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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Brief Fibromyalgia Health Update

Some of you know that I have fibromyalgia. It’s not a disease, but a syndrome of problems that results in, among other things, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and poor sleep. Towards the end of the last year, I began seeing an integrative medicine doctor in the city who prescribed me some supplements.

When I saw him in March, I said I did not think a few supplements were helping so I was stopping them. A month later, I was exhausted again and went back on. Lo and behold, my energy level rebounded in days. I had a follow up recently and told him about this. I also said that what I really wanted to see was an improvement in this chronic pain that I live with.

The pain is both chronic and changes little. Since summer began in earnest with high humidity and heat, I have been feeling worse. Warm and drier is good; hot and humid not so much, unless I’m at the beach. Bitter cold is no good, either. Being warm dressed on a semi-cold day feels nice. And what I mean by nice is a type of weather pattern that doesn’t somehow make my pain worse.

About 10 days ago, I bought a new powder multivitamin that an online integrative doctor sells. My real life integrative doc is friends with online doctor, and I have bought supplements from online doctor’s web site before. I had just finished a packet of multivitamins, but didn’t want to continue doing that. So I bought this powder that tastes very much like Tang.

And ever since I have been taking this multivitamin in my water every morning, I have had a lot more energy throughout the day. Even better than that, I have been able to tackle tasks around the house with ease. When I say ease, I mean that I simply do them after I decide to do them. When you live with pain and fatigue, sometimes the things you want to do don’t get any farther than ricocheting around your brain. After a while, you feel guilty because there are things you should be doing without an ounce of motivation to do them. The vitamins have brought me energy and removed the procrastination. Somehow.

Now the bigger mountain is the one built on pain. My doc suggested I increase one of my supplements called Ribose, which he has claimed has worked to help eliminate persist pain in his other fibromyalgia patients. I will let you know one way or the other. I can tell you know that, if the Ribose does work to eventually eliminate my pain, you will most likely found out when you hear my cry for joy instead of on this blog.

Here’s to hoping!

A Pursuit of Happiness

February is six months that I have been working with a trainer. I had hoped that working out would decrease the pain and increase the ability of my muscles to handle exertion, but it has not done so. I have gained muscle, lost fat, and seen my body reshape itself into a somewhat leaner one. My health and diet seem to be improving.

Because the pain medications I take do not address the underlying cause of my problem and because vitamin deficiencies I have are associated with these medications, I am in a slow, long-term process of testing whether I can reduce and eventually eliminate my pain medications.

Despite all this, I have been feeling blah and apathetic. I have made few attempts at writing in the last few months. I have been wasting a lot of time reading online news that depresses me; I seem to be addicted to certain Internet sites.

I am struggling with my online habits. I need to stop the time wasting and get back to the activities that made me happy last year: writing every or most days. I have been happiest when I have pursued activities that interest me, and I need to get back to that. I want the kind of happiness that is acquired via the pursuit of fulfilling activities. That’s writing. Exercising. Eating well.

And training my brain to be more upbeat and positive. Not working towards goals only keeps me feeling ‘depressed’ where ‘depressed’ is code for ‘bored’ and ‘not doing anything fun or useful to oneself.’ A dear friend posted a link to Shawn Achor, Harvard positive psychology professor and author of several books, including The Happiness Advantage and Before Happiness. First, I watched a 12-minute TED talk called The Happy Secret to Better Work followed by an hour-long talk he gave at Google. The Google talk includes the same content and wording that is included in the longer Google talk. I also bookmarked a few other talks on the subject of positive psychology.

In Shawn’s TED talk, he put up a slide called Creating Lasting Positive Change. Achor suggests that, for a 21 day period, you do the following:

  • Write 3 things for which you are grateful every day. Each day, write about 3 new things (Emmons & McCullough, 2003);
  • Once a day, journal about one good thing that happened to you in the last 24 hours. Our brains get to relive a happy memory twice, enhancing its effect (Slatcher & Pennebaker, 2006);
  • Exercise so that you train your body to know what feeling good feels like (Babyak et al., 2000);
  • Meditate to help your mind dampen down the negative states (Dweck, 2007); and
  • Perform random acts of kindness to share your positivity and goodness with others (Lyubomirsky, 2005). Goodness knows that the world needs it – desperately!

The effect of doing this is that it helps rewire your brain to start looking for the positive. We know how much negative news is out there. In fact, it’s almost like the understanding is that it’s not really news if it isn’t awful. I feel it happening to me when I read my news sites, when I scroll through my Facebook feed. Rants about politics, stories about people performing acts of hatred, mutilation, and murder on one another.

And then what? I’ve just spent hours reading negative material that drains my energy and doesn’t do anything for me because I’m not doing anything. How does something like that enhance me, my relationships, and the rest of the world? The short answer is that it does not. Something must change.

And the only thing that I can really count on to change is myself. I am the one who has to take the next positive steps – to stop reading news for hours, to put my writing first, to defer time wasters to the evening in timed segments so avoid the endless negative news absorption, and to change my outlook.

And begin writing every day again.

I can do this.

You can, too (whether writing or otherwise).

Learning to Love Lemon and Lettuce

As part of my attention to diet in addressing fibromyalgia, I have been paying a lot of attention to my meals. I used to think that breakfast was my easy dish to make and that lunches and dinners would be hard. Now I am finding that what I have actually done is to redefine breakfast.

What do I mean when I say I have redefined breakfast? I mean that I am looking at breakfast as my first meal of the day. Along with the first meal, I have been thinking of lunch as mid-day meal and dinner as evening meal so that I put them all on the same level.  Instead of relying on cereal, pancakes, and bacon and eggs, I have been attempting to ensure that each meal contains a healthy protein, a healthy fat, and healthy carbs.

When I focus on that combination instead of on the mental biases calling a meal breakfast/lunch/dinner, two things happen. One, I find that my breakfast dishes are more interesting because they have more variety. Two, I am eating better overall and getting more vegetables in my diet, especially salad.

Salad as part of breakfast? Yes!

I used to be horrified when I heard that people had steak and eggs for breakfast. To my mind, that was a dinner dish. The thought of eating steak and eggs first thing in the morning made my stomach turn. Recently, I have heated up leftover slices of steak and put the slices over a plate full of lettuce or mesclun mix. The best part of this is that I am getting more salad into my diet without having to designate an entire meal of salad and while eating more interesting meals. Cool!

Speaking about lettuce/salad brings me to another important discovery I have made: squeezing fresh lemon on food makes everything taste delightful! Instead of dressing, I have used only fresh squeezed lemon as a dressing on my greens, put it on my leftover rotisserie chicken, and even on top of steak. Yes, steak!

Lemon brings out the flavor of the meat and vegetables and is a lively taste on the palate. I myself feel brighter and refreshed after eating a meal where I’ve squeezed lemon over everything. Give it a try. Maybe you’ll love it like I do. When I told my mother, she exclaimed, “Giuseppe came back!” Apparently, my father used to squeeze lemon over everything, too, and was just as crazy about it. Hearing that made me happy.

In any event, I urge you: think of your meals as meals, not breakfast/lunch/dinner; stick lettuce under your protein; and squeeze fresh lemon juice over everything!

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.

Happy 2015!

Good resolutions … are simply cheques that men draw on a bank where they have no account.

~Oscar Wilde

Since moving into a small apartment last year, we’ve no longer had a television set. I don’t really miss it, except when I’m sick. Then I wish I could turn on the tube and stare at it mindlessly while images play across its screen. I assume that not having a TV is the reason that I have neither heard much about New Year’s resolutions or thought about it.

In years past, I made lists. What inevitably occurred is that I lost interest or failed to maintain effort. Soon the list was a reminder of my failures. I cursed my lists and threw them out a few months later, hoping I could get bring myself back out of the self-hating funk for not achieving my goals during the year.

For my 2014 resolutions, I decided to go with a short list of a few items, broadly written, so that I could have some flexibility as to how I could achieve my goal. In 2014, I wanted to write a book and get healthy. I started off with a lot of writing and have had my struggles to maintain it. In August, I began working out at the gym and making sure I put in my time four days a week.

For 2015, I have already decided to continue to focus on those two areas in my life: health and writing. For writing, I will continue to write in my blog here twice a week, and get back into my daily writing and book writing.

For health, I will try and figure out if I have any food issues through trial and error in the first few months of the year. I am in a Facebook group called FOODS for Fibromyalgia. Earlier this year, I bought access to a 12-week program devoting to helping you identify your health issues and perform a series of food challenges. I forgot all about it until recently. I started yesterday by listening to the weekly call and began charting what I ate in my food journal. On Sunday, I will be removing all foods with yeast in them for two weeks, followed by a reintroduction. I will be doing the same thing with dairy, gluten, and sugar.

I am deeply praying that I can get some relief by identifying offending foods and removing them from my diet. Being in pain everywhere on your body is no fun, and I really want to feel better. I watch the pain-free people I know moving on with their lives, following their dreams, and adding to their lives. I’m tired of living in my own shadows. I want to soar. Wish me luck.

And good luck to you in 2015!