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

CAM(eo) Appearances

So, you have a diagnosis and you’re armed with a brand new prescription from you doctor (as we discussed yesterday).Your doctor (and the medication he prescribes) is considered part of conventional medicine.

If you also visit a chiropractor or acupuncturist for treatment, you’d be in the field of complementary and alternative medicine – CAM for short.

CAM tries to prevent and treat different conditions with techniques such as:

  • healing touch
  • energy
  • herbal medicines

Many CAM therapies have been around for centuries. But do they really work?

There is research to show that some CAM techniques can help with problems like pain and nausea. But other alternative therapies don’t have enough medical evidence to determine if they are effective.

Acupuncture

203. acupunctureWhat it is: This traditional Chinese medicine technique uses thin needles to stimulate various points around the body. Each point corresponds to a specific condition. The aim of acupuncture is to restore a balance of energy and good health to the body.

The evidence: Many of acupuncture’s benefits still haven’t been confirmed. That’s because more studies on acupuncture need to be performed. But evidence suggests that acupuncture may help ease some chronic pain conditions, including:

  • headaches
  • low back pain
  • osteoarthritis of the knee

Chiropractic Medicine

imagesWhat it is: Chiropractors specialize in adjustments – manipulating the spine to put the body into better alignment. People typically visit the chiropractor when they have pain in their lower back, shoulders, and neck. But many chiropractors claim adjustments can also improve overall health.

The evidence: Chiropractic medicine does seem to provide some relief for lower back pain. But it may not be any better than other back pain treatments.

Studies have also found the technique effective for:

  • migraine and neck-related headaches
  • neck pain
  • joint conditions
  • whiplash

But there isn’t much data on the effectiveness of chiropractic medicine for FM.

Energy Therapies

Energy therapies use magnets and therapeutic touch to manipulate the body’s energy fields and improve health.

Here’s a round-up of some common energy therapies:

Magnetic Field Therapy

What it is: Magnets are thought by some to have healing abilities. Centuries ago, people believed magnets could treat everything from gout to baldness. Today, they’re worn inside bracelets, shoes, and other accessories.

The evidence: There’s no conclusive evidence that magnets are effective pain relievers. There are a series of studies currently looking at a magnet therapy called transcranial magnetic stimulation which may help manage the symptoms of FM. Any results are preliminary. More study is needed to see if the therapy is effective.

Magnets are generally safe. But they can disrupt the function of pacemakers, defibrillators, and insulin pumps. That makes them potentially dangerous for anyone who uses these devices.

Reiki

reiki-handsWhat it is: The premise of Reiki is that it accesses the body’s natural energy to speed healing. The practitioner hovers his or her hands over the patient’s body. Or he or she places them lightly on the person’s skin.

The evidence: There is something to be said for the healing touch when it comes to bringing about a state of calm. One study showed that Reiki was effective in bringing about an increase in:

  • happiness
  • relaxation
  • feeling of calm

Therapeutic Touch

What it is: Advocates of this technique suggest that the power of touch may direct energy flow and treat pain and disease.

The evidence: It’s hard to tell for sure whether therapeutic touch works. There have been few good studies done on this technique. Researchers have investigated its effects on wound healing, pain, and anxiety. But most studies had mixed results. There is no conclusive evidence of effectiveness.

Herbal Medicine

Plants form the foundation of herbal medicine. They’re taken in several forms including pills, powders, or extracts to treat a variety of conditions. Herbal medicine can be divided into three types:

Ayurvedic

What it is: Ayurvedic medicine originated in India more than 2,000 years ago. It focuses on balance of the mind, body, and spirit. Hundreds of different herbs are used to:

  • protect the body against disease
  • relieve pain
  • improve general health

The evidence: Most studies performed have been small. They cannot provide conclusive evidence that Ayurvedic herbal medicine works.

There’s also a serious caution to using Ayurvedic products. One study found that Ayurvedic herbal medicines from South Asia had dangerously high levels of:

  • lead
  • mercury
  • arsenic

Chinese

12882850-chinese-food-therapy-traditional-chinese-herbal-medicineWhat it is: Chinese herbal medicines include gingko and ginseng. They are not used to treat a specific symptom or disease. Instead they are meant to restore balance to the body as a whole. These medicines can be taken in many forms, including pills, powders, and teas.

The evidence: Chinese herbal remedies have been studied but the research hasn’t been well-designed enough to draw any conclusions on effectiveness.

Regarding safety, there have been reports of heavy metals and other toxins in certain Chinese herbal remedies.

Traditional

A number of different herbs are grown in the Western world that are considered “Western” or “traditional” herbal remedies. Most studies on these herbs have been small. So it’s hard to know for sure whether they work. A few herbs that have shown possible benefit include:

  • Chamomile for relieving stomach upset.
  • Cranberry for preventing urinary tract infections.
  • Flaxseed, garlic, and soy for lowering cholesterol.
  • Peppermint oil for preventing heartburn.
  • St. John’s wort for relieving mild to moderate depression.

Although herbal remedies are considered “natural,” they can cause side effects. They may also interact with drugs you’re taking for other conditions. Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal medicine.

Like everything else, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. So, it will be more trial and error…but we’d all like to hear any of your experiences with CAM therapies.

Spreading Your Eggs…

The most consistent treatment advice that all the experts in FM try to promote is a multi-faceted comprehensive treatment approach. do_not_put_all_your_eggs_in_one_basketThose who have followed this blog for a while know that I have always promoted this advice: this means NOT putting all your eggs in one basket…

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 of us. 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. 270. aspirinOver-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.

Your odds of gaining a significant reduction in symptoms, and improving your quality of life through a combination of many different treatment options, is pretty good…if you get the right combination.

There are thousands of different options and combinations of options. What works best?

Somehow you have to record all the treatments you are trying, how you feel on a particular, what happens when you add a new modal. It’s not easy…I can’t even keep track and that’s part of the reason I started this blog…you forget that you took that extra pain-killer because your head was killing you on Wednesday, or that you missed your hydrotherapy session because your stomach was acting up.

That really is the great challenge with fighting Fibro – the BEST combination of treatments will be different for each individual. (Isn’t that the bit that sucks the most? Hearing that everyone is different?)

We need to remember that we (YOU) are the centre point of treatment, by focusing on treatments that match our own lifestyles, abilities, symptoms and resources. The problem is that a personalized treatment approach to FM relief cannot be developed without a firm understanding of the symptoms and co-morbid conditions that require treatment (and I’ve been trying to research it all for over a year…and I keep finding new symptoms!).

We must also establish a trustworthy support team to assist us in pursuing not only all the different treatment options, but the execution of the treatments chosen. Effective teams typically include the patient’s primary care physician, various specialists (e.g., rheumatologists, neurologists, dietitians, psychologists), as well as friends, family, and even members of fibromyalgia support groups.

And finally (if all of that was not enough), specific and achievable goals must be set in order to measure the effects of EVERYTHING!

Weighing-up-the-benefits-with-the-risks-of-virtualisation

It is vitally important to constantly and consistently observe and evaluate the treatment methods being used. Through this whole process, we get frustrated over and over again! Our reality is an ongoing trial-and-error approach to treatment. AAARGGGGHHHH!

However, it is crucial to treatment success and must be embraced as a necessary evil.

When trying to determine a personalized course of treatment, we need to forget the agendas of physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and other external entities. Our decisions need to be driven by both symptoms and causal factors. Examples of important questions to ask during this process include:

  • What symptom do I want to address?
  • How will this particular treatment impact that symptom?
  • What are the potential side effects of this treatment?
  • Does this treatment have the potential to interact with other treatments I am using?
  • What will this treatment cost?
  • What are my expected results and in what time frame should I anticipate to note results?

Throughout this process, it is important to remember that successful relief is highly individualized (again!) and will vary between patients. What appears to be a miraculous treatment for me may fail to provide any benefit to you.

This whole process takes more time (yes! most of us have had to wait years for a diagnosis and now we have to take more time!).

A trial and error evaluation process is most effective when employed in a scientific manner meaning that different treatment elements should often be tested in isolation. I know that when I read about CoQ10 and D-Ribose and Sam-E, I started taking them all at the same time. I am now no longer able to tell which supplement or combination of supplements is actually driving the results they may experience. It is impossible to accurately measure specific results to associate with any individual option, so I need to start again…again!

If you’d like to see iHerb’s selection of supplements, click here. Use Coupon Code LHJ194 to get $10 off any first time order over $40 or $5 off any first time order under $40.

Untitled

There Ain’t No Magic Pill

“There’s no magic pill…to fix their fibromyalgia,” says Mark J. Pellegrino, MD, of Ohio Pain and Rehabilitation Specialists and author of 13 books on fibromyalgia. “A balanced approach is important.”

And many experts agree the best treatment for fibromyalgia is a multifaceted approach that combines medication with lifestyle changes and alternative treatments.

But what about if you’re new to all of this? Where do you even start?

A treatment plan gives structure to getting from here to there. Be realistic and (yes, you’re already probably sick of hearing this already) small steps! A treatment plan is different from devising goals because of its flexibility and internal exploration. In most clinical settings, a treatment plan review is done quarterly or even monthly. After each review, the plan is rewritten to meet current needs.

Start With a Diagnosis

There are no lab tests for fibromyalgia. Doctors diagnose it by considering criteria such as how long you’ve had pain and how widespread it is, and by ruling out other causes. This can be a long and complicated process because the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia can be caused by other conditions. So it’s best to see a doctor who is familiar with fibromyalgia – which can be easier said than done, sometimes!

Learn About Fibromyalgia Medications – You are YOUR Best Advocate!

Once you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your doctor will talk to you about treatment options. Several types of medicines are used to help manage fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain and fatigue.

Three medications are FDA-approved to treat fibromyalgia:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine): a type of antidepressant called a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Researchers aren’t sure how Cymbalta works in fibromyalgia, but they think that increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine help control and reduce feelings of pain.
  • Lyrica (pregabalin): Lyrica is a nerve pain and epilepsy drug. In people with fibromyalgia, it may help calm down overly sensitive nerve cells that send pain signals throughout the body. It has been effective in treating fibro pain.
  • Savella (milnacipran): Savella is also an SNRI. While researchers aren’t exactly sure how it works, studies have shown that it helps relieve pain and reduce fatigue in people with fibromyalgia.

Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed to help people manage fibromyalgia symptoms:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants. By helping increase levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, these medications may help relax painful muscles and enhance the body’s natural painkillers.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Your doctor may prescribe one of these types of antidepressants by itself or in combination with a tricyclic antidepressant. SSRIs prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed in the brain. This may help ease pain and fatigue.

These medications are also sometimes prescribed for fibromyalgia:

  • Local anesthetics. Injected into especially tender areas, anesthetics can provide some temporary relief, usually for no longer than three months.
  • Anticonvulsants or seizure medications such as Neurontin are effective for reducing pain and anxiety. It is unclear how these medications work to relieve the symptoms in fibromyalgia.
  • Muscle Relaxants are occasionally prescribed to help alleviate pain associate with muscle strain in those with fibromyalgia.

Stay Active

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, tai chi, or Pilates can also be helpful. Prior to starting any exercise routine, or if you want to increase the intensity of your exercise, talk with your doctor.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help you get control of your illness by focusing on what you can do to improve your situation, rather than on your chronic symptoms.

A physical therapist can show you how to get temporary relief from fibromyalgia pain and stiffness, get stronger, and improve your range of motion. And she can help you make little changes, such as practicing good posture, that help prevent painful flare-ups.

Alternative Therapies

A number of popular fibromyalgia treatments fall outside the realm of mainstream medicine. In general, there hasn’t been extensive research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but anecdotal evidence suggests that some may work. Always talk with your doctor before starting any alternative treatment.

Popular alternative treatments include:

  • Acupuncture. This ancient healing practice aims to increase blood flow and production of natural painkillers with thin needles inserted into the skin at strategic points on the body. Some studies report that acupuncture may help ease pain, anxiety, and fatigue.
  • Massage therapy. This may help reduce muscle tension, ease pain in both muscles and soft tissue,improve range of motion, and boost production of natural painkillers.
  • Chiropractic treatment. Based on spinal adjustments to reduce pain, this popular therapy may help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Supplements. A number of dietary and other supplements are touted as treatments aimed at relieving fibromyalgia symptoms. Some of the most popular for fibromyalgia include magnesium, melatonin, 5-HTP, and SAMe, which may affect serotonin levels. However, results of studies on these supplements are mixed. Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any supplements. Some may have side effects and could react badly with medication you are taking.
  • Herbs. As with supplements, scientific evidence for the effectiveness of herbs is mixed. A few studies have shown that St. John’s wort can be as effective as certain prescription medication for treating mild depression.

This is just a start – and you will probably need to tweak your plan as you go along, throwing out activities and treatments that don’t work for you, while grasping the positives with both hands. Remember, it may take a while to get where you want to be – it is all about experimentation (and just because something works for me does not mean it will work for you).

If you’d like to see iHerb’s selection of supplements, click here. Use Coupon Code LHJ194 to get $10 off any first time order over $40 or $5 off any first time order under $40.

Where, oh Where…?

So, I’ve spent most of the day looking at current research and trying to find something to write about; BUT it’s all so BLAH!

203. acupunctureYes, acupuncture has been found to help those suffering from FM – where’s the new information in that?

Yes, marijuana has been shown to help those suffering from FM – where’s the new information in that?

Yes, dysmenorrhea is especially common in FM – where’s the new information in that?

Obesity, tai-chi, hydrotherapy,  shiatsu, reflexology, yoga – it’s all the same…there is nothing new!

I’ve kept reading, checking Facebook, watching tweets and I can’t find anything! And, obviously, I have done nothing else to tell you about. So, I’m setting you a mission: can you find (somewhere, anywhere) something new about FM?

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Related Articles:

Happiness is Having a Scratch for Every Itch

itchy-scratching-110621-02Do you find yourself scratching all the time?

Do you have dry, itchy skin?

Have you developed itchy skin rashes?

Maybe you have back itch?

Or itching ears?

Or maybe you sometimes even feel that horrible itching sensation all over – as if there are ants crawling all over your body…

Itching is just one of a number of symptoms that FM sufferers are lucky enough to suffer. And it’s apparently one of the most common skin problems .

Not only can itching be uncomfortable but it can also be one of those things that prevents you from getting the sleep you need at night. And we have enough trouble as it is!

Why Is Itching Such a Problem When you have Fibromyalgia?

Apparently (and unsurprisingly, when it comes to FM), the medical profession aren’t quite sure! But something they do know, is why this type of itching occurs…

360_backscratcher_0406You see, it’s got to do with how your body interprets your pain signals and it’s otherwise known as a sensory itch. The receptors in the outer layer of your skin are responsible for translating the amount of pressure it receives. These pressures can be translated into pain, for example. But when these receptors come across an unfamiliar pressure, they revert to the ‘default signal’: Itching!

What Can You Do to Ease the Itching Sufferer?

  1. Capsaicin. This topical pain reliever depletes your cells of their pain messengers, essentially forcing them to stop complaining. Tread softly with this one at first, though — it has a burn that’s too intense for some people. (More about capsaicin.)
  2. Ice. Cooling the area can relieve any inflammation that may be putting pressure on the nerve, but most importantly it can deaden the feeling. (Learn to ice properly.)
  3. Pain killers. For the itch itself, acetaminophen is the one that’s most likely to help with nerve pain. Again, if the nerve pain is a result of inflammation, anti-inflammatories may help as well. Some common over-the-counter drugs that contain acetaminophen:
    • img-itchyActifed®
    • Anacin®
    • Benadryl®
    • Cepacol®
    • Contac®
    • Coricindin®
    • Dayquil®
    • Dimetapp®
    • Dristan®
    • Elixir®
    • Excedrin®
    • Feverall®
    • Formula 44®
    • Goody’s® Powders
    • Liquiprin®
    • Midol®
    • Nyquil®
    • Panadol®
    • Robitussin®
    • Saint Joseph® Aspirin-Free
    • Singlet®
    • Sinutab®
    • Sudafed®
    • Theraflu®
    • Triaminic®
    • TYLENOL® Brand Products
    • Vanquish®
    • Vicks®
    • Zicam®
  1. Calming the nervous system. Certain supplements (theanine, rhodiola), medications (Xyrem, Valium, Xanax), acupuncture, and yoga and meditation may all help keep your nerves from being hypersensitive and causing these kinds of sensations.

Talk to your doctor. He/she may be able to help with a treatment or prescription drug.

 

A Magic Pill? Not!

107. happy pills“There’s no magic pill…to fix their fibromyalgia,” says Mark J. Pellegrino, MD, of Ohio Pain and Rehabilitation Specialists and author of 13 books on fibromyalgia. “A balanced approach is important.”

For some people with FM, that balanced approach includes trying complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in addition to medication, exercise, and physical therapy.

Here are some of the most popular alternative treatments and their track records.

Dietary Supplements for Fibromyalgia

Supplements commonly used to treat fibromyalgia symptoms Include:

  • 5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan). This is a building block for the brain chemical serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are associated with depression, so it is believed that raising serotonin levels can lead to a better mood. One study found that 5-HTP supplements may also help ease anxiety, insomnia, FM pain, and morning stiffness. In the 1980s, 5-HTP supplements were associated with a serious illness called eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome (EMS). However, it is believed that a contaminant in some products caused those EMS episodes. Other potential side effects of 5-HTP include heartburn, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drowsiness, sexual problems, and muscle problems. Personally, I was nauseous and kept gagging, trying to throw up, despite my stomach being empty.
  • SAMe (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine). This amino acid derivative may boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, another brain chemical. Limited research suggests SAMe may improve mood and sleep. Potential side effects may include gas, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, dry mouth, headache, mild insomnia, anorexia, sweating, dizziness, and nervousness, especially at higher doses. I am giving this one a try, starting tomorrow, as I have heard such great things – I will let you know I go.
  • Magnesium. Low levels of this element may be linked to FM. However, research has not turned up solid evidence that taking magnesium supplements improves symptoms. Excess magnesium intake will result in a laxative effect so it should be taken in divided doses. I couldn’t even handle that! Combined with my IBS, I had to be surgically removed from the toilet seat! Magnesium can be obtained naturally from green leafy vegetables (but this is another IBS kick-starter!), pumpkin and sunflower seeds, 100% wheat bran cereal and raw spinach.
  • Melatonin. This hormone is often used in supplements to improve sleep. It may also ease FM pain. Melatonin can make symptoms of depression worse. It can cause some side effects including headache, short-term feelings of depression, daytime sleepiness, dizziness, stomach cramps, and irritability. (N.B. Do NOT drive or use machinery for four to five hours after taking melatonin.) I found taking a slow release/time release version very helpful (in fact, I only had to use 3mg) AND it can be obtained very inexpensively.
  • St. John’s wort. Though this herb is sometimes used to treat certain FM symptoms, there’s no solid evidence that it works. A few studies suggest it may help with mild depression.  But it can also limit the effectiveness of some medications.

I had a bit of a look around the Net and put together a little table (here). By no means does it have all the information about each supplement, nor does it have every supplement. So, I’m suggesting (strongly) to you that, prior to trying, adding, reducing any of your supplements, please talk to your doctor. Some supplements can have harmful interactions with prescription medications. Some are unsafe if you have certain medical conditions. Be wary of products that promise FM relief or contain supplements not commonly used. When it comes to supplements, more and more is being learnt; but unlike drugs, there is minimal rigorous research. It’s important for you to work with a doctor who is knowledgeable about supplements.

Pellegrino, who has FM, considers the “three pillars of treatment” to be medicine, physical therapy, and supplements. The idea behind using supplements is to boost levels of certain substances in your body that may reduce the symptoms of fibromyalgia. “If there’s a deficiency you can measure,” says Pellegrino, “it makes sense to replace that deficiency.”

If you’d like to see iHerb’s selection of supplements, click here. Use Coupon Code LHJ194 to get $10 off any first time order over $40 or $5 off any first time order under $40.

Acupuncture to Ease Fibromyalgia Pain

In traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture was thought to rebalance the flow of energy through one’s body. For modern Western practitioners, it’s a healing method that increases blood flow and production of the body’s natural painkillers.

In its most common form, acupuncture involves stimulating points on the body by inserting thin needles into the skin. When a slight electric current is run through the needles, it’s known as electro-acupunctureBoth methods are used for FM.

203. acupunctureSome people believe acupuncture is an effective, if temporary, treatment for FM symptoms. Others are not so sure.

In a 2006 Mayo Clinic study, acupuncture appeared to significantly reduce fatigue and anxiety among people with FM. Other studies have suggested that acupuncture can temporarily ease FM pain as well. Yet researchers who analyzed several clinical trials, including the Mayo Clinic study, concluded that overall, acupuncture is not effective in treating FM.

Since then, a new study of acupuncture — the most rigorous and detailed analysis of the treatment to date — found that acupuncture can ease migraines and arthritis and other forms of chronic pain. The findings provide strong scientific support for the age-old therapy. 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.

Trying it yourself may be the only way to find out if it works for you. It may take several acupuncture treatments for you to conclude whether its benefits, if any, are worth the money.

Further Reading

Alternative Fibromyalgia Treatments: Massage

Massage can reduce muscle tension and ease pain in the muscles and soft tissue. It can also improve circulation and range of motion and boost production of natural painkillers. Some studies suggest it can improve your mood. And it may help people with fibromyalgia sleep better, too.

Formal studies of the effects of massage on fibromyalgia symptoms are few and results are mixed. However, researchers at the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute report that just 20 minutes of moderate-pressure massage can lessen the flow of chemicals associated with pain and stress while increasing production of serotonin.

The result: a better night’s sleep. That can help combat fatigue and the inability to concentrate known as “fibro fog.”

Further Reading

Fibromyalgia Treatments at Home

Don’t forget simple and inexpensive home remedies for pain. For example, heat – especially moist heat – can temporarily ease pain and stiffness by boosting blood flow to the places where you hurt.

Try applying a moist heating pad, taking a warm shower, or just warming your clothes in the dryer before you put them on. Cold packs can help you feel better too, by reducing the deep muscle pain of FM. Why not have a look at tips from others in the comments here.

 

General Further Reading:

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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 :-)

Treat Your Pain

Many experts believe the best treatment for fibromyalgia is a multifaceted approach that combines medication with lifestyle changes and alternative treatments. And, it looks like Mommy and I have been left alone to learn how to manage/treat/cope/handle/survive (choose the most appropriate verb) my fibromyalgia. Having read lots of your stories and received plenty of advice, I am working on my own treatment plan – do I have a choice?

But what about if you’re new to all of this? Where do you even start?

A treatment plan gives structure to getting from here to there. Be realistic and (yes, you’re already probably sick of hearing this already) small steps! A treatment plan is different from devising goals because of its flexibility and internal exploration. In most clinical settings, a treatment plan review is done quarterly or even monthly. After each review, the plan is rewritten to meet current needs.

Start With a Diagnosis

There are no lab tests for fibromyalgia. Doctors diagnose it by considering criteria such as how long you’ve had pain and how widespread it is, and by ruling out other causes. This can be a long and complicated process because the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia can be caused by other conditions. So it’s best to see a doctor who is familiar with fibromyalgia – which can be easier said than done, sometimes!

Learn About Fibromyalgia Medications – You are YOUR Best Advocate!

Once you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, your doctor will talk to you about treatment options. Several types of medicines are used to help manage fibromyalgia symptoms such as pain and fatigue.

Three medications are FDA-approved to treat fibromyalgia:

  • Cymbalta (duloxetine): a type of antidepressant called a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI). Researchers aren’t sure how Cymbalta works in fibromyalgia, but they think that increasing levels of serotonin and norepinephrine help control and reduce feelings of pain.
  • Lyrica (pregabalin): Lyrica is a nerve pain and epilepsy drug. In people with fibromyalgia, it may help calm down overly sensitive nerve cells that send pain signals throughout the body. It has been effective in treating fibro pain.
  • Savella (milnacipran): Savella is also an SNRI. While researchers aren’t exactly sure how it works, studies have shown that it helps relieve pain and reduce fatigue in people with fibromyalgia.

Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed to help people manage fibromyalgia symptoms:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants. By helping increase levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine, these medications may help relax painful muscles and enhance the body’s natural painkillers.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Your doctor may prescribe one of these types of antidepressants by itself or in combination with a tricyclic antidepressant. SSRIs prevent serotonin from being reabsorbed in the brain. This may help ease pain and fatigue.

These medications are also sometimes prescribed for fibromyalgia:

  • Local anesthetics. Injected into especially tender areas, anesthetics can provide some temporary relief, usually for no longer than three months.
  • Anticonvulsants or seizure medications such as Neurontin are effective for reducing pain and anxiety. It is unclear how these medications work to relieve the symptoms in fibromyalgia.
  • Muscle Relaxants are occasionally prescribed to help alleviate pain associate with muscle strain in those with fibromyalgia.

Stay Active

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, tai chi, or Pilates can also be helpful. Prior to starting any exercise routine, or if you want to increase the intensity of your exercise, talk with your doctor.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help you get control of your illness by focusing on what you can do to improve your situation, rather than on your chronic symptoms.

A physical therapist can show you how to get temporary relief from fibromyalgia pain and stiffness, get stronger, and improve your range of motion. And she can help you make little changes, such as practicing good posture, that help prevent painful flare-ups.

Alternative Therapies

A number of popular fibromyalgia treatments fall outside the realm of mainstream medicine. In general, there hasn’t been extensive research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), but anecdotal evidence suggests that some may work. Always talk with your doctor before starting any alternative treatment.

Popular alternative treatments include:

  • Acupuncture. This ancient healing practice aims to increase blood flow and production of natural painkillers with thin needles inserted into the skin at strategic points on the body. Some studies report that acupuncture may help ease pain, anxiety, and fatigue.
  • Massage therapy. This may help reduce muscle tension, ease pain in both muscles and soft tissue,improve range of motion, and boost production of natural painkillers.
  • Chiropractic treatment. Based on spinal adjustments to reduce pain, this popular therapy may help relieve fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Supplements. A number of dietary and other supplements are touted as treatments aimed at relieving fibromyalgia symptoms. Some of the most popular for fibromyalgia include magnesium, melatonin, 5-HTP, and SAMe, which may affect serotonin levels. However, results of studies on these supplements are mixed. Be sure to talk with your doctor before taking any supplements. Some may have side effects and could react badly with medication you are taking.
  • Herbs. As with supplements, scientific evidence for the effectiveness of herbs is mixed. A few studies have shown that St. John’s wort can be as effective as certain prescription medication for treating mild depression.

This is just a start – and you will probably need to tweak your plan as you go along, throwing out activities and treatments that don’t work for you, while grasping the positives with both hands. Remember, it may take a while to get where you want to be – it is all about experimentation (and just because something works for me does not mean it will work for you). Lastly, try not to get discouraged (Ha!) but we’re all here to support you.