I recently wrote a blog piece about my lowered pain levels, or remission state, from my fibromyalgia pain. In that piece, I concluded that a year-long illness I went through, which resulted in a large weight loss was the contributing factor, so I have decided to follow it up with some actual research into this connection. And indeed, losing weight has had medical validity in pain intensity for many years now (see above link). My doctors always told me to lose weight, and to exercise. The discussion of exercise also been a popular thread among my peers in online support rooms. Most stating it as helpful, if not with weight, at least with a healthier, happier state of mind.
I was always conflicted about this idea. I would come away from the doctors or the thread feeling shame and anger. It’s easy to tell someone with constant pain that they should get out there and walk, or swim, but it’s not so easy for that person to do. I know that just walking the dog could trigger pain for the entire next day; a very large price to pay! I want to interject here that while that is “not” occurring for me right now, it is apples to apples that it will start happening again soon (I have never experienced a remission of pain for this long, not in all my 17 years of living with fibromyalgia). Another point, in my current relief condition, is that I do still have medium pain every several days and a flare-up of pain large enough to send me to bed for the day every 7-9 days, so as I write this I am clear that this piece on weight and exercise applies to me as well as my peers. I felt shamed because I simply couldn’t create a routine of regular exercise, not with the pain threshold I live with. Anger followed because it was easier to project this feeling onto the doctors and my peers then it was to look deep inside myself and take personal responsibilty for my choices.
After losing all the weight and feeling the relief of waking up everyday at a pain level of 4 instead of the years of 5-6, I now feel ashamed that I didn’t try harder a long time ago. Lately I walk my dog farther every day then I did before, even when my pain level is at a raging 8. I make time to walk a slow three miles at least once a week. I am getting a donated recumbent exercise bike for the winter and will be applying for a low-income monthly membership to my local YMCA where I intend to use the swimming pool, take water aerobic classes, and indulge in some gentle and light weight lifting. I am also looking into finding a free, local Tai Chi group.
I have not turned into an overnight super athlete, far from it. With the evidence of research and my own, personal experience it is obvious that the adage, “no pain, no gain” is true. I certainly can not do all of these items weekly, but I can integrate them into an alternating monthly schedule. I will need to start slowly! My upper body is triggered very easily, simply driving the car for more than hour creates triggers in my shoulders, neck, and then head muscles (just typing this is aggravating my trapveious muscles). I am planning to begin exercising in chunks and in no more than 20 minute intervals. I will track what I actually do in my journal and then track how I feel immeaditely after, that night, and the next day. After a month or two of alternating exercising styles and journaling the resulting pain or no pain increase, I should be able to create a program that is tailored to my needs. Losing weight has definitely helped both my pain and my attitude, I am sure my seretonin levels are higher than they were, what a blessing it is for any of us to gain this important nuerotransmitter back. Despite the gift of this gain, losing so much weight has left me with wasted muscle mass (as we age we “useit or lose it”). I am keenly aware that if I don’t start now, I may never start.
I try to share healthy, successful, positive living ideas in this blog. It would be hypocritical for me to share them and not live them myself. Besides, I love the hope of staying in a state of less pain! Try to find your weight loss path. Decide which exercise routine fits for you. Then, start tomorrow. XX