A Little Wet Behind the Ears

The term hydrotherapy itself is synonymous with the term water cure as it was originally marketed by practitioners and promoters in the 19th century. A hydrotherapist therefore, is someone who practices hydrotherapy. Needless to say, the hydrotherapy that I am talking about is NOT the form of torture in which a person is forced to drink large quantities of water. I am talking about a course of medical treatment.

Firstly, I LOVE my warm water classes. Just stepping into the water (which is a gorgeous 32-34 degrees celsius) is heaven! Most of the pain just dissolves away, like sugar in hot tea. A lot of the time, I am tempted just to float around for an hour, absorbing the warmth into my bones, listening to the lapping of the pool and meditating (I have been told off for that – sometimes the leaders think you have died if you are too still for too long!)

Ok, I’m here to exercise. Every fibromyalgia expert will tell you that exercise is an essential component of any fibromyalgia treatment program.  However, most of us complain – with valid reason – that exercise is difficult and painful.  This is where Warm Water classes come in. The warmth of the water provides several benefits that make exercise easier, less painful and more effective.

  • Water’s buoyancy decreases the effects of gravity, displacing 85 per cent of your weight.  As a result, it takes less effort to move because you don’t have to support your whole weight.
  • The buoyancy of the water also takes the weight off your joints, allowing for more flexibility (surprisingly, I can stretch my legs up further and higher).
  • The hydrostatic pressure of water reduces joint swelling and inflammation, which makes exercising easier and less painful.
  • Water provides resistance, which helps you increase strength and improve balance. The resistance factor also burns more calories.  An exercise done in water can burn twice as many calories as the same exercise done on land.
  • Immersion in water promotes relaxation, reduces muscle fatigue and lessens pain perception.

In the water, all of a sudden, you feel like you can do all the things you used to do! You can work at your own pace to gradually improve joint mobility, muscle strength and general health and fitness.

I used to go to ‘special’ classes held by Arthritis Victoria. Water exercise programs can be done on an individual basis or in a class.  While individual programs are custom designed to meet your specific needs, classes are far less expensive and can be just as effective (unless you have a special need that cannot be addressed in a group setting).  An added benefit to exercising with a group is the opportunity to interact with other people and make new friends. The classes are run by volunteer leaders who have been trained appropriately. During my first term, I went to an under 55/back class. The class was fun, had music and everyone chatted; but it was further from my home. the second term, I started going to another class (closer) but all the fun was gone! Needless to say, I went back to the first one. So lesson one – if you don’t enjoy the first class you go to, try another one!

You do not need to know how to swim (although you may be more comfortable if you can) as hydrotherapy pools are not deep. Also many of the exercises are done with flotation devices. We do a series of exercises, with a floatie-thing around our necks and a buoyancy belt around our waists – there is NO way that you are going to drown! Some of the exercises involve wrapping your arms around the side of the pool and floating, and then stretching your legs in a series of moves – cycling, frog jumps, stretches. Then we turn it around so our feet are holding onto the edge, and we exercise our arms – it may be just moving a plastic soda bottle around, against the weight of the water; or stretching. Everything gets moved, exercised and stretched. The great part is that it doesn’t feel like exercise.

What You Should Know Before Beginning a Water Exercise Program

As with any exercise program, check with your doctor before beginning any kind of water exercise.  There are some patients for whom water exercise is not recommended.

Find a program with a qualified instructor.  Your local Arthritis Foundation and YMCA are good places to start looking.  You might also ask your doctor or physical therapist for a recommendation.

Ask about the temperature of the pool.  Since most people with fibromyalgia are very sensitive to cold, the closer the pool’s temperature is to body temperature, the more comfortable you will be.  However, do not attempt to exercise in a hot tub without your doctor’s permission.  Just sitting in water that hot can raise your blood pressure.  Exercising in hot water can be extremely dangerous.

Start slowly, exercising no more than 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a week.  Gradually increase your time until you are working out 45 minutes to an hour.

Don’t overdo it.  Exercising in the water can be deceptive.  Because you don’t feel like you’re straining, it is easy to do too much without realising it.  Until you have a few sessions under your belt and know how you feel after working out, take it easy.  Any time you feel tired, stop exercising and relax in the water or leave the pool.

Do not try to push through the pain.  If you experience new or increased pain, stop. For us, pushing through the pain is a definite No-No!

If a particular exercise is causing you pain, stop and talk to your instructor.  There may be an alternative way of doing the exercise or you may just need to sit that one out.

Relax, have fun and enjoy your newfound freedom of movement in the water!

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Meditative Movement

Tai Chi is an ancient practice proven to reduce pain and improve your mental and physical well-being. I go to a modified class for Arthritis, held by the Arthritis Foundation.

In 1997, Dr Paul Lam, a family physician and tai chi expert, worked with a team of tai chi and medical specialists to create the Tai Chi for Arthritis program. The special features of this unique program are that it is easy to learn, enjoyable, and provides many health benefits in a relatively short period of time.

So lesson one: Tai Chi for Arthritis is based on Sun style tai chi (pronounced “soon” as in– I will soon be learning tai chi!). This style was chosen because of its healing component, its unique Qigong (an exercise which improves relaxation and vital energy), and its ability to improve mobility and balance. The program contains a carefully constructed set of warming-up and cooling-down exercises, Qigong breathing exercises, a Basic Core six movements, an Advanced Extension six movements, and adaptations of the movements so you can use a chair for balance, or even sit on the chair for the entire class. Also incorporated into the program is a safe and effective teaching system.

Medical studies have shown that practicing this program reduces pain significantly, prevents falls for the elderly, and improves many aspects of health. For these reasons, Arthritis Foundations around the world have supported the program. And that’s why I’m at Arthritis Victoria today…they also provide the cheapest classes (and I received an added discount due to hardship!)

Supposedly, tai chi will help you:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase balance and flexibility
  • Feel relaxed
  • Improve your overall mind, body and spirit

Clinical Rheumatology reported that the Oregon Health & Science University’s Fibromyalgia Research Unit held a randomized controlled trial of 8-form Tai chi to gauge any improvement in symptoms and functional mobility in fibromyalgia patients.

Previous researchers have found that 10-form Tai chi yields symptomatic benefit in patients with FM. The purpose of this study was to further investigate earlier findings and add a focus on functional mobility.

Participants met in small groups twice weekly for 90 minutes over 12 weeks.

Of the 101 randomly assigned subjects, clinically and statistically significant improvements were seen in:

  • pain severity
  • pain interference
  • sleep, and
  • self-efficacy for pain control

No adverse events were noted.

Accordingly, the study reported that tai chi appears to be a safe and an acceptable exercise modality that may be useful as adjunctive therapy in the management of FM patients.

Tai Chi for Arthritis involves 12 movements or positions that are designed to be safe and beneficial for people with arthritis. Instructors of the program are trained to understand arthritis and ensure the movements are safe for participants. Tai Chi for Arthritis classes begins with warm-up exercises (lasting about 10 minutes) where you start at your head and move all the way down to your ankles. Each joint has two exercises, to reduce the chance of injury during the movements.

The leader then demonstrates and teaches one or two movements per lesson, encouraging us to learn the movements properly and slowly, working within your comfort limits. This week, we started with the Single Whip and Wave Hand in Cloud.

Single Whip

I start with my feet in a duck position (outward facing) and my hands by my side. Slowly lift your wrists, straight out and up, like two helium balloons are attached, up to shoulder height. the slowly lower them.  Then, while stepping forward with your right leg (heel first the toe), push your hands forward like you’re handing a ball to someone. Bring the ‘ball’ back (and your foot at the same time) to hold in front of you – then spread your arms by opening up your elbows. Allow your left hand to keep moving outwards (and slightly back) and watch it by twisting your head as far as you can go. Your right hand sort of just sits in mid-air waiting for something to do.

Ta Da! We’ve learnt our first form.

Wave Hand in the Cloud

From the position we left above, now move your left hand forward again, until it looks like you are trying to say stop. Your right hand moves beneath your left elbow – now you look like a traditional policeman trying to stop traffic. Take a step to the right, landing with your toe first followed by your heel – then wipe your right hand in front of your face, while your left hand moves to your right elbow. Remember Karate Kid? Wax on. Let your left leg move across to join your other leg (remember toe then heel) and wax off with your left hand. We do that 3 times, moving across the room. Then do it the opposite way. This is where we all get tangled up and obviously need to practice. My head doesn’t change direction that fast!

But hey! we’re doing tai chi! I think that was all the movements – at least, what I can remember from my first one hour session. It is all very slow, controlled and relaxing – just like in the movies – sort of like a moving meditation, as you’re concentrating so hard on breathing, moving hands and feet that you can’t think about anything stressful.

The lesson ends with cool-down exercises, lasting about three minutes.

I feel very calm and relaxed.

Bend and Stretch – Brazilian Style

Exercise is an important part of managing fibromyalgia symptoms. Studies since the 1970s have shown that exercise can benefit patients. Staying physically active can relieve pain, stress, and anxiety. A key question left unanswered was the benefits of specific types of exercise.

Researchers at the University of São Paulo show that stretching improves patients’ physical functioning and quality of life, while resistance training helps combat depression, “Muscle stretching exercises and resistance training in fibromyalgia: which is better? A three-arm randomized controlled trial” published in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine.

Because movement can increase fibromyalgia’s pain, many patients develop an inactive lifestyle. But in the long run, this can lead to both physical injury and emotional distress.

The study consisted of 44 women, aged 30 to 55. Researchers randomly assigned them to a stretching group, a resistance training group; or, a control group.

The stretching group went through a 12-week supervised training program. Twice a week they would take 40-minute stretching sessions without a therapist’s assistance. The trainers increased the intensity of the workouts over time.

Trainers put the resistance group through a similar 12-week, twice-a-week program. The patients did eight repetitions of resistance exercises, adding more weight each week.

The control group received standard fibromyalgia treatment but no exercise.

At the end of the 12 weeks, those in the stretching group were able to endure pain better and showed significant improvement in symptoms and quality of life. The resistance training group showed both physical and symptom improvements.

Analysis indicated that stretching significantly improved patients’ ability to deal with pain and to function better physically, while the biggest of resistance training was reducing patients’ depression.

The controls had the highest morning-fatigue and stiffness scores of the three groups, and the lowest score for vitality.

Researchers concluded that stretching had the biggest impact on patients’ quality of life, while resistance training had the biggest impact on fibromyalgia symptoms and on patients’ physical functioning, vitality, social interaction, and mental health.

“The muscle stretching exercise program was the most effective modality in improving quality of life, especially physical functioning and pain, and resistance training was the most effective modality in reducing depression,” the team wrote.

The key is to start slowly.

Happy New Year (?)

51adRpp0LPLWe just had Jewish New Year…so happy New Year, everyone!

The good (or maybe it’s bad) thing about this is that it is a very good reason to have a look at the goals I made for the ‘normal’ (sorry, I can’t think of the right word) New Year and I still have time to do something about it.

My main goal (other than getting cured!) was to lose weight – do you remember my post Bigger is NOT Better? The 10,000 tonne woman has disappeared from my TV screen so I don’t know how she’s going but, although I have been battling some major depression, I have lost 11 kilos. It isn’t the 30 kilos I pledged but at least, it’s a step in the right direction.

Now we had a lot of comments on that post so I’m wondering how the rest of you are doing…yes, I shall name names (Sherri Caudill Lewis, Lara, Kimberley Hatfield- Patty, Valerie Dunlop, Cara Heinze from whohastimeforthegym.com, Sarah Pirtle, Tina, Kate Fuller, Vicki, and FibroLogic) but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the rest of you…so please, let’s hear your New Year updates.

Social Isolation…or Hibernation?

hibernationI’m hibernating…yes, it’s Winter in Australia. I don’t want to leave the house (not even to step outside to get the mail) and I just want to sit quietly, alone, on my couch.

Avoiding social contact is a common pattern you might notice when falling into depression. Some people skip activities they normally enjoy and isolate themselves from the world. Others turn to alcohol or junk food to mask their pain and unhappiness. I do both.

I’m doing it all at the moment…BUT I don’t feel depressed (I think!) I just want to stop for a little bit – I don’t want to fight at the moment, I don’t want to search for answers at the moment.

So, maybe I am depressed? I just can’t tell anymore.

Depression traps vary from person to person, but what they have in common is that they can serve to worsen your mood:

Trap #1: Social Withdrawal

isolationSocial withdrawal is the most common tell-tale sign of depression.

“When we’re clinically depressed, there’s a very strong urge to pull away from others and to shut down,” says Stephen Ilardi, PhD, author of books including The Depression Cure and associate professor of psychology at the University of Kansas. “It turns out to be the exact opposite of what we need.”

“In depression, social isolation typically serves to worsen the illness and how we feel,” Ilardi says. “Social withdrawal amplifies the brain’s stress response. Social contact helps put the brakes on it.”

The Fix: Gradually counter-act social withdrawal by reaching out to your friends and family. Make a list of the people in your life you want to reconnect with and start by scheduling an activity.

Trap #2: Rumination

A major component of depression is rumination, which involves dwelling and brooding about themes like loss and failure that cause you to feel worse about yourself.

Rumination is a toxic process that leads to negative self-talk such as, “It’s my own fault. Who would ever want me a friend?”

“There’s a saying, ‘When you’re in your own mind, you’re in enemy territory,'” says Mark Goulston, MD, psychiatrist and author of Get Out of Your Own Way. “You leave yourself open to those thoughts and the danger is believing them.”

“When people are clinically depressed, they will typically spend a lot of time and energy rehearsing negative thoughts, often for long stretches of time,” Ilardi says.

The Fix: Redirect your attention to a more absorbing activity, like a social engagement or reading a book.

Trap #3: Self-Medicating With Alcohol

cocktailsTurning to alcohol or drugs to escape your woes is a pattern that can accompany depression, and it usually causes your depression to get worse.

Alcohol can sometimes relieve a little anxiety, especially social anxiety, but it has a depressing effect on the central nervous system, Goulston says. Plus, it can screw up your sleep.

“It’s like a lot of things that we do to cope with feeling bad,” he says. “They often make us feel better momentary, but in the long run, they hurt us.”

The Fix: Talk to your doctor if you notice that your drinking habits are making you feel worse. Alcohol can interfere with antidepressants and anxiety medications.

Trap #4: Skipping Exercise

If you’re the type of person who likes to go the gym regularly, dropping a series of workouts could signal that something’s amiss in your life. The same goes for passing on activities – such as swimming, yoga, or hydrotherapy – that you once enjoyed.

When you’re depressed, it’s unlikely that you’ll keep up with a regular exercise program, even though that may be just what the doctor ordered.

Exercise can be enormously therapeutic and beneficial, Ilardi says. Exercise has a powerful antidepressant effect because it boosts levels of serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that often ebb when you’re depressed.

“It’s a paradoxical situation,” Ilardi says. “Your body is capable of physical activity. The problem is your brain is not capable of initiating and getting you to do it.”

The Fix: Ilardi recommends finding someone you can trust to help you initiate exercise — a personal trainer, coach, or even a loved one. “It has to be someone who gets it, who is not going to nag you, but actually give you that prompting and encouragement and accountability,” Ilardi says.

Trap #5: Seeking Sugar Highs

When you’re feeling down, you may find yourself craving sweets or junk food high in carbs and sugar.

Sugar does have mild mood-elevating properties, says Ilardi, but it’s only temporary. Within two hours, blood glucose levels crash, which has a mood-depressing effect.

The Fix: Avoid sugar highs and the inevitable post-sugar crash. It’s always wise to eat healthfully, but now more than ever, your mood can’t afford to take the hit.

Trap #6: Negative Thinking

NTWhen you’re depressed, you’re prone to negative thinking and talking yourself out of trying new things.

You might say to yourself, “Well, even if I did A, B, and C, it probably wouldn’t make me feel any better and it would be a real hassle, so why bother trying at all?”

“That’s a huge trap,” says Goulston. “If you race ahead and anticipate a negative result, which then causes you to stop trying at all, that is something that will rapidly accelerate your depression and deepen it.”

The Fix: Don’t get too attached to grim expectations. “You have more control over doing and not doing, than you have over what the result of actions will be,” Goulston says. “But there is a much greater chance that if you do, then those results will be positive.”

 

Working It Out Mathematically

1A recent study suggested that something as simple as mental stress tests (math test) or eating or other sympathetic nervous system activators can activate the back muscles of people with fibromyalgia. That study suggested FM patients’ muscles could be in state of almost continual activation.

 

2Electrical signals trigger the muscle contractions that people use to produce force but those signals should diminish in between the muscle contractions. Another FM study suggests that the electrical signals in the muscles of FM patients, under load, go into a hyper-active state; and do NOT relax, that the muscles in FM patients are constantly being prodded to contract.

1+2

crossMakes sense, right? WRONG!

If this was correct I should look like this

arrow

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I wake up, every one of my muscles feels like it has had a major work-out. When I’ve walked to the post office (less than a block), it feels like I have run a marathon. Just like all of you, my muscles always feel tight and contracted.

I would expect that we were supermen or women in disguise thBUT the inability to turn our muscle activity off and allow them to rest suggests our muscles are chronically tensed, not strong.

This continued state of activation left the muscles in a state of something called ‘after-depolarization’. Depolarization simply refers to a change in the electrical status of a membrane. The membrane should switch from positive to negative regularly – allowing electrical currents (ions) to contract, relax, contract, relax, etc. the muscles. In a state of after-depolarization a state of confusion reigns, interrupting that regular pattern of ‘depolarization,’ leaving the membranes in a twitchy, unsettled state.

After-depolarization causes the muscle membrane to send the ‘contract’ message much more easily.  Neither of the above studies tell us what is causing this but the ongoing electrical activity/muscle contraction in FM suggests chronically activated systems play a role in our pain.

Don’t Give Fibromyalgia the Upper Hand!

Upping Your Exercise Routine

As we know, previous studies have found short-term benefits of exercise for FM. But many of us fail to keep up with exercise programs out of fear that it will worsen pain.

According to a new study, for those who are able, exercising once or twice more weekly (that is: more than you are already doing) may alleviate some of the symptoms.

hydrobicsPatients received individualized exercise prescriptions and completed baseline and follow-up physical activity assessments, to evaluate the relationship between long-term maintenance of moderate-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and clinical outcomes in FM. MVPA (in this study) was considered to be an increase 10 or more metabolic equivalent hours per week above usual activities  Outcomes included improvements in overall well-being, pain severity ratings, and depression.

“This study shows that if they’re able to stay with the exercise program in the long term it actually is helpful to them,” said Matteson, chair of the department of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Although sustained physical activity was not associated with greater clinical benefit compared to unsustained physical activity, these findings also suggest that performing greater volumes of physical activity is not associated with worsening pain in FM. Future research is needed to determine the relationship between sustained MVPA participation and subsequent improvement in patient outcomes.

“One of the best known therapeutic activities for fibromyalgia patients is exercise,” said Anthony Kaleth, who specializes in exercise testing at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis. “Our study confirmed that result.”

physical-activity_240Any increase in activity, whether or not it was maintained, resulted in positive changes in symptoms and no increased pain, according to the findings in Arthritis Care and Research.

If they had followed the participants for a longer period of time, they might have seen more benefits for people who maintained the program, Kaleth said.

Most people use a combination of medications, including pain relievers, antidepressants and anti-seizure drugs to alleviate fibromyalgia symptoms. Doctors also recommend keeping active with walking, swimming or water aerobics, but many patients are reluctant to start exercising.

“They’re more worried that it’s going to be painful, but that’s more of a psychological effect,” Kaleth said.

physical_activity_web(1)Starting off too vigorously before building up endurance can be painful for anyone, with or without fibromyalgia, Dr. Eric Matteson, chair of the department of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said.

“This is a stepping stone I think in terms of the actual result that we found,” Kaleth said.

A Mish-Mash Update Post

You might remember back in January, I wrote Bigger is NOT Better. As part of a recent campaign in Australia, I pledged to lose 30 kilograms (about 66 pounds).

I am reminding Sherri Caudill Lewis, Lara from Live your dream life and sparkle, Kimberley Hatfield- Patty, Valerie Dunlop, Vicki, FibroLogic (all people who commented on the original posting), and all those who didn’t comment but decided they wanted to lose weight, that we are still in this together. How are you all going?

Anybody else trying to lose some weight to feel better?

I have lost 9 kilograms so far and I’m working really hard to try to exercise more and eat less (chocolate, cheese & ice-cream). The new season of BLThe Biggest Loser just started and I decided that it was the perfect time to do sit-ups and crunches each day. I figured that if I was going to lose all this weight, I didn’t want a ‘flappy’ tummy. I knew it was going to hurt; but I hurt everyday so, I thought, let’s make it worth it.

My Pain Specialist vetoed that idea! The more stomach muscle spasms I was having, the less I could do any aerobic exercise (ie: walking).

So, I have just returned from my warm water exercise class (a permitted activity), where I worked as hard as possible (and, I can tell already, was too much). Right now, my body feels all stretched out and fabulous BUT tomorrow I know that my muscles will be screaming!

brilliance-1stIn my shower, afterwards, I test drove a hair colour called Ultra Violet. I thought I may be able to get a great purple (I’m going Purple for the entire month of May!) in one process. I stopped at my hairdresser’s first to check that, if it didn’t give the desired result, we could bleach it out and try another purple. It’s still damp but it’s looking more red than purple – BUMMER!

***AM.02-11.LubesTip of the Day***The exciting news is that I found a new use for lube. I couldn’t find any Vaseline to put around the edges of my hair (to stop my skin going purple) so I tried lube (especially seeing as I’m not having any sex) and it works really well – ***Tip of the Day***

So, that’s all my latest news…have you got any plans for International Fibromyalgia Awareness Day?

There is No Life Without Water.

Ever since I discovered the wonders of my warm water class, I have gone on and on and on  about the wonders of water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike all water exercises, water walking is easy on the joints. “The water’s buoyancy supports the body’s weight, which reduces stress on the joints and minimizes pain,” says Vennie Jones, aquatic coordinator for the Baylor Tom Landry Fitness Center in Dallas. “And it’s still a great workout. Water provides 12 times the resistance of air, so as you walk, you’re really strengthening and building muscle.” You do not bear weight while swimming and walking, however, so you’ll still need to add some bone-building workouts to your routine.

You can walk in either the shallow end of the pool or the deep end, using a flotation belt. The deeper the water, the more strenuous your workout. And it can be done in warm or cold water.

chris rock

Junction,_TX,_swimming_pool_IMG_4344What you need: A pool! That’s it – but for deep-water walking, a flotation belt keeps you upright and floating at about shoulder height.

How it works: You’ll stand about waist- to chest-deep in water, unless you’re deep-water walking. You walk through the water the same way you would on the ground. Try walking backward and sideways to tone other muscles.

Try it:  Stand upright, with shoulders back, chest lifted and arms bent slightly at your sides. Slowly stride forward, placing your whole foot on the bottom of the pool (instead of just your tiptoes), with your heel coming down first, then the ball of your foot. Avoid straining your back by keeping your core (stomach and back) muscles engaged as you walk.

water-walkingAdd intensity: Lifting your knees higher helps boost your workout. You also can do interval training – pumping arms and legs faster for a brief period, then returning to your normal pace, repeating the process several times.

Find a class: If you’re new to water exercises, an instructor can make sure your form is correct, says Jones. Plus, it can be fun to walk with others. To find a class near you, call your local YMCA, fitness centre or Arthritis Foundation office.

Don’t forget the water: You still need to drink water – even while exercising in the pool.

 

 

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.