Breaking the Cycle
As a physical therapist with some forty years experience, I have treated thousands of patients with fibromyalgia. I am a certified specialist in arthritis through the American Physical Therapy Association. I am a former Tai Chi instructor through the Arthritis Foundation. I meditate regularly, and am considered an authority on diseases affecting the muscles, joints, and bones. This system is called the musculoskeletal system. My sub-specialty has been treating pain. Many years ago, I wrote the book called Stress Management: Does Anyone in Chicago Know About It? I traveled America teaching the public stress management techniques.
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition where painful sensations are amplified by the way your brain and spinal cord process pain signals. The pain is real. The pain is magnified. The pain can be debilitating for many. One major problem with fibromyalgia is that you look perfectly healthy. Outsiders, or even family members may think you are 'faking' the problem. Symptoms may include issues with sleep, fatigue, memory, and mood. Other symptoms may include an increase in depression and anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, tension headaches, and TMJ dysfunction. The common denominator is pain. Healthcare practitioners can struggle to find the best modality for your treatment. This may include medications, physical therapy, psychological counseling, and/or alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, massage therapy, or acupuncture.
The exact cause is uncertain. Cases have been reported following surgery, a physical trauma, infection, and/or psychological stress. There is no cure for the disease! There are some 109 different types of arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation classifies fibromyalgia as a type of arthritis because of the painful joints involved. The pain can change in intensity and in location. Pain is universally classified between 'one' and 'ten'. The rating of a 'one' is no pain. The rating of a 'ten' is that you have to go to the hospital. Any number over a 'six' is considered serious pain. People with this disease typically have pain over a 'six' on almost any given day. One day the pain might be in the neck, the next day in the lower back, and so forth. It is a troubling disease for those of us trying to help people with the problems, because of the widespread symptoms.
I would imagine that each of you reading this Blog have had pain at one time or another. If you would look back at that time, I ask what did you look like physically? How did you feel mentally? I would guess that nearly all of you would describe changes in posture and a sense of being depressed. When someone is in pain their posture changes dramatically. They slouch forward with the head pulled forward and down. Their shoulders are rounded, they bend forward at the low back, and appear as if they are trying to roll up into a ball. Let's say for a moment that you have an awful toothache. How would you feel emotionally? Do you feel like having a party, want to go dancing, or laugh? No, of course not. You may feel depressed. You may feel sad. You want to be left alone.
Depression with pain is a common syndrome. Why? I believe because we have no control over the pain. Pain then affects our ability to function. Physicians have found long ago that if pain can be reduced after surgery there is quicker healing. Now, imagine someone with fibromyalgia who is in this state every day! It's no wonder they would benefit from counseling. It's no wonder they have muscle problems from poor posture placing a strain on the muscles. It's no wonder tension headaches and TMJ Dysfunction occur because of the pain and the depression combined. As depression increases so does the anxiety level.
I believe the treatment should include visits with a physical therapist. He/She can evaluate your posture, determine areas of muscle tightness, teach you proper body mechanics (lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, etc.). If you are having tension headaches or TMJ Dysfunction, the physical therapist can assist you. As with any medical treatment, ask what kind of experience the therapist has regarding your main problems. There are many excellent therapists - then there are the 'others'. The therapist may be able to direct you to classes on arthritis or even where you will find yoga instructors. All this must be combined with medications controlled by your physician. Also psychological counseling can be a great tool.
There is no proven research that avoiding certain foods helps eliminate fibromyalgia. We do know that managing your lifestyle can be beneficial. Remember, there is no cure. Here are some ways to evaluate your lifestyle:
- Find quiet time for yourself where you may even meditate
- If you are overweight, lose the weight
- Work on Stress Management techniques
- Learn deep breathing exercises
- Massage Therapy may give temporary relief
- Attend classes in your community involving neck and/or low back pain prevention
- Use your prescribed medications as directed
- Do all exercises given to you by your physical therapist
- Address your depression. Do you abuse drugs or alcohol? Are you a victim of abuse?
Be sure to watch my book trailer about child abuse from alcoholic parents. The book is called "The Shade Tree Choir". The trailer is located at the top of this Blog with the book cover.