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.

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Find Local Body Work Shops

People use bodywork to promote relaxation, relieve stress, and reduce pain associated with FM. Bodywork and manual therapy are general terms that refer to body manipulation therapies used for relaxation and pain relief. Massage and chiropractic care well-known forms of manual therapy.

The idea behind bodywork is that people learn – or are forced by injury or stress – into unnatural ways of moving or holding their bodies. This unnatural movement or posture changes the natural alignment of bones, which in turn causes discomfort and may contribute to health problems.

The aim of bodywork is to realign and reposition the body to allow natural, graceful movement. Bodywork, along with identifying possible contributing causes of unnatural movement and posture, is thought to reduce stress and ease pain.

Some of the most common forms of bodywork are:

  • images (1)The Alexander technique, which focuses on proper alignment of the head, neck, and trunk. It emphasizes improving health by increasing awareness of proper posture.
  • The Feldenkrais method, a gentle form of bodywork that increases flexibility and coordination. Feldenkrais exercises are intended to help increase a person’s awareness of body movement and develop new patterns of movement.
  • brochure_pic_1The Trager approach, which people use to help relearn natural movements and exercises so their bodies can function better. Practitioners teach gentle, rhythmic motions to improve flexibility and promote relaxation (called psychophysical integration) and dance-like exercises to increase awareness of body movement (called Mentastics).
  • Deep tissue massage, which attempts to treat chronic tension in deep muscles of the body. Deep tissue massage is thought to relieve pain and increase flexibility.
  • Rolfing, a form of deep tissue massage that practitioners use to realign the tissues that cover and connect all muscles and body organs (fascia). Bringing the body back into proper alignment is thought to reduce pain, improve flexibility and energy, and reduce muscle tension.
  • Dance/movement therapy, which has many of the same characteristics as the types of bodywork described above with the addition of creative and expressive art elements.

Bodywork can be a safe form of therapy when a qualified and experienced practitioner performs it. Talk with your doctor before you start any bodywork program, so you can choose the most appropriate form of bodywork for your specific condition. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.

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.

 

What is the Difference between Trigger Points and Tender Points?

The terms tender point and trigger point are often used interchangeably; however, they are different from each other.

At first glance, the medical community appears divided over whether they in fact are the same thing. You can even find a lot of websites and books, written by healthcare professionals (but we know how much help they can be!), who talk about diagnosing FM with trigger points and treating it with trigger-point injections.

Nonetheless, the scientific literature makes it clear that, while tender points and trigger points both appear to play roles in FM, they are not the same thing. Some of the confusion may be because it’s extremely common for people with FM to also have myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), which is a diagnosis of chronic pain from multiple trigger points. (Some doctors also question whether FM and MPS are different illnesses.)

  • Tender Point: One of 18 specific places on the body that are used to diagnose widespread pain and tenderness in FM. The presence of widespread tender points helps your doctor diagnose FM.
  • Trigger Point: Also called myofascial trigger point (TrPs or MTrPs), a trigger point is a small, hard knot in the muscle (myo) or connective tissue (fascia) that won’t relax. TrPs are painful when pressure is applied. In the absence of pressure, they may cause pain in the immediate area and/or cause pain in a different area. This is called a referred pain pattern. Chronic pain from multiple TrPs is called myofascial pain syndrome.

A 2011 study describes several key differences between them:

Tender Points in FM

See Umm…What Exactly are Tender Points?

Trigger Points in FM

Multiple studies show that TrPs can in fact play significant roles in FM, as a cause of significant pain, and possibly even in a causal role.

In one study, researchers were able to fully reproduce FM pain by manipulating the TrPs. They also found that the participants with more active TrPs had more intense spontaneous pain. What they concluded was that pain from TrPs may help lead to something called central sensitization, which is believed to be an underlying mechanism of FM. Essentially, central sensitization means that the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) are hypersensitive to pain and other stimuli, such as light, noise and temperature (hypervigilence). Central sensitization is also believed to play a role in migraines, osteoarthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome.

A review of literature on tender points and trigger points states that confusion between the two and the interchangeable use of the terms can lead to misdiagnosis, which in turn leads to ineffective treatment.

BUT 90 per cent of the 18 predetermined tender points are actually TrPs. Pressing on a trigger point hurts in the area and also shoots pain to other regions, while pressing on a tender point is believed to only cause discomfort to the local area.

The finding that most of your tender points are actually trigger points is good news because it opens up your treatment options. There are specific therapies for relieving the painful knots in the muscles where the trigger points are located, and research shows that relieving the pain of just one trigger point can have a significant on reducing your body-wide pain. One of the more popular approaches is therapeutic massage, which involves working out the trigger points to try to get the muscles to relax. During my time at the rehabilitation pain clinic, my physio spent her time teaching me ways to de-sensitize my trigger points – which in time, would help to reduce pain. This mostly involved self-massage regularly. In fact, anything that eases muscle tension, such as a hot shower or soaking in a hot tub, will reduce the impact of the trigger points. Unlike tender points, trigger points cause a restricted range of motion (muscle tightness) and they radiate pain to other areas of the body.

Despite all of this, FM requires different treatment than MPS. For the many people who have both, it’s essential to treat both in order to alleviate symptoms and regain function.

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 :-)

Bali Fibro Haven

Just one more sleep and I have to go home…not happy, Jan! I am seriously thinking about moving here – there has been a lot less pain and therefore a lot less pain killers; the warmth is wonderful; the lifestyle is relaxed, and it is really cheap to live here. I found a gorgeous 3 bedroom, 3 bathroom villa with pool and maid’s quarters (and fully furnished) for about half the price of my 2 bedroom (no pool) unit at home – and I’d need a big house because I am sure that my entire family would suddenly find the time to visit me (OFTEN!)

 

Maybe I could open a Fibromyalgia Retreat and organise yoga/meditation sessions, Botox injections for TMJ and loads of massages. Anyone want to come?

I figure (with Mommy’s encouragement) that I had better lease here first for a longer period to see if I could really handle being away from family and friends – so when I get home, I’ll be doing some heavy-duty research!

Our last days spent in paradise are being taken up with more massages, a manicure and pedicure for Mommy (I can’t handle them – they hurt!), my eyelash extensions (finally!) and some last-minute sun worship – oh, and a couple of cocktails!

P.S. I won’t miss the #%!!ing rooster!

A Quiet Retreat (?)

English: The man the ladies want..............

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The first night that we arrived in Bali, just before I went to bed, a rooster starting crowing…for most of the night. I woke up at 5am, then 7am – then no more sleep until a late afternoon nap. So the second night (last night), the rooster started even earlier. I used the ear plugs from the plane but to no avail. Awake at 5am, then 7am – then no more sleep! Ready to kill this rooster (if I could find him! His crowing seems to move around a lot)

I thought a rooster was supposed to only crow at dawn – so I looked it up:

The rooster is often portrayed as crowing at the break of dawn (“cock-a-doodle-doo”) and will almost always start crowing before 4 months of age. He can often be seen sitting on fence posts or other objects, where he crows to proclaim his territory. However, this idea is more romantic than real, as a rooster can and will crow at any time of the day. Some roosters are especially vociferous, crowing almost constantly, while others only crow a few times a day. These differences are dependent both upon the rooster’s breed and individual personality.

Anyway, after the rooster crows, the dogs bark and all the other birds start singing – don’t they know I am trying to have a quiet retreat?

Our quiet retreat was also interrupted by a visit to the tailor’s (Thais – your bag and shoes have been ordered for $120.00!) for some items to be copied; and some other shopping of course!

Shopping list, so far, has been:

Purple (yes! I know it looks blue in the photo) FAKE Louis Vuitton handbag and purple FAKE Chanel wallet.

Then a very quick lunch, because we were running late for our first (of as many as possible) massage appointments. Oh, it’s a tough life!

We had been told about a massage place called Chill, so off we went to have a 90 minute Holistic Chill (at all of $23.00), which was a mixture of acupressure and reflexology. I spent the 90 minutes experiencing exquisite pain: each time the masseuse touched me, it felt like she was opening a package and letting the pain out. I might suffer for it tomorrow – but it felt really, really good at the time. I have another one booked for tomorrow.

Then it was back home for a nap – it’s tough work shopping and spoiling one’s self, you know.

Our day finished with a very healthy dinner – followed by a VERY UNhealthy dessert:

Dessert tasting plate: creme brulee, chocolate mousse, chocolate brownie and lemon meringue pie (I said it was very unhealthy!)

We watched a fire dancer:

Then it was home where, it appears, we have frogs in the yard. AAAArgh!

Bed time now – now, where did I put those ear-plugs?

Please, Help Yourself


I’ve been in pain all day – does that actually surprise anyone?

Back to the point, the pain in my cheek and the spots above my eyes have been intolerable despite numerous pain killers and soothing eye masks. Then, idiot that I can be when fibro fog enters my brain, I realised that the rehab physio told me about some self-treatment for the area. It’s still not my first thought when it comes to pain treatment but I’m working on it and I find that it can help – it doesn’t take it all away but it soothes it, like tucking it into bed with a blanket and letting it relax.

The muscle that affects this area is called the sternocleidomastoid (SCM). It is a muscle of the neck so-named because it originates on the sternum (sterno) and the clavicle (cleido) and inserts on the mastoid process (mastoid) which is an easily located bony prominence behind the ear. The muscles pass diagonally across the front and side of the neck beginning at the top of the sternum and ending behind the ear. This two-sided muscle is large and ropy, making it the most prominent muscle visible at the front of the neck.

There is rarely pain present in the SCMs themselves but they have the potential to refer a large amount of pain to areas of the head, face, throat, and sternum (see all those red dots and marks in the picture to the left).

Trigger points in the sternal branch of the SCM can cause deep pain around the eyes, headaches behind the ear, at the top of the head, and over the eye (sound familiar?). They may cause pain in the pharynx (throat) and the tongue when swallowing, giving you a “sore throat.” They may also contribute to temporomandibular joint (jaw) pain along with the muscles of mastication.

Dizziness or balance problems, nausea, fainting, lacrimation (excess tear production,) blurred vision, eyelid jerking or droopy eyelid and visual disturbances have all been claimed to be a possible result of trigger points along the SCM.  A host of other systemic symptoms such as cold sweat on the forehead, distorted weight perception, excess mucus in sinuses, nasal cavities and throat, and chronic cough have also been attributed to them.

So what is it that I’ve been told to do?

Self-massage

  • Lay back flat on a cushion.
  • Put some cream on your fingers (not too much as it’s just to make the massage movement easier). It doesn’t really matter what type of cream you use.
  • Find the spot (with the opposite hand) behind your ear where the muscle begins. For example: use your right hand to find the top of the muscle behind your left ear (this means that you’re not putting excess pressure on your left shoulder by scrunching it up).
  • Then follow the muscle down (it runs diagonally) until you get to the bottom of it, at those clavicle bones.
  • Basically, rub your fingers up and down (slowly, and DO NOT use a circular motion) that muscle (at the most 10 times).
  • Use only as much pressure as you can tolerate. If you feel any pain or dizziness, reduce the pressure.
  • Then do the other side.

Initially, it may be extremely painful and may even bring on the referred pain symptoms, such as a headache. But the pain should get better quickly upon subsequent sessions and referred pain symptoms should begin to subside almost immediately. I have been told to do this daily.

Stretching

To stretch and strengthen this muscle, move your head sideways (your ear towards your shoulder) then look at your underarm. Hold that position for 5 seconds (working up to 10 seconds). Do 10 of these on each side (you can alternate or do one side at a time – it doesn’t matter).

I hope some of you find this helpful (and that you can understand my directions).

Oh! The Excitement!

I have had such an excitement-filled day – I have just spent most of the night at Mommy’s house as I lost all electricity and, much as candles are beautiful and relaxing, no heating in the middle of winter is definitely not nice.

Why did we lose electricity? After hearing a giant bang, I ran outside (in my socks) to find a hooker van (yes! a van that belongs to a group of hookers!) had hit the power pole outside my house. There were no strippers, just a little Greek man in shock. I ran inside and grabbed a blanket and coat for the man (do you think I remembered to put on shoes or a coat for myself?) and then had to direct traffic around fallen power lines while we waited for the emergency services to arrive. See? Exciting!

So what other stuff happened today? I had my first real rehab session. I spent an hour with the physio as she taught me ways to self-treat – where to massage, how hard to do it and for how long. Very useful session. She also introduced me to a new apparatus – a Backnobber. Has anyone used this thing? Talk about a fabulous way to reach those trigger points that you can’t normally reach!

Results from my blood tests came in so I was off to be stabbed with a needle full of B12 – the good thing about that is maybe I’ll lose some of the absolute exhaustion that has been stalking me recently (as opposed to the normal exhaustion!)

Now some not-so-great news, but not necessarily horrible news: After freezing to death at the really cold radiology department while having a mammogram and ultrasound, I have to go to the boobie doctor because my lumpy boobies have two new lumps as compared to the previous ultrasound. I believe I have the BEST boobie doctor in Australia as she is Kylie’s breast cancer doctor (ie: Kylie Minogue). I also figure that these two new lumps will end being the same as the last ones – yes, they look dodgy on the ultrasound but they’ll poke me with a really big needle and suck out some of each one and it’ll all turn out to be cysts again. No problem! The main problem is the big needle – it hurts! And after it’s all done, they give you a tiny icepack to put in your bra – that was alright the last time as it was the middle of summer and 40 degrees (Celsius); this time it’s the middle of winter! Chilly Boobies!

See? Definitely a non-stop day!

Today is THE Day!

After dragging myself out of bed yesterday to do a round of expensive, yet very necessary shopping (my 20 year old washing machine blew up; the dryer is about to go (it’s not drying clothes after 1.5 hours); and the microwave can hardly heat milk), my AMEX had a workout but, at least, everything is again under warranty; and it’s the end of the financial year, so I got great bargains. And it will all be delivered and attached on Monday.

So today is all for me – it’s the fund-raising day at EastWest College which means my day will start with my friend, Thais, picking me up and both of us will be stretched and moved about with a Shiatsu massage. Then it’s off to brunch – somewhere where I can find strawberry pancakes with chocolate sauce, I think.

Next Thais will drop me back at the College, where Mommy will have been having her shiatsu, so that both Mommy and I can have some reflexology.

The day does not end there, folks. It’s my Dad’s birthday tomorrow, so tonight we’re having a Malaysian feast.

Z knows all about treating yourself.

It’s a very early dinner (5pm) so Z can attend and not be a total sleep-deprived brat. Then, hopefully, Z will return to my house to sleep for the night (giving his mother some well-deserved rest) where he has not been since I put all the glow-in-the-dark stars in his room. I’m hoping to see the delight on his face and sing Twinkle Twinkle ’til he falls asleep. 

There, that will be my magical day. Hopefully all the treat-myself treatments will prepare me for the harder part of time with Z.