Myofascial Release As Possible Treatment for Fibromyalgia

Since my diagnosis of fibromyalgia in 2008, I have tried several rounds of physical therapy, several rounds of pelvic floor physical therapy, every level of massage from light to deep tissue, light exercise to weight training. I had also been feeling good despite the pain and decided to take it up a notch. I started weight training in August 2014 because a sales person convinced me that stronger muscles would pull out the tight spots.

Except that my tight spots are not in the muscle, they are in the fascia. The fascia is a thin sheath of fibrous tissue that is found throughout your entire body. I have tight spots in my fascia in every section of my body from my head to my toe. I am in a considerable amount of pain. After a year of weight training, I ended up not being in less pain, but more. I had to quit when I pulled a back muscle that left me in tears and taking medication. Between the meds & massage, it worked its way out only to resurface when I pulled a muscle while laying on my side in bed.

The other day, I happened to see an ad in a newspaper for a physical therapy place that focused strictly on releasing myofascial pain with a method taught by John F. Barnes, PT. Unlike other PT I’ve had, Barnes’ system apparently uses gentle pressure held for much longer periods in order to completely release the spots. I have so many of them I think it will take someone a year to work them all out.

To some degree, I have given up. I’ve been on a couple of kinds of pain medication for years, but they’ve been working less lately. I either have to find another way or I have to change or go up on my pain meds. I don’t really want that. I want the pain gone and I want my life back! I don’t have a life right now. I can’t work because I can’t sleep well enough to be well rested. I’ve worked with this pain, and I was chronically and terribly exhausted all the time. It’s not a life, and it’s not fair to my employers because I’m limited in terms of energy and patience. I’m still often tired, but I have few stresses in my life. My biggest ones are my mother when she falls in or is in pain and the pain I live with.

Even though I felt hopeless, I sent out a couple of emails to physical therapists trained by John F. Barnes in his techniques. If I can be relieved of this pain, I can only imagine what it would feel like: like I’m floating on a cloud instead of the group. Please wish me luck!

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Feelin’ Somewhat Better!

I went food shopping on Friday at Fairway and got a lot of food. I picked up some interesting new meats, wild boar sausage and venison & pork sausage, as well as grass-fed beef and ground turkey for stuffed peppers. I picked up some golden beets with greens, chard, kale, lemons, and kirby cucumbers; cashew and almond butters; macadamia nuts, goji berries, and pine nuts.

I picked up some fermented items – kefir, a fermented yogurt; kombucha, a fermented tea; and kimchi, spicy fermented cabbage – the national food of Korea! I’m a member of a Facebook group called Foods for Fibromyalgia run by a certified nutritionist (among many other degrees this lady has) named Deirdre Rawlings. Getting probiotics into one’s diet via fermented foods is one of the healthful foods that she recommends. One of the issues with fibro patients seems to be not enough good microflora in the gut, so I figured I would try it out.

Since Friday, I have been putting an emphasis on eating meat that has iron, a variety of veggies, and a bit of fermented food to aid digestion. For example, I had muesli with fresh cranberries, chopped almonds, and coconut milk along with two tablespoons of kefir, which is like fizzy yogurt. With lunch, I took several sips of the kombucha. With dinner, I opened the kimchi and put a few pieces on my plate. I bought Your Mother’s Kimchi with napa cabbage, and boy is it delightful! You have to like spicy food before you attempt kimchi. My hubby used to buy another brand, but it wasn’t nearly as tasteful as this one was, and I wasn’t nearly as motivated to add it to my diet as I am now.

And I definitely feel like Saturday I felt better than Friday, and today I feel better than yesterday. When I got on the treadmill, I felt like I was in less pain than the last time I got on the treadmill (last Wednesday). I felt perky and peppy in a natural way. I made some jokes and generally felt like nothing was forced, that happiness could just bubble up a bit out of me because I was feeling that much better. It’s really hard to be the happy person you are when you’re bogged down with pain from head to toe.

I still have a lot of pain throughout, but I feel like I have a bit less brain fog. You have no idea what a relief it is to feel like your head is clearer than it has been in years, and that maybe it’s just a little bit of proof that you have haven’t entirely lost all the smarts in your head. Because, lemme tell ya, brain fog makes you feel like you’ve lost 20 IQ points. Now I feel like I’ve regain 5 IQ points. That can feel like quite a jump.

I hope everyone has had a great three-day weekend.

Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Lessons Learned + Health Update

Apologies to my readers for missing my regular Monday blog post and neglecting to let you know when I would be back. So here I am, back with a couple of lessons that I have learned recently and a health update.

LESSONS LEARNED

Lesson #1: Never put off writing your blog post for “when you get home” from going into New York City because “when you get home” might well be past “when I should be asleep” and “when I am able to think clearly”.

Lesson #2: Working out in the morning truly makes you feel great and energized for the day!

I wanted to make sure I got my Monday workout in before my city trip because I knew I wouldn’t have time for it afterwards. I’m so glad I did! Hours later, I was still in an upbeat mood and energized about my day.

Lesson #3: Working out makes you stronger in ways that you might not normally perceive.

For my workout, I decided to go to an aqua fit class at my gym. Although trying to move quickly through water while holding weights is still extremely difficult, I found that the steps were easier. I also had more energy for longer and did not feel exhausted by the end of the class. I can only attribute this to the weight lifting workouts that I have added to my life.

HEALTH UPDATE

Last month, I went for my first visit with a functional medicine doctor in NYC about my fibromyalgia. From our discussion, he recommended folic acid and B12 shots that were administered in his office, as well as thyroid medication and supplements. He called the custom medication to the pharmacy as I sat there. I also left with an order for bloodwork that was to be done two weeks before the followup.

In yesterday’s follow up, I told him the shots gave me a 3 day burst of energy until I had one alcoholic drink that set me back energy-wise. Then we went over the test results: low thyroid, which we knew; low morning cortisol; low Vitamin D; very low Vitamin C; low magnesium; and very low iron. He called in a higher dose of the current thryoid RX and wrote me an additional thyroid RX. Finally, he noticed an elevated peptide that could be indicative of bone loss/osteoporosis, so he’s going to check its values again with the next round of bloodwork.

After some discussion, he confirmed that I probably have Candida and suggested dietary means to starve it or he could write me an RX of diflucan. I couldn’t make up my mind, so he wrote me the RX so I could make up my mind. He also gave me an RX for another round of bloodwork so that we can see how his recommendations are working.   I have a followup with him towards the end of March.

I can only say that I hope restoring vitamins and minerals in my body will ease this chronic pain that I have lived with for over 5 years. I would like to feel lighthearted and free, but it’s nigh impossible when the gravity of pain pulls you down. The next time you meet someone who seems grouchy, consider that they might be suffering in ways that you cannot see and in ways that you cannot know.

Office Date with a Doctor

Before I moved to NY last year, I was treated by Dr. A., a physiatrist (physical therapist + medical doctor), for four years for fibromyalgia. Dr. A’s approach included pain management through medications, proper sleep habits, daily meditation, diet, supplements, aqua therapy, and exercise. I implemented most of her recommendations on a regular basis. Although I did see moderate improvement in daily pain level, I experienced flare ups and my chronic fatigue, while improving over time, did not significantly see a reduction.

After moving, I found a primary care who has been willing to keep me on my current regime of pain medications (gabapentin and duloxetine). When I said I wanted to go off duloxetine, she wanted me to see a psychiatrist who would manage the administration of it. We discussed this over a couple of visits, and I told her I wanted to see a specialist  who would treat my fibromyalgia from a holistic standpoint, just like Dr. A had done. My primary gave me the name of a doctor in NYC who she thought might be able to help.

One night, I submitted my information online requesting more information. Within two hours, the doctor called me directly to talk. I was stunned at the quick response from the doctor himself, not one of his office staff. Office staff calling me back at night to make an appointment would have been unusual, but this even more so. When I asked what his availability was, I learned I could have gotten an appointment as early as two days later.

We discussed in brief my medical history, what I was looking for, and his background. In the past few years, I came across at least two other docs who claim to have had positive results working with fibromyalgia patients. One of them, Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, uses an approach to treatment he calls S.H.I.N.E (sleep, hormones, immunity, nutrition, exercise). Turns out, this local doc is friends with Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum and uses the follows the same protocols to treat his fibro/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) patients.

I said I would call the office after I had figured out my finances because their office takes no insurance. No surprise there. Because I hate rushing into things and because my husband was not around for a few evenings to discuss this, I didn’t call back until the following week.

Yesterday, I met with Dr. D. who was just as pleasant and professional in person as he had been over the phone. I brought blood test results from this year’s and last year’s annual physical exams. Last year’s testing was extensive. My new primary asked if I had been tested for Lyme and other conditions, which I hadn’t.

After looking over the results, Dr. D said my thyroid values, B12, and folic acid values were low. While I sat in front of him, he called in a custom T3 med for me at a custom pharmacy. He gave me a B12 shot in my right arm and the folic acid shot in my left arm. If you’ve never had a folic acid shot, they HURT. He told me it would hurt for an hour. Fibro increases my sensitivity to pain. I felt pulsing pain over the course of two hours, and it caused me to have a diffuse flare-up of pain throughout my body for the afternoon until the pain in the arm finally died down completely.

To address my lack of restorative sleep, he also prescribed supplements – CoQ10, L-Carnitine Tartrate, and Corvalen (Ribose). One line of thought with fibro is that it is caused by the inability of your cells’ mitochondria to take in energy. This, in turn, causes painful spots throughout the body. These supplements help the mitochondria get the energy into the cells of your body to address the pain issue, which, in turn, lets you get restorative sleep.

I bought the three supplements from the office, though I could have gotten them elsewhere, because I wanted to begin immediately. I called the custom pharmacy and provided with the information to charge and mail me the medications. I took a couple of couple of the supplements last night.

Maybe it was my imagination, but I felt a tiny speck of a bit more alert yesterday afternoon. Today, same thing, although it did not translate to me feeling well-rested. Dr. D said it would take at least a couple of weeks to start feeling better. In the meantime, I am going to get another round of blood tests next week and then see him after the new year for a follow-up.

Dr. D said that he’s helped other patients and he can help me. I told him that if that were the case that I would be floating into his office the next time I saw him.

Wish me luck!

Weather, Curcumin, Exercise, and Fibromyalgia

Despite some stress with my mom’s health issues in August, I managed to get to the beach a couple of times. That put me in a better mood. I think the summer does that to me, specifically, being at the beach, riding the waves, and relaxing to the sounds of the waves. One weekend, my husband and I biked about 10 miles along the Wantagh Parkway, which hugs the shoreline of Jones Beach.

Before we moved to NY, I had a number of conversations with my physiotherapist about the benefits of turmeric in the pain management of fibromyalgia, a syndrome that I have. For those who don’t know, fibromyalgia is a syndrome, not a medical diagnosis, because a cluster of symptoms appear for which there are no known causes or diagnostic tests. WedMD has a pretty comprehensive list of fibromyalgia symptoms.

I am not a big fan of turmeric, so adding it to my food presented a problem. At a local natural foods store, I came across a supplement called CuraMed by Terry Naturally. The supplement claimed to have 750mg of a clinically studied element of turmeric called curcumin (BCM-95). They also make a less potent version called CuraMin. I started that first and noticed a slight reduction in pain. After finishing a bottle, I let some time lapse, and then decided to try again, this time with CuraMed.

Sometime in the middle of August, I got a call from my gym, LA Fitness in Lake Success to come in for a fitness test that came as part of the gym membership I bought in February. Since I paid for it, I decided to go in. I should have known it’s an in to a sales pitch to buy a training package. Once I got there, I was hustled along to the manager, JM, with some serious sales skills! Even when I knew what was going on, there was a part of me that wanted to say yes. I ended up putting him off for a day to talk to Mark about it, but I signed up for a package. IU figured that, if I’m going to be in pain, it might as well be from trying to get healthy with exercise instead of just the same old same old fibro pain.

That was a month ago. Since then I have been going to the gym four days a week, twice to do weights (one with a trainer) and twice for some other reason – yoga or other classes). Today I went in and rode a bike for about 40 minutes, just to do something different.

I looked back on this last month and realized a few things:

  • The CuraMed supplement has eased off my depression. Whether it’s because it’s acting as an enhancer to the generic Cymbalta I am taking or because it is actually working on some level as pain relief on my fibro, I have no clue. I am actually still in a bunch of pain, but my mood has improved significantly.
  • I have experienced elements of euphoria after exercising which is more than just exercise itself. I know what it feels like to have endorphins rush through your system after a good work-out. This seems to be almost a bit of a mania. Tonight, I got home after a workout and danced around while I made dinner, and then had some champagne with my husband to celebrate our one year anniversary of our move to NY and my one year anniversary of my Master’s graduation.
  • That I can probably talk to my doc about coming down on the dose of my generic Cymbalta. I went on it because it was reported to help with sleep for fibro patients. The days I exercise I sleep much more soundly than when I don’t, which is at least 4 days a week.

All in all, I have been feeling  better despite the marginal improvement in pain. All I can do is keep on hoping that, one day, things will come together and I will cease to be in chronic pain every day that interferes with my life as it does now and has done for years.

Stepping Up to the Health Plate

I must confess: I have a lazy streak.

I figure that lazy streak was my counterpoint to the intense, competitive drive I have used over the years both to propel me forward and avoid dealing with issues. A one-two punch!

Now, at least 10 years in the making, I have been riddled with fibromyalgia. I have managed to get my sleep issues under control by using melatonin and/or Cymbalta to get a better night’s sleep, having regular sleep hours, and not using the computer a couple of hours before bedtime.

One area where I have not managed to get my act together is my health. The main problem is consistency. In that I have none when it comes to exercise. I rejoined a gym in February after moving to NY, and I began to go to the pool to do my aqua therapy and attend water aerobics classes.

When I got a call from the gym staff saying that my fitness test was about to expire, I decided to go in. I had paid for it, so why not?

I should have been more suspicious.

After meeting with a very able trainer named Abir, I got brought to a desk to talk about training. While my BMI is in the middle of the normal range, my body fat cent was under 28% of my weight. Eek!! When I said I couldn’t pay the $55 a session, he went and got his manager.

I should know better by now what’s coming.

The manager of the club, John, was direct, straightforward, and firm. I could feel myself being played, but when he dangled a $35 a session fee in front of my face and told me that building muscle would help stretch out the myofascial pain spots, I was like Where do I sign up?!

And sign up for personal training for a 9 month period is what I did. I went in two days later to meet John for initial numbers. I get a book with my stats that gets updated every time I come in. I am so ready to get better. I will do this weight training thing if it kills me. If these guys can also get me a bikini body as a bonus, I will be flying high come next year. I have my first session tomorrow.

What I really want is to work hard, build up my body, and feel good again so I can live my life without pain. I want to become one of those people who have so much energy, that they can pursue their dreams to their fullest.

An Open Letter to Starbucks About Their Terrible Cafe Chairs

Dear Starbucks:

Once upon a time, you introduced a cafe that had comfy seating, including chairs that had ample cushions. Patrons could sit and relax, or work in a comfortable way. Although your cafe chairs had less cushioning, they were nonetheless chairs that you did not mind to use. Continue reading