International Day of Yoga

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Yoga is a 5,000-year-old physical, mental and spiritual practice, with its origin in India, which aims to transform both body and mind.

international-yoga-day-logo-300x429On December 11 in 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. The declaration came after the call for the adoption of 21 June as International Day of Yoga by Honourable Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi during his address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014 wherein he stated: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” In suggesting June 21, which is the Summer Solstice, as the International Day of Yoga, Mr. Narendra Modi had said that, “the date is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and has special significance in many parts of the world.”

Yogi and mystic, Sadhguru notes the importance of this day in the yogic tradition: “On the day of the summer solstice, Adiyogi [the first yogi] turned south and first set his eyes on the Saptarishis or Seven Sages, who were his first disciples to carry the science of yoga to many parts of the world. It is wonderful that June 21 marks this momentous event in the history of humanity.”

FYI: 175 nations, including USA, Canada and China co-sponsored the resolution. It had the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UNGA Resolution of such a nature.

95. yogaWhat better reason to do you need to give yoga a try? Tomorrow?

As most of us know (whether we do it or not!), exercise is an important part of managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Staying physically active can relieve pain, stress, and anxiety. The key is to start slowly. Begin with stretching and low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming or other water exercises, or bicycling. Low-impact aerobic exercises such as yoga can also be helpful. (Remember: prior to starting any exercise routine, or if you want to increase the intensity of your exercise, talk with your doctor.)

Now, yoga isn’t for everyone but exercise is! So why is exercise important for fibromyalgia?

  • Studies show that exercise helps restore the body’s neuro-chemical balance and triggers a positive emotional state. Not only does regular exercise slow down the heart-racing adrenaline associated with stress, but it also boosts levels of natural endorphins. Endorphins help to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression.
  • Exercise acts as nature’s tranquilizer by helping to boost serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that scientists have found to be related to fibromyalgia. While only a small percentage of all serotonin is located in the brain, this neurotransmitter is believed to play a vital role in mediating moods. For those who feel stressed out frequently, exercise will help to desensitize your body to stress, as an increased level of serotonin in the brain is associated with a calming, anxiety-reducing effect. In some cases it’s also associated with drowsiness. A stable serotonin level in the brain is associated with a positive mood state or feeling good over a period of time. Lack of exercise and inactivity can aggravate low serotonin levels.
  • A study, at the Georgetown University Medical Centre in Washington, D.C., suggests that exercise may improve memory in women with FM. Decreased brain activity, due to aerobic exercise, suggests that the brain is working more efficiently. The researchers suggest that one of the benefits of exercise for fibromyalgia patients is that it may streamline brain functioning. It may help free up brain resources involved in perceiving pain and improve its ability to hold on to new information. The findings may help explain why regular exercise decreases pain and tenderness and improves brain function in people with fibromyalgia. (These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the “peer review” process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.)

What Are Other Benefits of Exercise for Those With Fibromyalgia?

chronic comic 163Regular exercise benefits people with fibromyalgia by doing the following:

  • burning calories and making weight control easier
  • giving range-of-motion to painful muscles and joints
  • improving a person’s outlook on life
  • improving quality of sleep
  • improving one’s sense of well-being
  • increasing aerobic capacity
  • improving cardiovascular health
  • increasing energy
  • placing the responsibility of healing in the hands of the patient
  • reducing anxiety levels and depression
  • relieving stress associated with a chronic disease
  • stimulating growth hormone secretion
  • stimulating the secretion of endorphins or “happy hormones”
  • strengthening bones
  • strengthening muscles
  • relieving pain

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Good Vibrations

Vibration can help reduce some types of pain, including pain from FM, by more than 40 per cent, according to a new study published online in the European Journal of Pain.


When high-frequency vibrations from an instrument were applied to painful areas, pain signals may have been prevented from travelling to the central nervous system, explains Roland Staud, MD, professor of rheumatology and clinical immunology in the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville.

If you think of a pain impulse having to travel through a gate to cause discomfort, the vibrations are closing that gate. “When the gate is open, you feel the pain from the stimulus. It goes to the spinal cord. When you apply vibration you close the gate partially,” says Dr Staud. You can still feel some pain, but less than you would have felt without the vibrations, he adds.

Subjects were split into 3 groups: 29 had FM, 19 had chronic neck and back pain and 28 didn’t have any pain at all. Dr Staud and his research team applied about five seconds of heat to introduce pain to each participant’s arms and followed that with five seconds of vibrations from an electric instrument that emits high-frequency vibrations that are absorbed by skin and deep tissue.

A biothesiometer

A biothesiometer

Dr Staud used a biothesiometer, an electric vibrator (not THAT kind of vibrator – get your mind out of the gutter!) with a plastic foot plate that can be brought into contact with the patient’s skin.

Compact TENS

Compact TENS

Similarly, you could buy/borrow a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS), which is a medical device, designed specifically for the purpose of assisting in the treatment and management of chronic and acute pain; and it does exactly what Dr Staud is suggesting. I am currently borrowing a compact TENS machine. The pulse rate is adjustable from 1-200 Hz.

Following the use of heat and vibration, patients were asked to rate the intensity of their pain on a 0-to-10 scale and found that the experimental pain, as opposed to their chronic pain, was reduced by more than 40 per cent with the use of vibration. What was of particular interest was that the patients in the study with FM appeared to have the same mechanisms in their body to block or inhibit pain through the use of vibration as those in the pain-free group.

“Fibromyalgia patients are often said to have insufficient pain mechanisms, which means they can’t regulate their pain as well as regular individuals. This study showed that in comparison to normal controls, they could control their pain as well,” Dr Staud explains.

What they don’t know is how long the pain relieving effects will last.

I used the TENS on my arms two days ago and the pain has not returned (yet! Knock on wood!) If I choose to buy it, it will cost me $175.00 from www.tensaustralia.com.au

Dr Howard, a rheumatologist and director of Arthritis Health in Scottsdale, Ariz., says this study is still very interesting. “Vibration is another way of minimizing pain, and it sounded like it would be more helpful for regional or local pain rather than widespread pain,” he says.

Dr Staud says this theory is still very much in the testing stages and the vibrating instrument used in this study isn’t available to the public. “Although we didn’t test it, I think that the size of the foot plate of the biothesiometer is relevant. I wouldn’t suggest that everybody should go out and by any vibrator to use for pain relief. But pending a commercial product this is entirely feasible,” he explains.

Until then, Dr Staud’s message for patients is that vibration involves touch, and that can provide pain relief.

Dr Howard agrees that this study reinforces the importance of touch therapy, like massage, and even movement therapy, like gentle exercise, for people with chronic pain.

“When you have pain, you want to stop what you’re doing and protect the area. But for some types of pain that’s not the right thing to do,” Dr Howard says.

You do, however, need to know what types of pain touch is good for and for which ones it isn’t. Dr Howard says his general rule is to baby your joints and bully your muscles.

“Fibromyalgia patients often shrink away from touch therapy and movement. The foundation of treatment is to use movement and touch and stimulus to help with their pain, but their natural reaction is to withdraw and avoid tactile activity. Don’t be afraid. Don’t avoid it,” Dr Howard says.

Good forms of touch therapy include massage and the use of temperature – both hot and cold. Good forms of movement therapy include tai chi, yoga and swimming/warm water exercising.

 

Realistic Expectations With Pain Management

I read this post by  (Creator and founder of FibroTV.com) in FibroTV Blog and thought it might get you thinking about how YOU manage your pain:

Realistic Expectations With Pain Management When You Have Chronic Pain

Pain management is essential when you have a chronic pain condition. Unmanaged pain can rip your life apart in all areas. When most people think of pain management the first thing that pops in their head is pain medication or medication to control the pain. There are many other options than just medication and you can also use an integrative approach to manage your pain by using medication and non traditional treatments  for pain management. Having realistic expectations with pain management is also very important. When you have chronic pain nothing is going to take away all the pain and if you keep reaching for that you are setting yourself up for a lot of frustration, discouragement, and disappointment. The only way to resolve pain completely is to address the underlying cause if at all possible.

Medication is not the only option, in fact it should be your last option!

We have been taught all our lives that when you hurt or get sick you go to the doctor and get a prescription. Medication has it’s place for pain and for sickness but why do we always reach for that first?  Medication does not fix anything they just cover up symptoms and is just another toxin in the body that can cause more pain and illness. There are some people who would have NO quality of life without medications or would not be able to stay alive without medication and these are not the people I am addressing. We really need to think if medication is the right thing for us or just a quick fix. We tend to want the most amount of results with the least amount of effort in this world and sometimes that is not the healthiest approach. You need to ask yourself some serious questions when debating how you want to manage your pain and make a personal choice that is best for YOU and your overall health. You need to be your own advocate and be very clear to your medical providers your wants and needs when it comes to pain management. Doctors are taught to write prescriptions and do not come from a place of healing the underlying cause so it is something you will have to do for yourself and make your wishes clear if you want to try alternative options.

Alternative options for treating chronic pain

  • Meditation Meditation cultivates an “awareness that develops when you’re paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, former executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, in Worcester, Mass. The idea is if you can calm and focus your mind and your body you may be able to control your pain and the degree to which you feel it.”You cannot experience pain unless you focus on it,” says Gabriel Tan, PhD, a pain psychologist at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center, in Houston. “Let’s say you’re focusing on your pain and then the next moment a person comes into the room with a gun and threatens to kill you; you won’t feel pain because you’ll be focusing on the man with the gun. Meditation helps you shift your focus in somewhat the same way,” explains Tan.
  • TENS unit  “TENS” is the acronym for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. A “TENS unit” is a pocket-size, portable, battery-operated device that sends electrical impulses to certain parts of the body to block pain signalsThe electrical currents produced are mild, but can prevent pain messages from being transmitted to the brain and may raise the level of endorphins (natural pain killers produced by the brain). For some chronic pain patients, a TENS unit provides pain relief that can last for several hours. For others, a TENS unit may help reduce the amount of pain medications needed. Some patients hook the unit onto a belt turning it on and off as needed.
  • Chiropractors Chiropractors can treat chronic pain. They use a variety of non-surgical treatments, such as spinal manipulation, to address chronic pain symptoms, such as inflammation and muscle tension.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and develop skills to change negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT says that individuals — not outside situations and events — create their own experiences, pain included. And by changing their negative thoughts and behaviors, people can change their awareness of pain and develop better coping skills, even if the actual level of pain stays the same.
  • Aquatic (water) therapy Aquatic (water) therapy is quickly becoming well-known for its amazing effects on decreasing chronic pain, speeding recovery, and improving function. Aquatic therapy, or pool therapy, consists of an exercise program that is performed in the water. It is a beneficial form of physical therapy that is useful for chronic pain. Aquatic therapy uses the physical properties of water to assist in patient healing and exercise performance.
  • Restorative Yoga Restorative yoga turns on the healing relaxation response by combining gentle yoga poses with conscious breathing. Although these poses may look as though you are doing nothing, this is far from the truth. Restorative yoga rests the body but engages the mind. The breathing elements of each pose make restorative yoga an active process of focusing the mind on healing thoughts, sensations, and emotions.
  • Dietary Changes and Proper Nutrition   You are what you eat, at least that’s the old adage. It’s also one I believe in — what you put into your body has a big effect on how you feel. There are Foods that fight fat, detox foods, and foods that help you get stronger. There are even foods that help you sleep better and look fresher. Adding to the list of foods that fuel with a purpose are foods that help ease pain. Whether it’s a headache, post-workout soreness, chronic pain or an injury, there are foods that  will help ease the pain away in a totally natural way.
  • Reiki Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.
  • Massage  Massage for chronic pain works by interrupting the cycle of chronic pain. When you have pain in a certain area of the body, the muscles tighten around that area to “protect” it, mobility is limited, and often, circulation is reduced. Additionally, pain that began with an injury or illness can cause emotional and psychological stress that exacerbates the pain and even remains after the physical condition has healed. Massage for chronic pain restores mobility by loosening tight muscles and trigger points and by lengthening muscles. Massage also improves circulation by increasing blood flow, as well as promotes relaxation and helps relieve emotional stress and anxiety that can contribute to chronic pain.
  • Acupuncture A new study of acupuncture — the most rigorous and detailed analysis of the treatment to date — found that it can ease migraines and arthritis and other forms of chronic pain.The findings provide strong scientific support for an age-old therapy used by an estimated three million Americans each year. Though acupuncture has been studied for decades, the body of medical research on it has been mixed and mired to some extent by small and poor-quality studies. Financed by the National Institutes of Health and carried out over about half a decade, the new research was a detailed analysis of earlier research that involved data on nearly 18,000 patients. The researchers, who published their results in Archives of Internal Medicine, found that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.

Medications Medicines can often help control chronic pain. Many different drugs, both prescription and non-prescription, are used to treat chronic pain. All these medicines can cause side effects and should be taken exactly as they are prescribed. In some cases, it may take several weeks before medicines work to reduce pain. To avoid dangerous drug interactions, tell your doctor all the medicines you are taking (including herbal and other complementary medicines).

Your Choice! Your Body! Your Life!

When it comes to pain management you have to make choices that are best for you because it is YOU that has to live with the consequences and results of that choice. Everyone feels pain different and copes with pain different. Just because Suzi Q is doing something that is helping her it does not mean it will help you. We are all very unique beings and your chronic pain management is going to be as unique as you. The one thing I do recommend to EVERYONE with chronic pain and illness is to eat a well-balanced and nutritious  diet. Even if it does not resolve any of your pain you will be healthier and be able to cope better. You can never lose by eating healthy :-)

Super Stress-Busting Hormone!

A new study by York University researchers finds that practicing yoga reduces the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain in women with FM (sorry but no particular reference to men – does that mean men don’t do yoga? Or that yoga doesn’t help men?)

The study is the first to look at the effects of yoga on cortisol levels in women with FM. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced and released by the adrenal gland and functions as a component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to stress.

Previous research has found that women with FM have lower-than-average cortisol levels, which contribute to pain, fatigue and stress sensitivity. According to the study, participants’ saliva revealed elevated levels of total cortisol following a program of 75 minutes of hatha yoga twice weekly over the course of eight weeks.

“Ideally, our cortisol levels peak about 30-40 minutes after we get up in the morning and decline throughout the day until we’re ready to go to sleep,” says the study’s lead author, Kathryn Curtis, a PhD student in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Health. “The secretion of the hormone, cortisol, is dysregulated in women with fibromyalgia” she says. “Hatha yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and increases breath volume. We believe this in turn has a positive effect on the HPA axis.”

Participants completed questionnaires to determine pain intensity pre- and post-study; they reported significant reductions in pain and associated symptoms, as well as psychological benefits. They felt less helpless, were more accepting of their condition, and were less likely to ‘catastrophise’ over current or future symptoms.

“We saw their levels of mindfulness increase – they were better able to detach from their psychological experience of pain,” Curtis says. Mindfulness is a form of active mental awareness rooted in Buddhist traditions; it is achieved by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental awareness of inner and outer experiences. “Yoga promotes this concept – that we are not our bodies, our experiences, or our pain,” she says – this is extremely useful in the management of pain. ,” she says. “Moreover, our findings strongly suggest that psychological changes in turn affect our experience of physical pain.”

Due to all my rehab appointments (and then this wonderful holiday – Hee! Hee! I’m in Bali!) I haven’t been anywhere near a yoga class in quite a while. And unlike my friend, Thais, I am not yoga-knowledgeable enough to just do it all by myself. But, after all of this, maybe I had better get back into it ASAP!

Treat Your Pain, Too.

Back in early May, I wrote a post called Treat Yourself – that gave you an idea about creating your own treatment plan. This is an extension of that post.

Although there is no cure is available, a large number of FM treatment options exist. Treatment options vary wildly in effectiveness from individual to individual. What may work very well for one person may not work at all for another. Research suggests that the most effective strategy is likely to be multi-modal involving diet, exercise, drugs, dietary supplements, and various treatment therapies. Both symptoms focused and causal focused treatment approaches should be combined and managed.

FibroMAGICians must strive to validate what works best for them as an individual. This typically involves a process of trial and error. Evaluating various treatment options and building an effective treatment approach can be a complex process, one typically improved through utilizing a team approach. Fibromyalgia patients are well served by a care team made up of doctors, therapists, specialists and a strong support group.

Available Treatments

No single approach works best. The best course of action when considering treatment options is to combine a traditional medical approach with other available remedies. Over time, you can validate what works best to alleviate your pain. A number of lifestyle changes and other treatment methods can have a cumulative positive effect on the pain you experience.

Here is a list of some commonly used treatment options:

  1. Conventional medicines — Your doctor will work with you to discover what prescription medicines may work best for you. Options are many including pain and antidepressant medicines.
  2. Nutrition and diet — Some researchers believe that the foods you eat can affect FM symptoms.
  3. Dietary Supplements — Vitamins and minerals play important roles in health and maintenance of the body.
  4. Exercise — Exercise helps relieve joint stiffness and can help alleviate some of the pain as well. Short workouts have been proven to help many fibroMAGICians. Pain may initially increase, but then gradually decreases. Hydrotherapytai-chi and yoga are excellent forms of exercise. These forms of exercise incorporate relaxation and meditation techniques. Deep breathing and slow movement will reduce your stress level and increase your fitness.
  5. Physiotherapy  — A physiotherapist can help you with stretching and good posture. Stretching will reduce joint and muscle stiffness. This therapist can also  help you with relaxation techniques, another powerful FM treatment option.
  6. Relaxation therapy — Stress aggravates FM. Reducing stress will provide you with a more restful sleep, improving symptoms.
  7. Massage therapy — This is another great relaxation technique.
  8. Over-the-counter drugs — You will need to work with your doctor. Always talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications you plan to take.
  9. Herbal remedies — Many herbs have medicinal healing powers. Again, you must talk to your doctor when using herbal remedies
  10. Chinese medicine — Consider exploring Chinese medicine which places great emphasis on herbal remedies and incorporates life energy healing techniques.
  11. Homeopathy — Visit a homeopathic specialist. They specialize in natural remedies to illnesses.
  12. Acupuncture — Modern adherents of acupuncture believe that it affects blood flow and the way the brain processes pain signals. Studies have shown this may be effective for FM.
  13. Chiropractic care—Chiropractors specialize in spinal problems, which can be a major source of pain for some people.

Building a Customised Fibromyalgia Treatment Program

Through an ongoing process of trial and error, using a mixture of the above treatments (and many others), it is possible to develop a treatment program that can be validated as effective – for the individual patient.

This process is made more effective when the patient embraces the concept of “Self-Management” – an ongoing process through which the patient recognizes and assumes responsibility for leading their own treatment efforts. An effective self-management process focuses on the collection, analysis and utilization of patient data such that the trial and error process is better empowered to yield tangible results.

Another Yoga Experience

After lots of experimenting and trying out different classes, I think Mommy and I have found our Yoga class – the class we went to yesterday was called Yoga Therapy.

The guy who took the class has lots of letters after his name – Dip Health Ch Grad Dip Psych. He is a clinical hypnothterapist, psychotherapist and yoga instructor. The problems addressed by psychotherapists are psychological in nature and of no specific kind or degree, but rather depend on the specialty of the practitioner. Guess what? My dude (JA) specialises in Chronic fatigue and Fibromyalgia.

Psychotherapy aims to increase the individual’s sense of his/her own well-being. Psychotherapists employ a range of techniques based on experiential relationship building, dialogue, communication and behaviour change that are designed to improve our mental health.

The class itself was incredibly gentle – each movement was explained carefully. There were even instructions on getting up and down from the floor, to ensure we didn’t hurt ourselves. There was a lot of talk about Breath Awareness.

Did you know?

  • Air contains on average 21% oxygen, 68% nitrogen and the remainder is other gases.
  • Breathing oxygenates the blood stream, and releases spent gases
  • Breathing assists in temperature regulation and the release of toxins
  • Breath awareness and conscious breathing allows maximum oxygen absorption
  • Breath awareness assists in controlling emotions and enhances positive thinking.


At the end of the class, there was a lovely meditation – the problem was the more I relaxed (feeling like I was sinking into the ground) the more any pain I had seemed to rise. I was lying on my wonderful, butterfly decorated, purple yoga mat, on my back and the ache in the ache in the back of my head seemed to rise upward and fill my cheekbones. The top of my hands and feet (the highest part of them when lying down) were shooting electricity. I actually had to sit up part-way through. Not sure what that was really – it has never happened before or when I meditate. Any ideas?

JA was incredibly excited, when I spoke to him after the class, and told him I had FM. In fact, we had trouble shutting him up. And Mommy was very excited with the idea that we had found ‘The One’ (you know – that person who is going to cure us?) – definitely a fortuitous meeting. Me? I’m taking it all with a grain of salt – I got excited after the first 10 or so doctors/healers. I shall withhold my future excitement until I see results.

A Balanced Body

Ahh…BodyBalance:

BODYBALANCE™ is the Yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates workout that builds flexibility and strength and leaves you feeling centred and calm. Controlled breathing, concentration and a carefully structured series of stretches, moves and poses to music create a holistic workout that brings the body into a state of harmony and balance.

The class started with a tai-chi warm-up…cool – I can handle that! Then, into some of the yoga moves that I had done previously. When we hit the downward dog,

I had to dodge Mommy’s dirty looks – what the hell have you gotten me into? Down into the plank – if looks could kill!

The Plank!

And onto the mat for the yucky part – pilates core workout! Guess what? I still haven’t developed any stomach muscles (ummm…and it seems neither has Mommy!) More yoga, some flowing tai chi and finishing with a 10 minute meditation to clear the mind.

(I haven’t gone into great detail because the class was definitely, as promised, a fusion of all three other classes: yoga, pilates and tai-chi as described in previous posts).

I must say that the final meditation was very much appreciated, as I dripped sweat onto my mat and waited to be scraped from the floor.

Earlier in the day, Mommy and I went to visit the doctor (rheumatologist #3). I tried to motivate him with the promise of fame, fortune and untold riches (He could be the One! The One who could show empathy! The One who could publish numerous journal articles! The One that all FM patients would seek!) Erm…it seems he wasn’t interested.

So, the plan is:

  1. maintain Lyrica dosage – 150 mg am & pm (til step 6);
  2. stop taking the Prednisolone (no weaning as I was only on it for a week);
  3. visit GP on Friday to start weaning off Sertraline (anti-depressant actually being used for depression) over the week;
  4. no anti-depressant for one week (should be some interesting posts that week!);
  5. start Cymbalta (until we find correct dose for my depression);
  6. reduce morning dose Lyrica;
  7. reduce evening dose Lyrica.

Of course, steps 6 and 7 will only be attempted if necessary; and step 5 may take quite a while. If at any stage, I find that everything feels better, then I’ll be leaving it as is. I have a follow-up appointment with Rheumatologist #3 in 3 months.

So it looks like it’s up to me and Mommy (and my poor GP – she doesn’t know yet! with as much input from you guys as you feel like giving) to discover the secret (at least, the one that works for me) behind managing the pain, fatigue and fog and returning to work.

RELAX!

I took the bold step the other day of declaring Saturday 5 May as Fibromyalgia Isolation (a.k.a. Treat Yourself) Day.

All I wanted to do was allow everyone some time for themselves – it didn’t actually have to be the whole day. Instead, I received a heap of excuses as to why people couldn’t give themselves some time.

Here’s what I say:

To ‘I wish’ – just do it!

To ‘unfortunately those of us with young children can’t partake’ – find a family member, friend, neighbour to take the kids to the park for an hour!

To ‘going out to dinner with friends’ – spend a couple of hours getting ready, have a candle-lit bath, listen to soothing music…

It is so important to take time out for yourself and relax (not time out to think about what you should be doing but can’t; about what you could be doing; or about what you would be doing, if you weren’t relaxing). Symptoms of FM are often exacerbated by the emotional and physical strain that the condition causes, leaving many of us stressed and unable to carry on with our daily routines. To help relieve your stress levels as well ease your symptoms, consider using relaxation therapy.

(Please play the following music while you read the remainder of this post)

How Does Stress Affect the Body?
Both physical and emotional stress can really take its toll on your body. When you sense stress, your body engages in a ‘fight or flight’ response – this means that your body has to decide whether to fight the source of its stress or escape from it. As a result, your body starts to undergo a variety of physical changes to prepare for reaction. These reactions can include:

  • increased heart rate
  • quick, shallow breathing
  • increased blood supply
  • increased blood pressure

You may even notice that you start to sweat, feel nauseated, or even want to faint as a result of your body’s reaction to stress. FM sufferers may also notice an increase in their symptom severity.

How can Relaxation Restore the Body?
By relaxing both your physical body and your mind, you can actually help to reduce the effects of stress. This is known as the relaxation response. Relaxation helps to lower blood pressure and heart rate, and also helps to slow down breathing. Additionally, it promotes oxygen flow throughout the body, helping to heal damaged areas.

Effects of Relaxation Therapy on Fibromyalgia
Relaxation therapy can also be extremely helpful in reducing the many symptoms caused by fibromyalgia. Meditation and progressive muscle relaxation techniques help to reduce insomnia and other sleep disorders. They promote the production of melatonin in the body, which is essential for deep sleep.

Relaxation therapy has also been proven to moderately reduce anxiety and depression, which are also symptoms of fibromyalgia. Moreover, all relaxation therapies have proven effective in minimizing the intensity and duration of migraines.

What is Relaxation Therapy?
Relaxation therapy helps to provide a person with physical, emotional, and spiritual relaxation. It actually involves numerous techniques that reduce stress and fatigue and work to invigorate the mind and body. Most relaxation techniques involve using both the body and the mind together; they often pair concentration with specific bodily movements or breathing exercise to achieve deep relaxation.

There are a number of different types of relaxation therapy including deep breathing, meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation. Many relaxation therapy techniques can be performed at home, while others can be performed under the guidance of an instructor at a relaxation therapy clinic. Relaxation therapies are very effective because they are accessible, easy to do, and rewarding on all levels.

Relaxation Techniques
There are a wide variety of different techniques that can be used to help promote relaxation.

Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is one of the most basic forms of relaxation therapy. It is a type of relaxation breathing that helps to melt away stress by providing your body with more oxygen. Without oxygen your body cannot function efficiently, and you will feel very painful.

Deep breathing techniques require you to focus on your inhalation and exhalation. Sit or stand comfortably and place your hands firmly on your stomach. Slowly inhale through your nose. As you inhale, you should notice that your stomach begins to expand outwards – this is a sign that you are inhaling as much oxygen as possible. Hold your breath for a few seconds before you begin to exhale. Purse your lips and slowly release all of the air you have just taken in. Repeat for 10 minutes, three or four times daily.

Meditation
Meditation is a technique that helps to relax the body and settle the mind at the same time. Meditation has been used for thousands of years to achieve spiritual and physical oneness. It is now commonly used to help minimize stress and alleviate chronic pain.

One form of meditation uses focused concentration in order to achieve relaxation. Either by repeating a word or sound, or by focusing on your breathing, you can clear your mind and achieve complete relaxation. Sit in a chair or on the floor, and close your eyes. Concentrate on inhaling and exhaling or repeating a special word. Try to sit as still as possible as you focus your concentration. Aim to continue this process for about 20 minutes.

Yoga
Originating in India, yoga is both a physical and mental practice that can help you to achieve complete relaxation. It is a low-impact workout, which focuses on stretching and relaxing all major muscle groups in the body. This makes yoga an excellent choice for fibromyalgia patients, as it helps to increase muscle mass and strength. Yoga relaxation therapy also teaches you how to control and monitor your own breathing, allowing you to relax and focus as you complete the workout.

There are different types of yoga, but Hatha yoga is among the most popular for fibromyalgia sufferers. Hatha yoga uses specific poses and movements to help centre the mind and body. Yoga can be done in the privacy of your own home with the assistance of books or videotapes, or you can attend one of the many yoga classes that are now widely available.

(You can check out my experience with yoga, too)

Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is an excellent choice for fibromyalgia patients because it is so easy to do. You can do it while sitting in a chair or when lying in bed, whichever is the most comfortable for you. Progressive muscle relaxation works on all major muscle groups in the body. It helps to reduce tension and work out your muscles at the same time. Progressive muscle relaxation requires no equipment and can be done by all age-levels and abilities.

This technique reduces stress and tension by helping you to focus on particular muscles in your body. You begin by tensing the muscles in your feet. Hold this contraction for 8 seconds or so. Then release the tension and relax. Continue tensing all the major muscles in your body, right up to your head. By the time you have finished, you will be completely relaxed.

Personal Sanctuary

MY ultimate sanctuary

Escaping to a positive stress-free environment when you are tense is a great way to induce relaxation. You can create your own ‘personal sanctuary’ in your home. This may mean going to your garden, or creating a special corner in your bedroom that is filled with all of the colors and happy items you like and enjoy. By simply spending a few moments in your special space, you’ll be amazed at how rejuvenated you will feel.

MINI-RELAXATION PROCEDURE (for those on a tight schedule!)

For relaxation to be of the most benefit, you need to learn how to relax and calm yourself instantly upon your awareness of tension or irritability. While a 20-30 minute relaxation period is great, and very pleasant, you cannot escape and listen to your tape or do your long practice when you are tense in traffic or irritated with your family or co-workers.

A mini-relaxation is done as follows:

  1. Take a deep breath and raise your shoulders slightly (until you can feel increased muscle tension).
  2. Starting at the top of your head, focus on letting go of muscle tension (beginning with the muscles across your forehead). Allow sensations of relaxation, release, and heaviness to flow downward from your forehead, downward through your face, shoulders, arms, torso, and legs and imagine all the muscle tightness and tension draining right out your feet. Exhale as you allow the tension to drain away, and use your “key word” as you do so (this may be Relax, Peace, Calm, Serene, Ocean or any other word or phrase that denotes deep relaxation to you). Be certain that your deep breath was a deep diaphragmatic breath.
  3. This whole procedure should take no more than about 30 seconds (and can be done in as little as 10 seconds if that’s all the time you have). At the end of this period, go about your business regardless of how relaxed you feel.
  4. Repeat this process many times during the day, at least 20. Use the coloured dot procedure to remind yourself to do a mini-relaxation, preferably several times an hour. Place coloured dots in places you will see them often: your telephone, kitchen faucet, refrigerator, bathroom mirror, the door frame of doors you walk through frequently, your notebook or appointment book that you consult frequently, and even cut a small part of the coloured dot to place on your watchband. Whenever you see the coloured dot that is your reminder to do a mini-relaxation: deep breath, raise shoulders, let go of muscle tension as you breathe out and drop your shoulders, while repeating your ‘key word.’ You will notice that you become better and better at producing sensations of relaxation in a very short period of time, as you practice this over days and weeks. Do not extend your mini-relaxation more than one minute. If you are still tense, continue with what you are doing, and do another mini-relaxation the next time you see a dot, or the next time you are aware of feeling annoyed.

NB: A note of caution regarding relaxation if you are driving your car: Never practice long periods of deep relaxation while driving. Never listen to a deep relaxation tape while driving. Frequency is the key! The more you practice relaxation, or mini-relaxation, the better you will become at releasing stress and tension quickly and effectively.

Relaxation is a skill, just like playing tennis or the piano. You cannot expect to be immediately skilled at these techniques. But you will definitely get better the longer and more often you practice. Set aside some time on Fibromyalgia Isolation (a.k.a. Treat Yourself) Day to practice (please!)

Feedback

Today I received an email from some-one, titled Wondering, who had read my previous post:

Hi. I just starting following you but have been to your site many times. A good friend sent me your link about a year ago. Anyway, I just read your post about yoga part 1 and your humor made me smile, I thank you for that. But It (the story) made me a little sad and depressed because it left me wondering and thinking to myself (omg how can she even do this? Is she on some major drugs or something. Maybe she just doesn’t have fibro as bad as me.) Because I have to tell you, there is NO WAY I could even attempt to do any of that. I can’t even get things done in my house I need to do. And I can’t remember the last time I felt good enough to even go to the store for milk, forget about doing the weeks shopping. So please tell me, how do you do it? Also in one part you mentioned running on 5 hours of sleep after getting 10 hours the night before. That made me envious. I never get more then an hour here, a couple hours here. heck, I’m jumping for joy if I sleep more the 3 hours at a time. Once in a while (very rare) I get a whopping 4 hours. Please understand I am in no way doubting your illness. I am just wondering how you do it.
This is what I responded (in case any of you are wondering, too):
I have only been diagnosed with FM since November. I started my FB page and blog in February. Right now, I am dedicated only to finding ways to feel better – I have been unable to work because my fibro fog is terrible (most of the time) and I am supposed to be a lawyer (who would want to see a lawyer who has trouble remembering and slurs when tired?). I am living on my credit card, which, sooner or later, will max out and I have no idea what I’ll do then; unless I can get better!
I take Lyrica (which is incredibly expensive) but it seems to help me with the pain, more than any other drug. Until the other night (10 hour sleep night), I was taking Stilnox every night (since December) for sleep. If I missed a dose, I didn’t sleep. The other night, I started Circadin (prescribed by my doctor) and was totally amazed when I slept for so long! This isn’t a common occurrence! Most sleep that I have is the kind where you doze off then wake up, then doze off again. I’m hoping the Circadin will help.
My house is a mess – I can only do one chore at a time (and I used to be the Queen of multi-tasking) so by the time I finish them all; it’s time to start at the beginning. And, as I said before, I am pretty much JUST doing the stuff that is supposed to help me. So yes, yesterday I went to hydro then yoga (actually that pretty much amazed me, too) but today, my cousin picked me up (I can’t drive because I feel like my reflexes are so slow that I’d be a menace) to go to my mother’s place, where I promptly fell asleep for a three-hour nap. It seems (and I only have the last week or so to compare anything to as that’s only how long I have been doing these classes) that I crash after a couple of days of this activity – big time crash! I have to hide inside with my sunglasses on and my heating pad(s) all around my body!
 I live alone so I don’t have to take care of anyone else – when I close my door and hide in my cave, it’s just me. Most of the time, it’s just me, my couch and my lap-top.
 So, yes, I seem to be doing lots and lots of activities – but that’s it for the day. I may do an hour of hydro (and if you have never tried it, you must! The warm water lets your body do all the things it used to do!) but then I come home and do absolutely nothing until the next class, on the next day. I don’t even cook – I live within a major shopping area where it is so much easier and cheaper to get take-away than cook for one. I must say that I feel better having done physical activity – not necessarily physically, but in my head. I feel enthused and energised again – almost like I could do anything (even though I know that I can’t)!
I try not to dwell on all the bad stuff when I’m writing my blog because a) it gets me down when I think about it; b) there are plenty of other people out in cyberspace talking about that stuff, and c) would you really be interested in reading only bad stuff? I’m trying (in my small way) to inspire and let you in on my journey towards feeling better. Because I am determined to do so.
Please read my post ‘A New (and better?) Philosophy’ (http://fibromodem.com/2012/03/17/a-new-better-philosophy/) so you know where I am coming from. I have decided it is all worth it.
And (try) to grab the good moments!
And while I am here, I am so honoured that you bother to read my blog. And I am incredibly thankful for your wonderful comments. Feedback makes it all worth it!

So, I went to Yoga…

This will be a two part post. The plan is to give you a balanced view of my yoga class, so part 1 will be written while still on my exercise high. The next part will be written tomorrow (in real time, but not blog time) so, if there are any FM repercussions, I can let you know.

Part 1

I introduced myself to the dude who was holding the class – have you ever noticed that all male yoga teachers have ponytails? – letting him know about my condition and that I have never attended a class before this.

It all started very nicely. He turned on the relaxing music, lit the incense and we all sat on our mats with our legs crossed and our hands together (like we were praying) in front of us. Inhale…exhale. Concentrate on your breath. Then he told us to put our hands on our knees, palms up. Inhale…exhale. Concentrate on your breath. Next, put your dominant hand on your belly button and your other hand on your heart. Breathe in and feel your belly button go out. Exhale and feel your belly button move towards your spine. Breathe in and feel the breath move to your heart. Let your heart grow. Inhale…exhale. Concentrate on your breath. Hey! I can do this! Next we stood up straight; breathe in, lift your arms above your head and join your hands above your head. Then bring your hands down in front of you, back to that prayer position. Prepare yourself then let go of everything, letting your arms fall to the floor as you exhale. Still cool. Place your hands on the mat, take your left foot, then your foot backwards, moving into the downward dog position. My legs don’t move that way, dude! Then roll yourself down into the plank position. What? How? Now move your forehead and chin to the mat then push yourself up into a cobra. What the hell are you talking about? Then down again; then back into the downward dog.

Now this wasn’t as easy as it sounded (?) but I will admit that at the end of an hour, I appeared to be able to do this basic series of positions much more smoothly. The series is known as the Sun Salutation, and is meant to be practiced at the beginning of every yoga session. It is a way to warm up your body and focus your mind for the session. I was sweating profusely by this stage.

From the above series we moved into a forward lunge (supposedly by just moving my leg forward and NOT falling over!) then leaning to the side and rising (yes, at the same time) and moving into a half-moon pose then twist back, do the full series again and the lunge and moon thing on the other side. (Or don’t! and have to stop and rest in the child’s position while the rest of the class continues)

The really good thing about this is that you get to see how the rest of the class is doing. Other people are losing their balance, or resting, or looking on questioningly. This is really good to know – you don’t feel like quite a (politically incorrect) SPAZ!

There’s a ton of other positions: warrior 1, warrior 2, warrior 3, fish, Lord of the Dance pose, etc – but the best one I saw, that totally spun me out was the shoulder press:

This amazed me. And I think that I would have been able to do this except that my bum weighs SO much that I can’t lift it. Otherwise, I would have been a shoe-in! Instead Yoga Dude set me (the only real beginner) up against the wall so I could lie flat with my legs spread up in the air, against the wall. Imagine being at the gynaecologists – now, you’ve got it! Mind you, after a while, it was quite comfortable.

My favourite position was right at the end, called the corpse.

I went to the class alone and had to giggle all by myself (although everyone was very nice – they were also very serious about yoga). This would be great to do with a friend (especially the first few times) – who else will be able to tell embarrassing stories to all your family and friends?

Somehow, after all of this, I came away energised and refreshed (just in time for pizza for dinner – you really can’t expect me to cook after all of this!). I’m feeling light and buoyant and absolutely nothing hurts (knock on wood!) I don’t want to go to bed tonight because I don’t want to lose this feeling…you may just need to remind me about it in the morning!

Part 2

I have been awake for 2 hours now – waiting…is something going to hurt (more than normal)?

And guess what? No real pain; nothing very different from the normal FM wake up – other than I still feel energised (despite only having 5 hours sleep compared to yesterday’s astounding 10!)

So, I think it’s safe to report (and I’ll let you know if anything changes) that my yoga experience was pretty good. Note to all: I’ve been told that every yoga class is different (sound familiar?) so, for those just trying it like me, attempt to find a gentle or beginner’s class; introduce yourself to the instructor (he can then keep an eye on you); and have a giggle!

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