Costco-con-itis?

Guess what? I was lucky enough to experience a new symptom (for me, at least!)

8907It seems, or so the emergency room doctor tells me, that it is very common in FM sufferers to feel intense pain in your ribcage and chest. This aching and stabbing pain can really impact on your enjoyment of life – says she who just spent 6 hours in the emergency room.

Supposedly, chest pain in FM is usually nothing to worry about, but occasionally it can indicate other problems. AND we are always told not to ignore chest pains – so when a stitch in my side spread under my right boobie and into the middle of my chest, while driving in the car with Mommy, it was: ‘umm, I think we need to go to the hospital.’

This chest pain is referred to as costochondritis. It is an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the chest bone. It is this inflammation that causes the sharp chest pains inside the chest wall. The pain of costochondritis often mimics the pain of cardiac problems, including heart attacks and stroke. This can be quite scary for some sufferers (and my Mommy and I!); however, costochondiritis rarely causes any physical complications.

largeCostochondritis affects about 60% to 70% of us. Costochondritis in women is particularly common, especially in women between the ages of 20 and 40. Costochondritis rib pain can last for weeks and even months, and can reappear at different intervals throughout your illness. This problem is not restricted to just us; it can also affect those who don’t have FM and is often a result of chest trauma or exercise-related injury. In fact, it is thought that about 10% of the general population has costochondiritis.

Costochondritis affects the junction between the ribs and the chest bone (the sternum). Seven bits of cartilage attach your ribs to your sternum, and costochondiritis causes this cartilage to become inflamed and sore. If you have costochondiritis, you will be able to feel pain upon movement of your upper torso or when you touch your ribs. Most commonly, pain is felt on the left side of your chest, though chest pains on the right side, or even on both sides, can occur.

stabbing_pain_in_chestThe pain felt like a knife stabbing between my ribs, until it waned and just started aching whenever I moved. I have been told that this pain can wax and wane: some days it will be worse, while other days it will be much better. The sharp pain caused by costochondritis generally begins in the chest. This pain can then radiate outwards, attacking the shoulders, neck, and upper abdomen – Great! Something to look forward to in the morning! Costochondritis pain can last for long periods of time and chronic costochondritis is not uncommon. However, most pain should be gone within 6 months to a year from the onset of symptoms – WTF!!!!

To date, the specific causes of costochondritis are unknown (again?), though researchers do believe that a variety of factors could play a role in the development of the illness.

  • Repetitive Activity: Repetitive activity, like sitting at a desk or leaning forward over a computer for long periods of time often puts stress on the muscles in the chest, may exacerbate pain in the chest area. We already have hypersensitive muscles, and this repetitive activity can cause costochondritis.
  • Fibromyalgia Tender Points
  • Myofascial Pain
  • Infection: Rarely, costochondritis can be caused by upper respiratory tract infections or non-allergic rhinitis. These conditions can cause long periods of repetitive coughing. This coughing can stress and strain the cartilage that connects the ribs with the sternum, causing constant chest pains.

Costochondritis can exacerbate your symptoms; in particular, FM often inhibits your ability to participate in certain activities or sit in certain positions for long periods. Because costochondritis causes such intense chest pain, it often makes sleeping difficult or impossible, causing disordered sleeping and insomnia. Costochondritis disability is not uncommon, especially in fibromyalgia.

It is important that if you are experiencing any type of chest pain that you immediately consult a physician in order to correctly diagnose the nature of the pain.

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Happiness is Having a Scratch for Every Itch

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

Do you have dry, itchy skin?

Have you developed itchy skin rashes?

Maybe you have back itch?

Or itching ears?

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

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

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

Why Is Itching Such a Problem When you have Fibromyalgia?

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

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

What Can You Do to Ease the Itching Sufferer?

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

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

 

A No-Win Situation

blackdogMany of us suffer from depression, as well as FM. But did you suffer from this horrible black dog before you developed FM, or after?

You’ve heard people complain that they’re depressed after a breakup, a layoff, or an overall terrible week. But are these people really experiencing depression? Are you really depressed?

When a stressful situation is particularly hard to cope with, we react with symptoms of sadness, fear, or even hopelessness — a type of reaction that’s often referred to as situational depression. Unlike major depression, when you are overwhelmed by depression symptoms for a long time, situational depression usually goes away once you have adapted to your new situation.

The problem for a lot of us is that FM is not going away – we can only manage it, so we need to adapt to our new situations as soon as we can.

depression_200_133In fact, situational depression is usually considered an adjustment disorder rather than true depression. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored: If situational depression goes untreated, it could develop into major depression.

“Situational depression means that the symptoms are set off by some set of circumstances or event. It could lead to major depression or simply be a period of grief,” explains Kathleen Franco, MD, professor of medicine and psychiatry at Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine in Ohio. However, she adds that situational depression may need treatment “if emotional and behavioural symptoms reduce normal functioning in social or occupational arenas.”

Who Gets Situational Depression and Why?

Situational depression is common and can happen to anyone — about 10 per cent of adults and up to 30 per cent of adolescents experience this condition at some point. Men and women are affected equally.

The most common cause of situational depression is stress. Some typical events that lead to it include:

  • Loss of a relationship
  • Loss of a job
  • Loss of a loved one
  • Serious illness (hello? anyone recognising themselves here?)
  • Experiencing a traumatic event such as a disaster, crime, or accident

What Are the Symptoms of Situational Depression?

The most common symptoms of situational depression are depressed mood, tearfulness, and feelings of hopelessness. Some other symptoms include:

  • Treatments-For-Depression-90Feeling nervous
  • Having body symptoms such as headache, stomach ache, or heart palpitations
  • Missing work, school, or social activities
  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Feeling tired
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

How Is Situational Depression Diagnosed and Treated?

A diagnosis of situational depression, or adjustment disorder with depressed mood, is made when symptoms of depression occur within three months of a stress-causing event; are more severe than expected; or interfere with normal functioning. Your doctor may do tests to rule out other physical illnesses, and you may need a psychological evaluation to make sure you are not suffering from a more serious condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder or a more serious type of depression.

The best treatment for situational depression is counselling with a mental health professional. The goal of treatment is to help you cope with your stress and get back to normal. Support groups are often helpful. In some cases, you may need medication to help control anxiety or for trouble sleeping.

Situational depression and other types of depression are a common problem today, notes James C. Overholser, PhD, professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “Many people are struggling with social isolation, financial limitations, or chronic health problems,” says Dr Overholser. “A psychologist is much more likely to view depression as a reaction to negative life events. Many people can overcome their depression by making changes in their attitudes, their daily behaviours, and their interpersonal functioning.”

If you have (or think you have) situational depression, you should know that most people get completely better within about six months after the stressful event. However, it is important to get help, because situational depression can lead to a more severe type of depression or substance abuse if untreated. For many people with situational depression, the coping skills they learn in treatment can become valuable tools to help them face the future.

 

 

More Sleep Confusion

I haven’t ‘met’ (well, I haven’t actually met any of you, but you know what I mean) any one of us who doesn’t suffer from an absolute heap of sleep problems. But it appears, according to a new report from BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, that link may be worse than previously thought. In fact, patients with FM may be plagued with even more sleep problems than other patients with chronic illnesses.

sleep manThe report found that 88% of patients struggle with sleep, and 66% of those people have more than one sleep problem such as falling or staying asleep. The effects of sleep difficulties on patients’ quality of life appeared to be more severe for FM patients compared to patients with other disorders like back pain or osteoarthritis.

141. sleep deprivationThis suggests that addressing patients’ sleep issues could be a crucial component of managing FM, although another study (that I have reported about previously) suggests that there is absolutely no link between the amount of sleep and level of pain that we experience.

Previous research has also shown that having insomnia or sleep issues may increase your risk of developing fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.

Hmmm…it looks like previous research can show absolutely anything it wants to!!!!

 

Man Undiagnosed

More research is needed, particularly on why men who reported FM symptoms were less likely than women to receive a FM diagnosis, says lead author of a recent study, Ann Vincent, M.D., medical director of Mayo Clinic‘s Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Clinic. “Health care providers may not think of this diagnosis when face to face with a male patient with musculoskeletal pain and fatigue,” Dr. Vincent says. “These findings need to be explored further.”

Researchers focused on Olmsted County, Minn., home to the comprehensive medical records pool known as the Rochester Epidemiology Project, and used two methods to try to discover the number of people over age 21 with FM.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the first report of the rate at which FM is being diagnosed (or undiagnosed) in a community. This is also the first report of prevalence as assessed by the FM research survey criteria.

Firstly, they used the epidemiology project to identify just over 3,000 patients who looked like they might have FM: only a third had a documented FM diagnosis. That amounted to 1.1 per cent of the county’s population 21 and older.

In the second method, researchers randomly surveyed Olmsted County adults using the American College of Rheumatology‘s fibromyalgia research survey criteria. The criteria include the hallmarks of FM: widespread pain and tenderness, fatigue, feeling unrested after waking, problems with memory or thinking clearly and depression or anxiety, among other symptoms. Of the 830 who responded to the survey, 44, or 5.3 per cent, met those criteria, but only a dozen had been diagnosed with FM.

Based on the study’s findings, the researchers estimate that 6.4 per cent of people 21 and older in Olmsted County have FM—far more than have been officially diagnosed with it.

fibrommaleThe study found that the discrepancy between the number of people reporting FM symptoms and the number actually diagnosed with the condition was greatest among men. Twenty times more men appeared to have FM based on their survey response than had been diagnosed, while three times more women reported FM symptoms than were diagnosed.

“It is important to diagnose fibromyalgia because we have effective treatments for the disorder,” says co-author Daniel Clauw, M.D., director of the University of Michigan Health System Chronic Pain & Fatigue Research Center. Do we?

 

 

Poo! Poo! to That!

2010-09-29-beetleAm I the only one who talks about poo?

One of our favourite (NOT!) symptoms of FM is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). New research has shown that IBS may be tied to abnormal brainstem function. UCLA researchers used functional MRI to monitor women’s brainstems while using a balloon-type device to cause rectal distention. Before distention, they’d give the women a visual cue.

The women in the control group had a significant drop in brain activity after the visual cue, which the researchers say is a “down-regulation of pain-signalling systems.” You know how you prepare yourself for an injection – this is how your body prepares itself for pain it knows is coming and also knows isn’t dangerous.

However, the brains of women with IBS didn’t have the same activity drop-off, which researchers say shows they can’t stave off expected pain like most people can. The IBS group also had stronger brain reactions during distention.

It was concluded that the brains of some pain patients react differently to pain than ‘normal’ people, though (once again) they say more research needs to be done. “If we can identify receptors and genes associated with these abnormal brain responses, we should improve both identification of predisposed patients and development of effective remedies,” says Emeran A. Mayer, M.D., who worked on the study.

Researchers say their findings could also help uncover underlying causes and possible treatments for fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions.

 

Umm…What Exactly are Tender Points?

Tender points are one of the major characteristics of FM (along with all those others like widespread deep muscle pain, fatigue, and depression).

Tender points are pain points or localized areas of tenderness around joints, but not the joints themselves. These tender points hurt when pressed with a finger. Tender points are often not deep areas of pain. Instead, they are superficial areas seemingly under the surface of the skin, such as the area over the elbow or shoulder.

The actual size of the point of most tenderness is usually very small, about the size of the tip of your thumb. These areas are much more sensitive than other nearby areas. In fact, pressure on one of the tender points with a finger will cause pain that makes the person flinch or pull back. Tender points are scattered over the neck, back, chest, elbows, hips, buttocks, and knees.

The cause of these pressure points is not known. Even though it feels like these areas are inflamed, researchers have not found particular signs of inflammation when examining the tissue. What is known is that the locations of tender points are not random. They occur in predictable places on the body. That means many people with FM experience similar symptoms with tender points.

There are 18 tender points important for the diagnosis of FM (see illustration below).

These tender points are located at various places on your body. To get a medical diagnosis of FM, 11 of 18 tender point sites must be painful when pressed. In addition, the symptom of widespread pain must have been present for three months.

19. tender pointsYour doctor can test the painful tender points during an examination. Yet even with tender points, you need to tell your doctor about the exact pain you feel in those areas. You also need to tell the doctor about your other symptoms, such as deep muscle pain, fatiguesleep problemsdepression, irritable bowel syndrome, and more. It is often best you maintain a symptom diary/log and take it with you to your doctor (see Improving Patient-Doctor Communication)

If you don’t explain all your symptoms fully to your doctor, the doctor will not be able to effectively(?) treat the FM. As a result, you won’t get any relief from the chronic pain and other symptoms.

When a doctor tests tender points for pain, he or she will also check “control” points or other non-tender points on your body to make sure you don’t react to these as well. Some physicians use a special instrument called a ‘doximeter’ or ‘dolorimeter’ to apply just the right amount of pressure on tender points.

Pain management for tender points with FM involves a multifaceted treatment program that employs both conventional and alternative therapies. While the reason is not entirely clear, FM pain and fatigue sometimes respond to low doses of antidepressants. However, the treatment for FM and tender points involves medications, daily stress management, exercise, hydrotherapy using heat and ice, and rest. Other remedies for symptoms may also be used.

 

Play It Again, SAM (-e)!

Do you know about ClinicalTrials.gov? ClinicalTrials.gov is a registry and results database of publicly and privately supported clinical studies of human participants conducted around the world. As of today, ClinicalTrials.gov currently lists 134,739 studies with locations in 180 countries. (You might want to keep an eye on this site!)

Aside 1: I love to learn new things and research

Aside 2: I started SAM-E (at 400mg) this week (not feeling any better – in fact, this week has been my worst week in as long as I can remember!)

I’ve had AUSTRALIA and FIBROMYALGIA bookmarked with ClinicalTrials.gov for quite a while but nothing much is happening here.

However, one thing I noticed was a Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial of the Impact of S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine (SAM-e) on the Mood and Other Symptoms in Fibromyalgia.1 The phase 2 trial was completed in March 2007 but there were no results published – zip, nada!

Well, that was not particularly helpful. BUT I am an alumnus of the university where the study was run. So, one email later, I had the draft report in my grubby little hands (or inbox).

Available from iHerb.com

Quick background: SAM-e is of fundamental importance in a number of biochemical reactions and has been trialled previously in the treatment of FM. This study aimed to examine the clinical impact of SAMe-B-ForteTM – a complex containing 400mg of SAM-e – in the treatment of fibromyalgia in the light of possible melatonin (MLT) mediated circadian enhancing properties (basically, sleep).

Statistics: FM is the third most common disorder in rheumatologic practice after rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and its prevalence in the general population has been estimated to be between 1% and 4%.2,3,4 The prevalence of FM in primary care settings (at GP level) is much higher, where it is estimated to be between 5% and 20%.3,5 Studies examining the outcome in FM patients suggest that the probability of complete recovery in the short-term is low.6

As we know, no treatment (medical or psychological/behavioral) has been demonstrated to be clearly and reliably effective (or we all would have shared it by now!)

Patients were randomly allocated into two groups (placebo and active treatment). The SAMe-B-ForteTM group received capsules containing SAM-e 400mg, over an 8 week period.  The placebo group received capsules that were of identical appearance. All participants were instructed to take one of the capsules in the morning with food (the directions on my box of SAM-e state to take it without food?) Only 49 patients completed the trial.

It appears that the 4th week was the breakthrough week – SAM-e was effective in reducing global symptoms, sleep onset insomnia, and bowel dysregulation. While the results failed to support previous findings that SAM-e could aid depression, the dose given (400mg) and the short time period may not have allowed for optimal antidepressant action of SAM-e and future trials would be required, including a range of doses, in order to better examine dose-response data.

Conclusion: The SAMe-B-ForteTM complex tested shows promise in alleviating symptoms in FM. The promising results confirm there is a potential benefit of SAM-e administration in FM but also that this finding needs further exploration.

Well, I don’t want to wait (really sick of waiting – and it’s taken 5 years for researchers to produce a draft report!) so, as I said earlier, I am giving it a try. Hopefully, the next few weeks will be better than this one.

 

  1. Luke Xantidis, Gregory Tooley, Daniel Lewis and Laurence Lacey
  2. Doron Y, Peleg R, Peleg A, Neumann L, Buskila D: The clinical and economic burden of fibromyalgia compared with diabetes mellitus and hypertension among Bedouin women in the Negev. Fam Pract 2004, 21(4):415-419.
  3. Kirmayer LJ, Young A, Hayton BC: The cultural context of anxiety disorders. Psychiatr Clin North Am 1995, 18(3):503-521.
  4. Staud R, Domingo M: Evidence for abnormal pain processing in fibromyalgia syndrome. Pain Med 2001, 2(3):208-215.
  5. Al-Allaf AW, Dunbar KL, Hallum NS, Nosratzadeh B, Templeton KD, Pullar T: A case-control study examining the role of physical trauma in the onset of fibromyalgia syndrome. Rheumatology (Oxford) 2002, 41(4):450-453.
  6. Dobkin PL, De Civita M, Bernatsky S, Kang H, Baron M: Does psychological vulnerability determine health-care utilization in fibromyalgia? Rheumatology (Oxford) 2003, 42(11):1324-1331.

 

 

A Magic Pill? Not!

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

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

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

Dietary Supplements for Fibromyalgia

Supplements commonly used to treat fibromyalgia symptoms Include:

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

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

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

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

Acupuncture to Ease Fibromyalgia Pain

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

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

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

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

Since then, a new study of acupuncture — the most rigorous and detailed analysis of the treatment to date — found that acupuncture can ease migraines and arthritis and other forms of chronic pain. The findings provide strong scientific support for the age-old therapy. Though acupuncture has been studied for decades, the body of medical research on it has been mixed and mired to some extent by small and poor-quality studies. Financed by the National Institutes of Health and carried out over about half a decade, the new research was a detailed analysis of earlier research that involved data on nearly 18,000 patients. The researchers, who published their results in Archives of Internal Medicine, found that acupuncture outperformed sham treatments and standard care when used by people suffering from osteoarthritis, migraines and chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.

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

Further Reading

Alternative Fibromyalgia Treatments: Massage

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

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

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

Further Reading

Fibromyalgia Treatments at Home

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

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

 

General Further Reading:

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Hi Ho! Hi Ho! Off to the Doc We Go!

So you go to the doctor again. You feel horrible, sorry for yourself and you just want to feel better. We know that not all doctors bring their bedside manner to the consulting suite but, there are things we as patients can do to help improve communication with our doctors.

1. Educate yourself.

Long before you walk into the doctor’s office, learn all you can about your illness. A good doctor usually respects and appreciates patients who have enough self-respect to educate themselves. If you are getting your information from the Internet, make sure you stick to reputable sources. Chat rooms and forums are great places to get support, but you can’t believe everything you read on them.

2. Prepare for your appointment.

Your doctor has a limited amount of time to give each patient, so anything you can do to organize your information will be appreciated. Make the following lists before every appointment and take them with you.

Medications – List all medications you are currently taking. This list should include: prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, supplements, herbal remedies, inhalers, and medicinal creams or gels.

Symptoms – List all symptoms you experience on a regular basis. Describe the symptom clearly but try to keep it as brief as possible. Note when the symptom began, how frequently it occurs, and how it affects your life. If you list pain as one of your symptoms, describe the type of pain (that is, throbbing, aching, stabbing, sharp), the location of the pain, how long it lasts, and its severity (using the pain scale of 0 to 10 with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain you can imagine).

Note: Avoid the temptation to say your pain level is 50 on a scale of 0 to 10. Although your intention is to have the severity of your pain taken seriously, it will have the exact opposite effect. If you exaggerate your pain level, your doctor will assume you’re exaggerating everything else as well.

Questions – Write down all of your questions in order of importance. Don’t depend on your memory. Doctor visits can be stressful and you’re likely to forget something if you haven’t written it down. By asking the most important questions first, you ensure those questions will be answered even if the appointment has to be cut short due to time constraints.

Ideally your lists should be typed so your doctor doesn’t have to spend time trying to interpret your handwriting. Take two copies of each list to your appointment – one for you and one for your doctor to refer to during the appointment and then include in your file.

Questions to think about:

Fibromyalgia is characterized by chronic widespread pain and tenderness. The pain of fibromyalgia may be unpredictable. You may feel pain that can affect different parts of your body, and the pain may feel worse on some days than others.

Select the number that describes your fibromyalgia pain over the last 24 hours (0=No pain, 10=Worst possible pain):

  • Where does it hurt?

Describe the areas where you feel fibromyalgia pain, tenderness, or both.

It’s important that your doctor be aware of all medications you are currently taking.

Make a list of all of the medications you are currently taking. Be sure to include all over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal supplements.

  • Knowing the different types of healthcare providers you have visited can help your doctor.

Make a list of the different types of healthcare providers you have seen for your fibromyalgia pain.

  • Create Your List

Make a list of your top three concerns or questions for your healthcare provider.

3. Think about how you speak.

When talking to your doctor, be specific; don’t use generalities. For instance, instead of saying, “My legs hurt when I stand,” try saying something like, “Whenever I stand for more than five minutes, I get a sharp pain that goes all the way down the back of my legs.” The second statement will give your doctor a much better idea of what you are experiencing and what might be causing it.

The tone and timbre of your voice is another important aspect of speaking to your doctor. The more calm and rational your voice sounds, the more likely your doctor will take you seriously. Try to avoid the two extremes: the whiney patient and the adversarial patient…

Don’t whimper or whine. Sometimes people who are chronically ill will develop the habit of speaking in a whimpering, whiney voice without even realizing it. Unfortunately, no one likes to listen to whining. If you have children, you know how irritating it can be when they whine. Instead of causing you to want to do what they are asking, it only makes you want to get away from them. When adults whine, we tend to consider them less credible. If you have any doubts as to whether or not you sound whiney, ask a family member or friend who will be honest with you. Practice explaining your symptoms in a calm, rational voice.

Take the chip off your shoulder. If you’ve had negative experiences with doctors before, you may find it difficult to walk into a doctor’s office without having an adversarial attitude – and that attitude will reveal itself in your voice. Taking a “You’d better do what I want or else” approach will only cause your doctor to become defensive and label you a troublemaker. Although you have the right to be listened to and treated with respect, you can’t demand respect. The more antagonistic your attitude, the less likely it is that doctor will listen to you or take you seriously. Try to give your doctor the benefit of the doubt and communicate in a calm rational tone.

4. Have realistic expectations.

If you have a chronic illness (especially one like ME/CFS or FM), expecting your doctor to give you a prescription or two that will relieve all of your symptoms is unrealistic. It usually takes a great deal of trial and error to figure out a combination of treatments that will help you. It is realistic to expect your doctor to communicate honestly with you and work as a team with you in an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation.

5. Think like a consumer.

Remember, as a patient, you are also a consumer. You are paying your doctor to provide a service. Would you continue to go to a hairstylist or barber who refuses to cut your hair as you ask? Would you keep returning to an auto mechanic who insists nothing is wrong with your car, even though it doesn’t run? We demand to receive the services we pay for in other areas of our lives, but often accept less than adequate service when it comes to our healthcare.

If you’ve given it your best effort, applying the principles discussed here, and still feel your doctor is not taking your concerns seriously, then it’s probably time to find another doctor – check out 10 Signs It’s Time to find a New Doctor