breathing: This is the easiest technique to learn. It involves breathing deeply and slowly through the nose while monitoring the expansion of your diaphragm. If you are breathing properly, your stomach should expand more than your chest. Once you master this, you can take a true deep breath.

Progressive Relaxation: This is a relatively simple way of learning the difference in how your body feels when it is tense compared to when it is relaxed. Simply tense each muscle in your body, one at a time, for 5 seconds, then let it relax for 20 seconds.

Deep Muscle Relaxation: This is like progressive relaxation without the tension. Instead of tensing each muscle and then relaxing it, just relax each muscle one at a time. This takes a bit more skill than progressive relaxation, because you must be absolutely sure of what the feeling of relaxation in each muscle is. Once you truly master it, however, it can be a great tool during flare-ups and spasms.

Autogenic Training: This is a more specialized way of interacting with your muscles. The goal is to warm up your muscles, especially in your extremities where blood circulation may be restricted. In the same way that you relax one muscle at a time during muscle relaxation, you attempt to “heat up” one muscle at a time by thinking of phrases that induce warmness. I like to think of sunbathing in 90-degree weather.

Guided Imagery: This is the most advanced technique taught in biofeedback training. It involves taking all of the other things you learn and using your imagination to incorporate them into creating a “safe place” in your mind. For example, I like to pretend I am lying on a secluded beach, in hot weather with a gentle breeze. I feel the sun on each muscle, and then I feel each muscle relax. I feel the breeze as it comes into my nostrils and I take a deep breath. Peace at last!

More Information

Find a biofeedback practitioner:

http://www.aapb.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3281

More information on biofeedback:

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/biofeedback-000349.htm

Poke those Heart Disease Perils

From the Healthcare Medical Institute:

Acupuncture Reduces Heart Disease Risk

Researchers have concluded that acupuncture reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in patients who have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. A massive sample size of over 158 420 patients with fibromyalgia were included in the study. A total of 81 843 patients received acupuncture treatments and 76 582 patients never received acupuncture. A total of 12 522 patients developed coronary heart disease during the follow-up period. 4 389 patients receiving acupuncture developed coronary heart disease but 8 133 patients, that did not receive acupuncture, developed coronary heart disease. The researchers conclude that acupuncture “significantly decreased the risk of CHD [coronary heart disease] in patients with fibromyalgia with or without comorbidities.

203. acupuncture

Acupuncture decreased the risk of coronary heart disease equally for both men and women. The risk of coronary heart disease increased with the age of patients; however, acupuncture decreased risks across all age groups. In addition, acupuncture decreased the risk of coronary heart disease regardless of whether or not patients took steroid medications, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), or statins.

Patients receiving acupuncture averaged a total of 7.45 acupuncture sessions. A total of 85% of patients received manual acupuncture, 3.6% received electroacupuncture, and 10.7% received both manual acupuncture and electroacupuncture treatments. The duration of needle retention time averaged between 20 – 30 minutes per acupuncture session. The elicitation of deqi was a basic requirement by the TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctors.

Most TCM doctors applying acupuncture in the study had a baccalaureate degree from a 7 – 8 year medical doctor program of study. A smaller number of TCM doctors had a post-baccalaureate TCM degree from a 5 year medical doctor program. Acupuncture point selection was individualized based upon differential diagnostics. Importantly, this differs from the majority of research where there is a protocolized, fixed set of acupuncture points assigned to all patients.

The researchers note that prior independent investigations demonstrate that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of fibromyalgia. This study did not investigate clinical efficacy towards alleviation of fibromyalgia itself, but rather investigated whether or not acupuncture prevents coronary heart disease in patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The researchers conclude that “the incidence of CHD was significantly lower in the acupuncture cohort than in the no-acupuncture cohort.”

The researchers cite this interest in acupuncture’s ability to protect the heart from damage because pregabalin was the first FDA approved medication for the treatment of fibromyalgia. Pregabalin has been proven to reduce pain, improve sleep, and reduce fatigue in patients with fibromyalgia. The researchers note that “pregabalin has cardiac adverse effects because it may induce heart failure” and acupuncture attenuates “both ischemic injury of the heart and heart failure.” Based on these findings, the researchers recommend a study to determine if acupuncture ameliorates the adverse effects of pregabalin in an effort to reduce risks associated with drug therapy.

The researchers note that the prevention of coronary heart disease may be due to acupuncture’s ability to improve sleep quality. The research team cited prior research demonstrating acupuncture’s ability to alleviate insomnia. They add that insomnia is “highly associated with fibromyalgia and CHD.”

Common fibromyalgia comorbidities (e.g., hypertension, diabetes, heart disease) are associated with elevated levels of systemic inflammation. The researchers note that the prevention of coronary heart disease may be due to acupuncture’s ability to reduce inflammation. The researchers note, “Many previous studies of acupuncture were focused on the analgesic effect of acupuncture, but additional studies in recent years demonstrated that acupuncture attenuated inflammation. Acupuncture attenuated inflammation through the vagus nerve mediated by dopamine.”Untitled

Fibro Falling

“How did you break your ankle?”

I get asked that a lot: I’m still limping, 7 months later. I was walking in Bali and I fell. No motor bikes. No bicycles. No alcohol. No bumpy footpaths. No drugs. Just walking. I fell.

Gait and balance are severely impaired in women with fibromyalgia, according to “Altered Functional Performance in Patients with Fibromyalgia” published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Only women were included in this study as the vast majority (80%-90%) of people affected by fibromyalgia are women. The study showed that walking speed was significantly reduced in women with fibromyalgia, compared to women without pain, probably due to the reduction in stride length and frequency.

When the researchers analysed the association of gait and balance impairment with functional performance and the level of pain, they found that high levels of pain, depression, stiffness, anxiety, and fatigue (DUH!) were the main parameters associated with reduced gait and balance.

Finally, the researchers reported that they observed an abnormal pattern of body sways during balance tasks in fibromyalgia patients. They thought this could be associated with changes in the motor control system, and might explain why fibromyalgia patients experience a higher rate of falls.

Overall, the findings highlighted the relevant role of postural control and balance for daily activity functioning in fibromyalgia patients.

So, I’m doing hydrotherapy, pilates, deep-water running, recumbent cycling and indoor rowing.

Bring on the strong core muscles, a 6-pack and balance!

It’s Legal to Grow Cannabis in Australia!*

mj-fmgirlOh, so much excitement about medicinal cannabis in our fibromyalgia family!

BUT do you know what’s happening here (ie: Australia)?

It is legal to cultivate and manufacture medicinal cannabis in Australia (Hold On! Keep reading!), which means people can apply for a licence to grow their own cannabis crop from the Office of Drug Control.

Since early November, through the Therapeutic Goods Administration, medicinal cannabis no longer falls under Australia’s most stringent of schedules, reserved for dangerous drugs. Instead, there are provisions in place to use it on medical grounds, with certain approvals but only for very ill people.

However, it will still be illegal to use or grow marijuana for recreational purposes.

It is up to the states to decide whether the drug will be allowed and who will be able to use it, dispense it, who will be able to approve it, and what dosage and form of medicinal cannabis is appropriate. And this is where things get murky (da,da, da, dum…)! Each state is trying to form or introduce its own legislation, while also considering the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961.

single-convention

The convention is set in place by the United Nations, and outlines how medicinal cannabis should be approached.

So, how does it work state by state?

  • If you are in Queensland, from March 2017 a specialist should be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis for certain patients who have illnesses including MS, epilepsy, cancer and HIV/AIDS. There are no age restrictions, but approval will only be provided by a doctor who needs to show evidence that medicinal cannabis could help the patient.
  • In New South Wales, medicinal cannabis will be available for end of life illnesses, but only for adults.
  • In Victoria, children with severe epilepsy will be able to access medicinal cannabis from early 2017.
  • The ACT is currently working on legislation that will include education sources for doctors. The legislation is expected to come into effect next year .
  • Tasmania is developing a Controlled Access Scheme, to allow patients to access unregistered medical cannabis. It is expected to come into effect next year.
  • The WA Government has recently passed changes supporting the federal legislation. That means that doctors are able to prescribe medicinal cannabis under strict conditions.

Products will only be able to be dispensed by a pharmacist. However, there is still no legal product available in Australia.

There is little to no information available for what the situation in South Australia or the Northern Territory.

Patients who have been illegally using medicinal cannabis are applauding the changes, they fear it could be a decade before it is widely available to those who need it.

* With many restrictions

Have I Got a Deal for YOU!

Yesterday, I spent time in an infra-red sauna then a flotation pod. I’m going again on Friday…so I have decided to tell you about it AFTER my second session.

Until then, I spoke to Symee at The Orchard Prahran and he is offering ALL my readers a deal:

special-offer-2

Click HERE

 

It’s Getting Hot in Here!

3a905ae900000578-3953366-remedy_lady_gaga_shared_with_fans_some_of_the_ways_she_deals_wit-m-108_1479598663224So, tomorrow, as well as a flotation session, I’ll be exploring the growing body of evidence confirming the amazing benefits of infrared sauna therapy (and not just Lady Gaga’s recent testimonial). The heat from infrared saunas is powerful and deep, yet surprisingly gentle and easy to tolerate at the same time. Studies show that, in addition to deeply heating your tissues and inducing an intense sweat to help detoxify, infrared sauna therapy causes other health-promoting changes in the body that have lead to a significant decrease in pain and other symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Japanese researchers studied the effects of infrared sauna sessions in 13 female fibromyalgia patients. Patients received infrared sauna therapy in cabins heated to 60°c (140°F) once per day for 15 minutes, two or five days a week. After the sauna sessions, the patients went into a warm room and were covered with a blanket from the neck down to keep them warm for 30 minutes.

All patients’ pain was significantly reduced by about half after the first session and the effect became lasting after about ten treatments. At that time, pain was decreased by 20% to 78%!

In another study in 44 female fibromyalgia patients, three months of sauna therapy three times a week, along with underwater exercise twice a week, decreased pain and other symptoms by 33% to 77%. And the improvements lasted: pain was still 28% to 68% improved six months after the end of the study.

Exercise performance also significantly improved for those in the sauna group. In a six-minute walking test, they were able to walk almost twice as far without pain after the six weeks of infrared sauna use, while those in the control group experienced no change in walking distance.

With all this research suggesting significant pain reduction, it is no wonder infrared saunas are being installed in doctor’s offices, spas, wellness centres, and private homes around the world at an increasing rate. If you’re interested in all-natural, non-drug pain treatment, it may well be worth checking on the availability of an infrared sauna near you (a Google search would do it).

At this point, it’s not clear what the optimal infrared sauna temperature, duration, and frequency is to lessen pain. The Japanese recommend shorter, more frequent sauna sessions. Daily or almost-daily 15-minutes sessions are always followed by a 30-minute warming period during which time you lie wrapped in a blanket.

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Float Like a Butterfly

As I told you in my last post, I am going to a 90-minute flotation session on Tuesday. (For those in Melbourne, you can get a 90-Minute Relaxation Package with Flotation Session and Infrared Therapy for $55 from LivingSocial.com!!!!)

podFlotation REST is a form of Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) that uses a shallow pool of heavy water. The water is made heavy by super-saturating it with Epsom Salt (MgSO4) to the point that a person floats on his or her back effortlessly on the surface of the water like a cork. The water is heated to skin temperature and the pool is enclosed in a lightproof, soundproof environment.

This device, invented by Dr John C Lilly, effectively removes external stimulation and creates a neutral environment that gives the feeling that one is floating comfortably in space. In using this type of therapy, you are given a private room with a shower where you can undress, shower; and step into the pool enclosure. After sitting in the water and lying back to float on the surface, you can then turn out the lights.

The reduced stimulation encountered in the flotation pool refocuses the individual’s attention to internal stimuli. At first this includes the novel sensations of floating effortlessly in darkness and quiet. The sensations of the body become much more salient making flotation REST a walk-in biofeedback device. This natural biofeedback initiates a self-regulation process leading toward relaxation.

This relaxation is augmented by the trans-cutaneous absorption of magnesium that elicits the release of muscle tension. As physical sensations become less salient mental activity can come to the fore. For those not used to being alone with their thoughts this can be difficult. However, even unpleasant thoughts become more palatable as the body enters a more deeply relaxed state. Eventually even the parade of thought subsides and the mind arrives at a meditative state.

A few years ago, anecdotes began to circulate from people with fibromyalgia, that float tanks provided remarkable relief for them. This caught the attention of float researcher Rod Borrie and his collaborators, who noted the remarkable alignment between the effects and benefits of flotation, and the symptoms of fibromyalgia: floating

In 2011 Borrie, Tamara Russell, and colleagues started the Fibromyalgia Flotation Project, with no money, all volunteers, to try to test this treatment on as scientific a basis as possible.  Is there an immediate effect from the float sessions, and if so, does it last?

They sought volunteer subjects with fibromyalgia, and float centres willing to contribute free time in their tanks.  Each volunteer took three hour-long float sessions over three weeks, and answered a questionnaire before and after each session about ten variables:

  • Pain
  • Stress Well-being
  • Bothered by pain
  • Energy
  • Relaxation
  • Muscular tension
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Freedom of movement

When they discussed intermediate results at the 2012 Float Conference, they had had 81 participants across five countries (US, UK, SWE, GER, NL).

The results were astonishingly positive:  “Without exception, the immediate intervention effects (average pre-post change) are highly significant for all variables in the expected direction (e.g., pain ratings decrease on average by 2.3 points on an 11 point scale from pre- to post-intervention).”  There was no control group in the first phase.

(Want to see some figures and pretty pictures?)

These results are exciting, but caution is due as this was not a randomized, controlled study.  One particular item to be cautious about is drop-outs — if the people who didn’t see benefits were to drop out, that alone could cause an impression of improvement of symptoms in the later sessions.

pod-2The Fibromyalgia Flotation Project is continuing into a second phase to follow up on these very promising results, still with no funding.  They’re trying to push both for greater numbers of participants, to better persuade the medical establishment, and also for a longer test period (ten weeks instead of three) to see how sustainable the results are.  It’s all being organized via the internet; sign-up and more information is at Fibromyalgia Flotation Project.

And, hopefully, after Tuesday, I will have my own successful(?) story to tell.

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Fibro – GAGA

Lady Gaga is well known for her unconventional…um…ways.

She is less known as a chronic pain sufferer.

Lady Gaga recently opened up about her chronic pain. (It’s been said that she suffers from Fibromyalgia but I have not found any confirming sources) She shared some of her methods for easing her pain in a series of posts on Instagram: some unusual and some just like ours.

Lada Gaga recently shared on Instagram details about her “frustrating” battle with chronic pain, along with two photos of herself getting treatment.

 

After an outpouring of support from her Instagram followers, Lady Gaga posted another photo of herself on Friday, showing the singer sitting in an infrared sauna wrapped in an emergency blanket. It’s a remedy she uses to relieve pain and inflammation.

3A905AE900000578-3953366-Remedy_Lady_Gaga_shared_with_fans_some_of_the_ways_she_deals_wit-m-108_1479598663224.jpg

“I was so overwhelmed by the empathy, confessions & personal stories of chronic pain in response to my previous post I thought what the hell. Maybe I should just share some of my personal remedies I’ve acquired over the past five years. Everyone’s body and condition is different U should consult w ure Dr. but what the heck here we go!” she wrote.

“When my body goes into a spasm one thing I find really helps is infrared sauna. I’ve invested in one. They come in a large box form as well as a low coffin-like form and even some like electric blankets! You can also look around your community for a infrared sauna parlor or homeopathic center that has one.

“I combine this treatment with marley silver emergency blankets (seen in the photo) that trap in the heat and are very cheap, reusable and effective for detox as well as weight loss!”

Lady Gaga likes to alternate between hot and cold therapy.

“In order to not overheat my system and cause more inflammation i follow this with either a VERY cold bath, ice bath (if u can stand it, it’s worth it) or the most environmentally savvy way is to keep many reusable cold packs in the freezer (or frozen peas’ n carrots’!) and pack them around the body in all areas of pain,” she wrote.

Lada Gaga reportedly suffers from synovitis, a painful inflammation of the joints, that apparently stems from a hip injury she suffered during a concert.

After years of hiding her chronic pain from fans and even her own staff, Lady Gaga had surgery in 2013. She is now one of the few celebrities to speak openly about her experience with chronic pain.

Luckily for me, I recently found an online deal from LivingSocial.com.au that entitles me to a 90-Minute Flotation Session followed by an Infrared Therapy Session. Hopefully, I’ll be be one of these people who can share their successful methods of dealing with this pain.

“Hope this helps some of you, it helps me to keep doing my passion, job and the things I love even on days when I feel like I can’t get out of bed. Love you and thank you for all your positive messages,” wrote Lady Gaga.

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If You Poison Us, Do We Not Die?

industries_health_research and development_ Tarantula venom could provide relief from Irritable Bowel Syndrome_bannerTARANTULA venom is being used to help develop pain relief medications for people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Researchers from The University of Adelaide in South Australia found that a specific peptide in the spider venom could be used to understand how people sense pain. Two toxins were found to specifically target Nav 1.1, a voltage-gated sodium channel in the nervous system to initiate the electrical impulses that signal pain.

Associate Professor Stuart Brierley said the study demonstrated that Nav 1.1 contributed to mechanical, but not thermal, pain signalling.

“Using the highly specific peptide in the spider toxin we were able to work out how pain nerve fibres signal in a healthy situation and also in chronic abdominal pain such as what you see in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS),” Assoc Prof Brierley said.

“We found that the spider toxin was able to cause a lot more pain in the IBS state than what it was in the healthy state. It’s important to note that because of the studies we should be able to develop treatments for IBS based pain – blockers for Nav 1.1 that only target the peripheral and don’t go to the central nervous system.”

106. cure #1

The causes of IBS are still unknown but it affects about 10 per cent of people globally (and lots of FMS patients). Chronic abdominal pain is the predominant symptom of IBS.

Assoc Prof Brierley said that until recently there had not been much research into the role of the Nav 1.1 channel subtype on the peripheral nervous system.

“Over a long period of time we were able to work out that one particular compound was in the venom that you could isolate, separate out and acted on this Nav 1.1 channel,” he said. “It gave us a highly specific and highly selective tool to look at its role in pain.”

Many nociceptors or pain sensing nerve fibres use Nav channels to initiate the electrical impulses that signal pain. Although the study focused on the peripheral nervous system, the findings also pose potential implications for central nervous system diseases such as epilepsy (and FMS)

The study was a collaboration between the University of Adelaide, Flinders University, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI), the University of Queensland, The University of California, John Hopkins University and the Medical College of Wisconsin. It was published in Nature last week.

take it

Tank You, #Fibro

So I read this in News For America

Amazing news!

(for now…)

Fibromyalgia has, throughout history, been incredibly difficult to identify and diagnose because it appears, at first glance, to be something else since its symptoms, which include musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, mood swings, and memory loss, are fairly common.

To provide some perspective 1 in 70 people, mostly women, in the United States actually have fibromyalgia.

There is amazing news though, hyperbaric oxygen treatment has made some game changing progress in medicine for those who have this horrible condition. Researchers from Tel Aviv University found that women who tried hyperbaric oxygen treatments were able to reduce or entirely eliminate  their need for pain medication.

Researchers believe that the primary cause of fibromyalgia is a disruption of brain mechanisms that are responsible for processing pain;

“As a physician, the most important finding for me is that 70 percent of the patients could recover from their fibromyalgia symptoms. The most exciting finding for the world of research, however, is that we were able to map the malfunctioning brain regions responsible for the syndrome… The intake of [the pain medication they were taking] eased the pain but did not reverse the condition. But hyperbaric oxygen treatments did reverse the condition… Hyperbaric oxygen treatments are designed to address the actual cause of fibromyalgia – the brain pathology responsible for the syndrome. 

As you can see this is extraordinary news.