Take the Next Step → LAUGHTER!

So, after smiling all day yesterday, let’s move onto LAUGHING!!!!

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When was the last time you laughed until your side hurt from laughing… and not because of your typical aches and pains? Laughter is a natural medicine. It lifts our spirits and makes us feel happy. Laughter is a contagious emotion. It can bring people together. It can help us feel more alive and empowered.

I have happy moments and time with friends in which I feel joyful, but I also must admit that I laugh much less than I once did. Illness has a way of aging us much too soon. It makes us too serious at times, because we have to think about how everything will affect our body.

Joy 3Laughter therapy, also called humour therapy, is the use of humour to promote overall health and wellness. It aims to use the natural physiological process of laughter to help relieve physical or emotional stresses or discomfort. Laughter has been shown to cause multiple physiological changes that may be beneficial to those of us with fibromyalgia. In a recent report, alternative health experts today tout laughter therapy as a mode of healing any disease from a mild fever to even cancer. It has been scientifically proven that laughter is both preventive and therapeutic. Although laughter therapy has not been studied specifically for FM, researchers are uncovering more about laughter in general and in painful conditions such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

Benefits of Laughter

Laughter therapy has been described as great way to relax and de-stress terminally ill patients and those suffering from chronic illnesses. Joy 4Laughter Yoga is one such exercise that works on changing the physical, emotional and mental state simultaneously thereby bringing a positive outlook towards life and circumstances. A good laugh exercises the lungs and circulatory system and increases the amount of oxygen in the blood. The huge therapeutic value of laughter can turn your life and health around. According to some studies, laughter therapy may provide physical benefits, such as helping to:

  •  Boost the immune system and circulatory system
  •  Enhance oxygen intake
  • Stimulate the heart and lungs
  •  Relax muscles throughout the body
  •  Trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers)
  •  Ease digestion/soothes stomach aches
  •  Relieve pain
  •  Balance blood pressure
  •  Improve mental functions (i.e., alertness, memory, creativity)

Laughter therapy may also help to:

  • Improve overall attitude
  • Reduce stress/tension
  • Promote relaxation
  • Improve sleep
  • Enhance quality of life
  • Strengthen social bonds and relationships
  • Produce a general sense of well-being

Great side effects for something that is free and readily available without a prescription! Many of the things in that list are either known or believed to be involved, to varying degrees, in many FM cases.

Most illnesses today are stress related and chronic stress attacks the immune system and makes us vulnerable to infections, virus attack and cancer. In fact, this is a major motive for people taking to Laughter therapy.

Joy 5People practicing Laughter therapy regularly report amazing improvement in their health as well as a more positive mental attitude and higher energy levels.  The first thing participants say is that they don’t fall sick very often; the frequency of normal cold and flu reduces or even disappears. There are daily reports of partial or total cure of most stress-related illnesses like hypertension, heart disease, depression, asthma, arthritis, allergies, stiff muscles and more. While this sounds fantastic, it all makes perfect sense, as laughter is nature’s best cure for stress.

Scientific research by Dr Lee Berk from Loma Linda University, California proved that laughter strengthens the immune system by increasing the number of natural killer cells and increase in the antibodies. The immune system is the master-key of health and if it weakens one is exposed to constant infection and sickness.

Joy 6Laughter Therapy For Reducing Stress

Stress and depression are two major components of ill health. Most health benefits people get are because they are able to manage physical, mental and emotional stress with Laughter Therapy exercises. Once the stress levels are down, the immune system becomes stronger automatically.

Laughter Therapy As An Exercise

Dr. William Fry, a research scientist from Stanford University scientifically proved that 10 minutes of healthy laughter is equal to 30 minutes on the rowing machine. Laughter is the best cardio workout. As an exercise it has similar benefits as compared to any other aerobic activities like jogging, dining swimming and cycling.


Laughter Therapy And Role Of Oxygen

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Dr Otto Warburg, German scientist and Nobel Laureate said that the main reason we fall sick is because there is lack of oxygen in the body cells. Laughter brings more oxygen to the body and brain. A good supply of oxygen is the key for maintaining good health as well as healing a variety of illnesses.

Laughter Therapy For Depression

Depression is the number one sickness in the world and millions of dollars are spent on producing antidepressant drugs. Laughter therapy is extremely therapeutic for depression as it helps to release certain neurotransmitters from the brain cells as well as help joy 8people to stay connected and share their feelings and emotions.

Laughter Therapy For Mental Health

A major causal factor of many illnesses is a person’s inability to express their feelings and emotions. People are afraid of reactions and conflict. As a result they suppress and hold their emotions which ultimately affect the immune system adversely leading to a variety of sickness. Laughter therapy is a cathartic exercise which helps people release their blocked emotions in a non-violent way and makes them emotionally balanced. Bangalore research indicates that laughter also helps to increase positive emotions and decrease the negative ones thereby promoting a healthy life.

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Possible Drawbacks of Laughter (did you ever think you’d hear that?)

Some people with fibro say that laughter can trigger post-exertional malaise – a major upswing in symptom severity after exertion. A long, hard laugh could lead to increased pain, especially if the muscles involved are deconditioned. However, this tendency may be countered by the endorphin release and other changes that are similar to the effects of exercise.

A rare side effect of laughter is brief episodes of syncope (fainting), likely due to laughter-induced changes in the autonomic nervous system leading to reduced blood flow to the brain. It’s unknown whether the autonomic dysregulation and blood-flow abnormalities of FM could increase this risk.
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Find Local Body Work Shops

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

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

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

Some of the most common forms of bodywork are:

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

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

Energy (and Persistence) Conquer All

We have all learned that we only have a certain amount of energy (spoons, pennies, etc.) and we need to make a conscious choice each and every day about how we’re going to expend our energy. But, sometimes, we don’t even realise that we are wasting energy on certain emotions…

Are you wasting your energy on stress, fear, anxiety, bitterness, anger, or jealousy?

These emotions have all been linked to FM (and heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and a host of others.)

There are some wonderful emotions – Love, Hope, Joy – we just don’t seem to lose sleep and energy over them.

It’s the negative emotions that drag us down, leaving us feeling tired and fatigued. Yes, we sometimes need a good cry but, how tired and worn-out do you feel afterwards?

You are NOT alone – we all know (in our heads) that we have each other (and 700 more in the VISIBLE Army); you can see it in the supportive comments here, on Facebook and in the Forum – we all have fears and anxieties….

BUT we all have the ability to create our own realities. Everything we do, everything we feel always begins with a thought.

Thoughts lead to emotions and ultimately, behaviours. Thoughts, especially in humans, are not particularly independent: if someone says to you, “I know that Fibro is caused by…,” subconsciously, you analyse the statement – Do I know this too? Why does he think I care that he knows this? Is there anything else about this that is significant that I am missing? I know that; does he think I’m stupid?

So one simple thought can mean much, much more than that one thought. If the thing the person said was something you didn’t know, it might make you feel stupid, but it isn’t the feeling “I am stupid” that is draining your energy; it is the thought over and over again in your head “I am stupid” that is doing the damage. (This is what cognitive therapy is about.)

Therapeutic pioneers shared one important belief: clients must challenge what they think, feel, and how they behave based on the power of cognitive understanding. The belief behind the theory was that distressing emotions are typically the result of maladaptive thoughts. Change the thought, and the emotion and behaviour will also be different. Change the negative thought and the negative emotion will no longer drain your energy.

So it’s the thoughts that we need to work on:

  • Practice thinking positive thoughts when negative emotions sneak up and you feel yourself sinking.
  • Realize that having negative feelings will just hurt you, not them. So there is no reason for you to have any negative feeling.
  • Practice thinking about what you let in your mind (and life).
  • Realize that you can’t please everyone. In fact, nobody can. Sometimes you need to just let some people go. Realizing this will relieve you from a lot of unnecessary burden so that you can focus on the people who you can positively interact with.
  • Practice thinking positive thoughts all of the time – listen to motivational audio program to feed positive thoughts into your mind; Talk to a positive friend who can encourage you; remember your favourite quotes to give you inspiration and motivation (or have notes with these quotes around you – on the bathroom mirror, on the fridge, on the car dash-board, etc.).

It’s definitely not easy but it will let you conserve your energy for the good things in life……

 

A (Rei)Ki to Effective Pain Management

I have a friend who I met at high school. We weren’t great friends then, but I knew her. When I started working at the casino, I met up with her again. For a while, she seemed to be more friends with my brother than me. She was always very relaxed, laid back and also on a different shift to me. We’d go out now and then but I don’t think it was a major relationship in either of our lives.

Now, we have both left the casino; and I have eagerly embraced her yoga-teaching, reiki-practising, kinda-hippy, relaxed friendship. She is a wonderful addition to my support network – she offers unrivalled understanding and support; she reads all the things that I send her about FM, my blog and my Facebook page (unlike most of my family); and she puts up with shopping trips with me (even though she HATES shopping!)

This friend, I have mentioned a number of times, is Thais. We keep talking about having regular yoga and reiki sessions, except that each time she comes over, we get distracted. I have no idea by what; I guess it’s just stuff that friends talk about.

But sometimes, and not often enough, she treats me with reiki. Reiki is a treatment in which healing energy is channelled from Thais to me, to enhance energy and reduce stress, pain, & fatigue. It is supposed to work by opening up a channel between healer and patient to transfer energy, and restore the body both physically and mentally.

By ‘laying on hands’ on specific parts of your body or even just positioning hands slightly above your body, a qualified Reiki practitioner can help bring relief to your chronic pain and make you feel better than you have in years. It is an ancient Japanese technique, also called ‘biofield’ therapy.

During a reiki session, muscles are relaxed, and energy flow is unblocked. This helps reduce physical tension and pain. Anxiety and stress also are reduced, helping to unblock and release emotional pain. Although you may not be completely pain-free, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and better able to cope with your condition.

A number of reiki clinical trials was recently reviewed by the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, which concluded that there was strong evidence that biofield therapies help reduce the intensity of pain in general.

No serious side effects or risks have been identified in the medical literature on reiki, and it is considered to be a very low-risk intervention. Since reiki is facilitated either with a very light touch or with no touch — slightly off the body — it provides a therapeutic option for those who are in pain or unable to be touched – that would be some of us.

Sounds too good to be true? I can only tell you about my experience. When Thais and I do finally get round to trying some out, I always feel deeply calm and relaxed (in fact, we want to try to reiki me to sleep one night and see if it helps with the quality of my sleep). I don’t know if this is just because Thais is a calming influence to be around at any time, or if she is actually channelling her energies into me.

Has any-one else had some experience with reiki? Perhaps with a practitioner that they did not know personally (for a less biased opinion)?

Treat Your Pain, Too.

Back in early May, I wrote a post called Treat Yourself – that gave you an idea about creating your own treatment plan. This is an extension of that post.

Although there is no cure is available, a large number of FM treatment options exist. Treatment options vary wildly in effectiveness from individual to individual. What may work very well for one person may not work at all for another. Research suggests that the most effective strategy is likely to be multi-modal involving diet, exercise, drugs, dietary supplements, and various treatment therapies. Both symptoms focused and causal focused treatment approaches should be combined and managed.

FibroMAGICians must strive to validate what works best for them as an individual. This typically involves a process of trial and error. Evaluating various treatment options and building an effective treatment approach can be a complex process, one typically improved through utilizing a team approach. Fibromyalgia patients are well served by a care team made up of doctors, therapists, specialists and a strong support group.

Available Treatments

No single approach works best. The best course of action when considering treatment options is to combine a traditional medical approach with other available remedies. Over time, you can validate what works best to alleviate your pain. A number of lifestyle changes and other treatment methods can have a cumulative positive effect on the pain you experience.

Here is a list of some commonly used treatment options:

  1. Conventional medicines — Your doctor will work with you to discover what prescription medicines may work best for you. Options are many including pain and antidepressant medicines.
  2. Nutrition and diet — Some researchers believe that the foods you eat can affect FM symptoms.
  3. Dietary Supplements — Vitamins and minerals play important roles in health and maintenance of the body.
  4. Exercise — Exercise helps relieve joint stiffness and can help alleviate some of the pain as well. Short workouts have been proven to help many fibroMAGICians. Pain may initially increase, but then gradually decreases. Hydrotherapytai-chi and yoga are excellent forms of exercise. These forms of exercise incorporate relaxation and meditation techniques. Deep breathing and slow movement will reduce your stress level and increase your fitness.
  5. Physiotherapy  — A physiotherapist can help you with stretching and good posture. Stretching will reduce joint and muscle stiffness. This therapist can also  help you with relaxation techniques, another powerful FM treatment option.
  6. Relaxation therapy — Stress aggravates FM. Reducing stress will provide you with a more restful sleep, improving symptoms.
  7. Massage therapy — This is another great relaxation technique.
  8. Over-the-counter drugs — You will need to work with your doctor. Always talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications you plan to take.
  9. Herbal remedies — Many herbs have medicinal healing powers. Again, you must talk to your doctor when using herbal remedies
  10. Chinese medicine — Consider exploring Chinese medicine which places great emphasis on herbal remedies and incorporates life energy healing techniques.
  11. Homeopathy — Visit a homeopathic specialist. They specialize in natural remedies to illnesses.
  12. Acupuncture — Modern adherents of acupuncture believe that it affects blood flow and the way the brain processes pain signals. Studies have shown this may be effective for FM.
  13. Chiropractic care—Chiropractors specialize in spinal problems, which can be a major source of pain for some people.

Building a Customised Fibromyalgia Treatment Program

Through an ongoing process of trial and error, using a mixture of the above treatments (and many others), it is possible to develop a treatment program that can be validated as effective – for the individual patient.

This process is made more effective when the patient embraces the concept of “Self-Management” – an ongoing process through which the patient recognizes and assumes responsibility for leading their own treatment efforts. An effective self-management process focuses on the collection, analysis and utilization of patient data such that the trial and error process is better empowered to yield tangible results.

Shiatsu Saviour

Last night, Mommy surprised me by taking me for a shiatsu massage. Almost every day, we pass EastWest College, which is a school that delivers training for the professional practice of Therapeutic Massage, Shiatsu, Oriental and Complimentary therapies. Almost every day, we have said that we should go there. So last night, we did.

Shiatsu literally translates as ‘finger pressure’ and is a Japanese therapy originating in Oriental medical theory and traditional Japanese massage techniques.

Shiatsu therapists treat the whole body as well as specific problem areas by addressing both emotional and physical wellbeing. The aim is to treat the body by balancing the flow of Ki (life energy); applying pressure to obstructed or weak areas. This relieves symptoms and resolves conditions, improving the patient’s strength and vitality. The patient lies on a thin mattress on the floor, not a massage table which means the practitioner can use his/her body weight to increase pressure where it is needed, often synchronising the pressure with your breathing. Generally it is very relaxing and although some acupoints will be more tender than others.

Shiatsu is recognised as being suitable for treatment of most common conditions including musculoskeletal, menstrual, digestive and immune system disorders as well as being one of the most effective therapies for stress management and relaxation.

Currently, there is a randomized clinical trial being carried out by the University of Sao Paulo General Hospital, with the aim of verifying the efficacy of Shiatsu in the improvement of pain, flexibility, quality of sleep, anxiety and quality of life of individuals with FM. (This study is ongoing but no longer accepting participants.)

The EastWest College offers massage and reflexology as well as Shiatsu, so I know that I’ll be going back – in fact, I have already phoned and left a message.

The massage courses offered by EastWest College cover many of the different styles of massage such as Relaxation, Swedish, Sports, Remedial, Shiatsu and Lymphatic.  Particular emphasis is placed on the integration of Oriental and Western Massage, which allows graduates to acquire professional skills in Oriental tactile medicine in combination with the popular musculoskeletal therapy of Remedial and Therapeutic Massage.

I have talked about reflexology before as a healing art that uses acupressure and massage on the feet, hands or ears to promote relaxation, alleviate pain, treat illness, and stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself. Reflexology aims to help the body’s energy circulate effectively without blockages, stagnation or energy loss by manipulating reflex points in the feet, hands or ears. Unlike acupuncture, reflexology is non-invasive.

Not so excited about students working on you?

Firstly, it was fabulous – my masseuse/student explained everything that she was doing, made sure that I wasn’t hurting too much (I had told her about my FM); and, actually built up a sweat working and stretching out my tired and taut body. Maybe I was lucky but Mommy (with sciatica) was thrilled with her massage, too.

Next, it is totally supervised. This is not one of those 6 week courses that people do at the local college – these are nationally and internationally accredited courses over 12 -24 months. Does that make the thought more comforting to you?

And finally, it was $15 for an hour!!! (that’s introductory – normally $35) You really can’t beat that.

I know that this particular college is in Melbourne, Australia but perhaps you may now consider giving the opportunity to students, near you, to learn (and become aware of FM) while receiving the benefit of a great treatment!