Pain or No Brain?

Ages and ages ago (except it doesn’t feel that long ago – doesn’t time fly when you’re in a fibro fog!), I (with my doctor’s advice) weaned myself off Lyrica to see if we could find a better way to deal with this condition. If you followed the posts, you’ll remember that I ended up at Step 1 again and back on it…almost immediately.

Basically, it seemed, I was given the choice of being in pain (no Lyrica) or no brain (with Lyrica). I chose no pain.

I am beginning to question my choice…as my brain and everything in it quickly turns to mush.

119. fibro fogLyrica (and Neurontin, by the way) blocks the formation of new brain synapses, drastically reducing the potential for rejuvenating brain plasticity – meaning that these drugs will cause brain decline faster than any substance known to mankind! (This is not me being OTT – this is a quote by some-one else.)

Synaptic plasticity is a key feature of nerve architecture that enables your brain to tolerate stress, recover from trauma, and make changes. That’s how your brain bounces back from intense stress (or not, in our case). Hmmm….and that could be why I just can’t seem to quit smoking. Our brains, on Lyrica, are no longer flexible or “plastic.”

Doctors use them for all manner of nerve issues because they are good at suppressing symptoms. However, can we justify this use now that the actual mechanism of the drugs is finally understood? – they are creating a significant long-term reduction in nerve health.

148. fibro fogTo make matters worse (yes, they can get worse), antidepressants block the action of acetylcholine. What does acetylcholine do, you might ask? It is the primary neurotransmitter involved with memory and learning. And, how many of us take antidepressants? I know that I do. See what I mean by things getting worse?

Can it really be right to force us to make this kind of choice?

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Chronically Quiet

70. never aloneMany of us are lonely and alone…and it’s sad.

But let’s look at some of the great revelations and benefits found in silence and solitude that other people (smartphone users check their device every 6.5 minutes, which works out to mean around 150 times a day) miss out on. Silence has been replaced with a cacophony of communication, and solitude with social media.

Here are ten (as described by Thai Nguyen):

1.       Bypassing Burnout:

Too often our culture parallels self-worth with productivity levels. Whether it’s asking what our country can do for us, or what we can do for our country, the question remains—what is left to be done? It’s a one-way ticket to burnout.

Solitude allows for a break from the tyrant of productivity. What’s more is that doing nothing helps with doing much rather than being in opposition. Promega is a company with on-the-job “third spaces” where employees are able to take solitude breaks and meditate in natural light. This has resulted in numerous health benefits as well as improved productivity levels for the company.

2.       Heightened Sensitivity (ok, maybe we don’t want this one):

For many, attempting ten days of silence would be akin to walking on water. Vipassana silent retreats are exactly that; participants are instructed to refrain from reading, writing, or eye contact.

One hundred scientists went on a retreat for research and noted that shutting off the faculty of speech heightens awareness in other areas. Beginning with breathing, that focus and sensitivity is then transferred to sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, intentions and emotions.

3.       Dissolving Tomorrow’s Troubles:

Alan Watts argues that our frustration and anxiety is rooted in feeling and being disconnected—living in the future or the past is nothing but an illusion.

Silence brings our awareness back to the present. This is where concrete happiness is experienced. Watts makes the distinction between our basic and ingenious consciousness; the latter makes predictions based on our memories, which seem so real to the mind that we’re caught in a hypothetical abstraction. It plans out our lives with an abstract happiness, but an abstract happiness can also be a very real disappointment.

The future falls short of what the present can deliver. Silence and solitude can help immerses us back in the present moment.

2014 1. nature4.      Improves Memory (fibro what?):

Combining solitude with a walk in nature causes brain growth in the hippocampus region, resulting in better memory.

Evolutionists explain that being in nature sparks our spatial memory as it did when our ancestors went hunting—remembering where the food and predators were was essential for survival. Taking a walk alone gives the brain uninterrupted focus and helps with memory consolidation.

5.       Strengthens Intention and Action:

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal says during silence, the mind is best able to cultivate a form of mindful intention that later motivates us to take action.

Intentional silence puts us in a state of mental reflection and disengages our intellectual mind. At that point McGonigal says to ask yourself three questions:

“If anything were possible, what would I welcome or create in my life?”

“When I’m feeling most courageous and inspired, what do I want to offer the world?”

“When I’m honest about how I suffer, what do I want to make peace with?”

Removing our critical minds allows the imagination and positive emotions to build a subconscious intention and add fuel to our goals.

McGonigal explains, “When you approach the practice of figuring this stuff out in that way, you start to get images and memories and ideas that are different than if you tried to answer those questions intellectually.”

6.       Increases Self-Awareness:

In silence, we make room for the self-awareness that allows us to be in control of our actions, rather than under their control. The break from external voices puts us in tune to our inner voices—and it’s those inner voices that drive our actions. Awareness leads to control.

We must practice becoming an observer of our thoughts. The human will is strengthened whenever we choose not to respond to every actionable thought.

7.       Grow Your Brain (oh, another one that really couldn’t hurt any of us!):

The brain is the most complex and powerful organ, and like muscles, benefits from rest. UCLA research showed that regular times set aside to disengage, sit in silence, and mentally rest, improves the “folding” of the cortex and boosts our ability to process information.

Carving out as little as 10 minutes to sit in our car and visualize peaceful scenery (rainforest, snow-falling, beach) will thicken grey matter in our brains.

8.       “A-Ha” Moments:

The creative process includes a crucial stage called incubation, where all the ideas we’ve been exposed to get to meet, mingle, marinate – then produce an “A-ha” moment. The secret to incubation? Nothing. Literally. Disengage from the work at hand, and take a rest. It’s also the elixir for mental blocks. What’s typically seen as useless daydreaming is now being seen as an essential experience.

9.       Mastering Discomfort:

Just when we’ve found a quiet place to sit alone and reflect, an itch will beckon to be scratched. But many meditation teachers will encourage us to refrain and breathe into the experience until it passes (Remember Eat, Pray, Love?).

Along with bringing our minds back from distracting thoughts and to our breathing, these practices work to build greater self-discipline.

10.     Emotional Cleansing

Our fight/flight mechanism causes us to flee not only from physical difficulties, but also emotional difficulties. Ignoring and burying negative emotions, however, only causes them to manifest in the form of stress, anxiety, anger and insomnia.

Strategies to release emotional turbulence include sitting in silence and thinking in detail about what triggered the negative emotion. The key is to do so as an observer—stepping outside of ourselves as if we’re reporting for a newspaper. It’s a visualization technique used by psychotherapists to detach a person from their emotions, which allows them to process an experience objectively and rationally.

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Acoustic Brainwave Activation – Why is it Here?

Acoustic Brainwave ActivationYou may have noticed a new ad on the right hand side of the page for Acoustic Brainwave Activation. I haven’t tried it yet (I am totally broke) BUT it sounds really good (or am I being naïve?) so I have put it up as a trial – if any of you have had any experiences with the product, please write a comment below.

The company claims a multitude of fabulous ‘aids’ (I don’t think that’s the correct word but it will have to do for now) but I’m only going to look at the ones that may help us:

Chronic Fatigue

Using acoustic brainwave activation, Medipower are able to change the electrical activity in the brain and induce the correct delta frequencies and diminish the interfering alpha frequency incursions – It is delta wave sleep that is the “deepest” stage of sleep and the most restorative. It is delta sleep that a sleep-deprived person’s brain craves the first and foremost.

acoustic brainwave activationThe product directly addresses the issue of reaching the delta state early in your sleep cycle. It encourages this deep level of sleep in a gentle manner and allows the process of recovery and repair to begin. The program is 45 minutes long and should be listened to, in its entirety, when going to sleep.

As it does not require headphones to be effective it can be played on repeat or loop throughout the night if required.

It can also be used through the day to help with recovery and additional restful sleep.

Improving Memory

It has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt that short and long-term memory can be improved by relaxing and meditating in the alpha range. Stimulating a certain part of that alpha range with acoustic activation will increase this benefit even further. The improvement in memory will be rapid, consistent and permanent.

Stress Relief and Deep Relaxation

You are guided through gentle relaxation techniques to relieve tension. In a state of calm reverie, you enter an inner sanctuary, a magical garden that you can return to again and again to restore your sense of self. You will learn how to generate powerful states of being that will contribute to an ever-increasing sense of well-being in your life. At the end you re-emerge into the world cleansed, revitalized and ready to tackle any challenges with a fresh attitude.

All tracks are ideal for stress reduction or creative problem solving and allows you to unwind at your own pace. The gentle pulsations of soothing Alpha, Theta and Delta waves move your mind into a regenerative state of well-being. Your consciousness is lifted above fragmented thoughts and worries, becoming unified in peaceful repose. You experience a euphoric release from anything and everything that bothers you.

HypnoGuide treatments are the simplest and most affordable way to directly influence your inner potential and release the power of your subconscious mind! HypnoGuide treatments are also much more advanced than ordinary hypnosis or meditation CD´s being offered today. Nowhere else can you find recordings this long at this low price!

60-day-guarantee-money-back-smallLike many on-line sellers, there are plenty of products and packages available to purchase and download. AND, importantly, all are backed by a 60 day money back guarantee!

Meditation Power – Acoustic Brainwave Activation provides 7 days/24 hours/365 days online customer services. They have been around since 2007 and have received a number of very positive reviews:

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So, after all that, I figured what have we got to lose? Let me know how you go…please.

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Int Fibro

Blaming Fibro Fog?

8 Other Reasons You May Be Forgetful…

forgetfulSo, you know you were supposed to be doing something – but you just can’t remember what it was. Or, in the middle of a conversation, you can’t remember the words you need. Don’t necessarily put it down to age, working too hard, having an overloaded mind or Fibro Fog. There are other common health problems that can cause forgetfulness.

High Blood Pressure

The REGARDS study in the US found people with high blood pressure perform worse in memory tests and their memory shows greater deterioration over time. The study involved more than 30,000 people over four years. “The increase in blood pressure can mean structural changes in the blood vessels, making them thicker and making it harder to get blood around your body,” says Dr Gavin Lambert, from the Baker IDI Heart & Diabetes Institute. “As a result, you can get organ damage. That can be in the brain as well and affect your recall and cognition.” So eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don’t smoke and if you are on blood pressure medication, take it as prescribed.

Chemotherapy

A study at Stanford University in the US found breast cancer patients who had chemotherapy suffered some impact to the parts of the brain responsible for memory and planning.

“One of the potential undesirable side effects of chemotherapy is what we loosely call ‘chemo brain’ or ‘chemo fog’,” says Dr Helen Zorbas, CEO of Cancer Australia.

“It can be mild or more significant in effect. While there’s nothing that can be done to help it, I think just knowing it’s a common side effect is important for women and they should be reassured that in most cases it’s mild and self-limiting.”

Menopause

A 2008 study at the University of Illinois found a link between hot flushes and poor verbal memory. The study followed other research that found about 40 per cent of women report becoming more forgetful around menopause.

“The more hot flushes a woman had, the worse her memory performance,” says researcher Professor Pauline Maki. Maki found women whose hot flushes disturbed their sleep suffered even worse memory problems.

Dr Elizabeth Farrell, consultant gynaecologist with Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, says while there is no conclusive evidence that menopause triggers memory loss, women do report feeling more muddled sometimes.

Thyroid problems

If you have hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid – your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. This leads to a slower metabolism and tiredness, and can lead to some forgetfulness.

Hypothyroidism is more common after the age of 40 and affects about six to 10 per cent of women and a smaller number of men.

“When you have a medical condition that causes fatigue, it’s easy to become forgetful. But when hypothyroidism is treated, people recover well and memory recovers, too,” says Dr Ronald McCoy, a spokesman for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. Hypothyroidism can be treated with medication.

Long-Haul Travel

Memory can start to be affected after a flight lasting more than four hours – such as a Melbourne to Perth trip, McCoy says. “It’s similar to people having a knock on the head and suffering short-term memory loss. They recover but may not remember what happened at the time,” he says. “People function well at the time but the day later they have problems recalling what happened at certain times.”

Pregnancy

It’s true – pregnancy can affect memory. “Well practised memory tasks, such as remembering phone numbers of friends and family members, are unlikely to be affected,” says researcher Dr Julie Henry, who was involved in a University of New South Wales study that found pregnant women do suffer some temporary forgetfulness.

“It’s a different story, though, when you have to remember new phone numbers or hold in mind several different pieces of information.” She says the upheaval that comes with pregnancy may be the reason.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

“Vitamin B12 is essential for normal neurological function,” says Denise Griffiths, a spokeswoman for the Dietitians Association of Australia. “Deficiency of vitamin B12 can result in cognitive changes, from memory loss to dementia.” Scientists believe vitamin B12 may safeguard the myelin sheath – a layer that insulates our nerves. If the sheath is damaged it can affect the transmission of messages to and from the brain.

Alcohol

“Alcohol prevents the storage of the short-term memory into the long-term memory,” McCoy says. “So people drink and function but can lose memory of what happened during the time they were drinking. ”Too much alcohol has a negative impact on the hippocampus – a part of the brain involved with recording and storing memories.

 

Reprinted from Volume 2: Issue 1 of LIVING WELL with FIBROMYALGIA

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Sleep Deprivation Torture

It seems to be that EVERYONE is discussing sleep (again!)…or lack of it, to be more precise. Is this a seasonal cycle? Or is it just coincidental that we ALL are suffering from (and discussing) sleep deprivation right now?

So what happens to our bodies when we don’t get enough sleep?

Dr. Rafael Pelayo of Stanford University’s Sleep Disorder Clinic doesn’t mince words:

This is what happens to your body if it’s deprived of sleep:

  • You have problems with memory and concentration.
  • You have problems finding the right word.
  • You get irritable – you think so?
  • Neurotransmitters in the brain become altered.
  • You become more susceptible to infection.
  • At its extreme, sleep deprivation can lead to death.

Depression and Low Self-Esteem

Sleep-deprived people have longer illnesses, more severe depression, and greater fatigue than those who aren’t sleep deprived. Other studies link sleep deprivation with self-esteem problems. Getting good sleep and curing insomnia helps to fight depression and increase self-esteem.

Weight Gain

If you’re losing sleep your body mass index (BMI) is likely to increase, and so is your waist circumference (hey! where’s the part about my arse?). According to Professor Francesco Cappuccio of Warwick Medical School, your risk of becoming obese is almost doubled.

Sleep deprivation increases appetite through hormonal changes. Specifically, more of the appetite-increasing ghrelin is produced when you’re not getting good sleep; less of the appetite-suppressing leptin is produced. Sleep deprivation causes you to eat more.

Physical Appearance (other than weight)

I can’t believe that I’m publishing this photo – but please, tell me my appearance isn’t changed because of those big black circles under my eyes!

Despite study participants being convinced that their looks were affected by their lack of sleep, Alex Gardner of the British Psychological Society and emeritus Professor of Dermatology Ronnie Marks of the University of Wales found that sleep deprivation did not alter study participants’ physical appearance – tell that to the black suitcases under my eyes! Nonetheless, the study participants who were sleep deprived felt self-conscious about their appearance and thought their skin showed their lack of rest. Getting good sleep makes you feel better about yourself — but doesn’t change how you look.

Memory Loss

Dr. Jeffrey Ellenbogen of the Harvard Medical School found that “sleep protects memories from interference.” The more quickly you fall asleep after studying for a test or learning a new skill, the more likely you’ll remember it later. If you learn new information and then go about your daily business, you’ll have about a 44% lower chance of retaining what you’ve learned. This research could be particularly helpful when you’re learning a new job. Getting good sleep helps your memory, while sleep deprivation damages it.

Intellectual Impairment

Researchers at the University of Virginia have found that lack of sleep can impair IQ and cognitive development. Sleep helps to organize memories, solidify learning, and improve concentration. Getting good sleep increases cognitive ability and the ability to relate to others.

Physical Impairment

According to the National Sleep Foundation, your body suffers when you don’t get enough good sleep. Your coordination and motor functions may be impaired, and your reaction time may be delayed. You could have reduced cardiovascular performance, reduced endurance, and increased levels of fatigue because of sleep deprivation. Tremors and clumsiness can also result.

Immune system

It doesn’t seem fair… Right when you are exhausted after a stressful move or a big project at work, you come down with a cold. That’s no accident – sleep is essential to the immune system. Without adequate sleep, the immune system becomes weak, and the body becomes more vulnerable to infection and disease.

Nervous system

Sleep is also a time of rest and repair to neurons. Neurons are the freeways of the nervous system that carry out both voluntary commands, like moving your arm, and involuntary commands, like breathing and digestive processes.

Recent studies have suggested that sleep downtime of the brain, so active during the day, may replenish dwindling energy stores that cells need to function, repair cellular damage caused by our busy metabolism, and even grow new nerve cells in the brain.

Hormone release

Many hormones, substances produced to trigger or regulate particular body functions, are timed to release during sleep or right before sleep. Growth hormones, for example, are released during sleep, vital to growing children but also for restorative processes like muscle repair.

Sleep deprivation can be dangerous not only to you but others, since it affects motor skills like driving. Chronic sleep deprivation is also thought to cause long-term changes to the body, which contribute to increased risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

When you continuously don’t get the amount of sleep you need, you begin to pay for it in daytime drowsiness, trouble concentrating, irritability, increased risk of falls and accidents, and lower productivity.

So when is some-one going to help us?

My Life has the Tendency to Fall Apart When I’m Awake

Do you think Ernest Hemingway (author of the quote in the title) had FM?

As we all know, even if we are lucky enough to sleep 10 hours a night, we are still fatigued and exhausted.

Research shows that with FM, there is an automatic arousal in the brain during sleep. Frequent disruptions prevent the important restorative processes from occurring. Growth hormone is mostly produced during sleep. Without restorative sleep and the surge of growth hormone, muscles may not heal and neurotransmitters (like the mood chemical serotonin) are not replenished. The lack of a good night’s sleep makes people with FM wake up feeling tired and fatigued.

The result: The body can’t recuperate from the day’s stresses – all of which overwhelms the system, creating a greater sensitivity to pain. Widespread pain, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and memory difficulties are all symptoms of FM (just in case you hadn’t noticed!).

Insomnia takes many forms — trouble falling asleep, waking up often during the night, having trouble going back to sleep, and waking up too early in the morning. Research shows that smoothing out those sleep problems – and helping people get the deep sleep their bodies need – helps fibromyalgia pain improve significantly.

But how?

Medications can help enhance sleep and relieve pain. But doctors also advocate lifestyle changes to help sleep come naturally:

  • Enjoy a soothing (warm) bath in the evening.
  • Brush your body with a loofah or long-handled brush in the bath.
  • Ease painful tender points with a self-massage device (like a tennis ball).
  • Do yoga and stretching exercises to relax.
  • Listen to calming music.
  • Meditate to tame intrusive thoughts and tension.
  • Sleep in a darkened room. Try an eye mask if necessary.
  • Keep the room as quiet as possible (or use a white-noise machine).
  • Make sure the room temperature is comfortable.
  • Avoid foods that contain caffeine, including teas, colas, and chocolate.

Therapies to Treat Insomnia When You Have Fibromyalgia

If you’re still having sleep problems, several therapies can help, including biofeedback, relaxation training, stress reduction, and cognitive therapy. A psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders can discuss these therapies with you. The therapies help people handle stress better, which helps control FM episodes, When you’re stressed out, FM tends to flare and you feel worse – that’s when you’re most likely to have insomnia, too.

Medications can also help ease FM pain at night, or directly treat insomnia. Medications to ease pain and improve sleep include certain types of antidepressants, anticonvulsants, prescription pain relievers, and sleep aids.

BUT, as we kept getting told (a lot!), no one therapy will control FM pain 100 per cent. So start to mix it up and use all the tools that are beginning to come to light.

Fibro Fog Explained?

Pain and accompanying depression and anxiety might be reasons for the lack of working memory in patients with FM, according to a recent study.1

On average, the patients with FM displayed inferior performance compared with controls based on accuracy and response time. These differences were statistically significant, due to a lot of medical gobbledygook (as follows, if you can understand it):

During n-back tasks, researchers utilized functional MRI to study activated and deactivated brain regions. The researchers also found significant relationships between the FM group and the controls when using the Beck depression inventory and Beck anxiety inventory as covariates (P<.01 for both).

Between-group analyses showed that within the working memory network, the inferior parietal cortex was associated with pain ratings that were mild (r=0.309, P=.049) and moderate (r=0.331, P=.034). Two-sample between-group analysis showed significantly higher activation in the controls than the FM group in the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), the thalamus, middle temporal cortex and inferior parietal cortex (P<.05, FDR-corrected for multiple comparisons at the voxel level). The comparison also showed the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, right VLPFC and right inferior parietal cortex were related to depression and anxiety ratings.

Basically, FM patients showed reduced activation in several brain regions which may be associated with impairments in maintenance and manipulation of working memory. The working memory deficit may result from both pain itself and depression and anxiety associated with pain.

 

 

  1. Forty-one women were enrolled in the study — 19 with FM and 22 healthy participants. The mean ages of the patients were 38.73 years and 38.27 years, respectively. The control group included volunteers who were screened for chronic widespread pain, generalized weakness, sleep disturbance and specific tender points. The FM patients were recruited from outpatient rheumatic clinics at five hospitals in South Korea. The mean disease duration for FM was 39.41 months, and those patients showed average tender points of 13.37. Seven FM patients reported taking antidepressants: six on 75 mg pregabalin once daily, and one on 75 mg pregabalin and 25 mg milnacipran once daily.