Weight and Pain

http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/fibromyalgia/articles/obesity-fibromyalgia.php

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

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Accepting my Limits, Creating New Strengths

It is very difficult to accept limits on living your life. I have gone through this process before; during the first three years of my diagnosis of fibromyalgia. These last few years I have had a much harder time. Maybe it is because I am older now. Maybe it is because there are more than limits now. Or maybe I am just not willing to let go of my dream that I spent ten years creating. At the end of the day, none of this matters, I have to accept my new limits and create new strengths.

Just like the first three years of living with this chronic pain, my loved ones are tired of me being limited. They are tired of hearing about it. Tired of watching it and tired of helping me. I can not say I blame them as I am tired of it all as well. The disconnect that worries me the most is that they want me to fix it “now” and I am not capable of spinning a magic spell that will get there tomorrow. I am able to begin to plan steps to follow that will get me there, and, it is time to start.

Sure, they could go on and assist me indefinitely and I could continue to feel guilty and disempowered. But my mental health is on the line now. I need to affirm my new strengths. To start this process I need to know what they are. Just thinking about starting over again in this planning, journaling, and finding the new me is overwhelming. This makes taking even the first step daunting.

As daunting as it may be, I am beginning to take that step. I have begun to reorganize my home life in order to function within better. That is the first and most important step we all can take. Once we are able to feel empowered to handle at least some of our lives in our world, we can begin to find more hidden strengths.

I am beginning to realize that spending those ten years following my passion for social work, to assist persons in physical and mental distress, was not entirely a waste. I may not be able to do all that I learned, heck, I may be only capable of doing a small amount of it, but, I can still do it! I have started here, on this blog. I am beginning to branch out from this blog to more on social media. I have recently thought of what I might be able to create or offer to agencies out in the brick and mortar world.

None of this will occur tomorrow. It might take me a year, it might only be six months. I have put these ideas down in the section of my journal entitled, “Important Thoughts”. I use this journal daily. I will continue to take the time to work on my new strengths and stop focusing on my limits every day. We can all do this, I know we can..

Planning Ahead for the Unexpected, but Necessary, Outing

Yesterday, I added a fast post before leaving to go to the Emergency Room where my elderly mother-in-law had been admitted to a bed. This was her second trip in one day. These unexpected situations occur in everyone’s lives and as fibromyalgia survivors being prepared in advance takes away a lot the stress involved. Stress causes me to tense up my body which makes my tight muscles even tighter. There is also the emotional component of stress that can causes me and virtually any person a higher likelihood of developing tension headaches, tight muscles and exhaustion from emotions. This entire explanation could be simplified by using a more familiar phrase, the “fight or flight” response.

For those of us with fibromyalgia, this response is magnified greatly. I will not go into research on this topic but I have included links to the most recent and empirical research about our various systems and their responses, or lack of, in earlier posts (if you haven’t seen them, scroll down and investigate if you wish). As our response to this type of situation can create flares of greater pain, learning how to prepare for them becomes very important.

There are a few options and a few discussions about preparing for this. There are the options concerning having a pre-packed bag, backpack or other container and emotional readiness. I have lived Well with fibromyalgia for 16 years so I already have a mental list of what I need when I have to get out and go. I know what to throw together for a hospital visit or a visit that requires immediate travel for more than a day. If you are newer to living with chronic pain, I strongly suggest creating a list that is prominently displayed on your refrigerator, your front door or just kept in your purse. It is also always best to have your designated supporter or support system to also have a copy of this.

I knew what I needed to keep myself well physically; enough medication for up to seven hours, bottled water, a piece of fruit and a decent, healthy snack. I also included a distraction in the form of  “Find a Word” magazine. You may need other, equally important items. One item I chose not to bring was a back pillow. The ER screams germs, to me, and washing or throwing out a pillow was more work than I desired to deal with after this particular incident. Years of experience have taught me that despite my best practices of Well living I may experience flared pain the next day.

Emotionally, I paid attention to my heart rate and reminded myself to breath in deeply and exhale at a normal or slightly slower pace. I made the needed phone calls and discussed all the problems that could be occurring prior to arriving. Before entering the hospital, or insert another emergency place/visit here, I took a few meditative breathes and said my form of a prayer. I was able to calmly enter the ER and remained relaxed, assist the other relatives and interact with the medical social worker when she came to my mother-in-laws bed.

Creating a list for your emotional health is not as easy. Emotional health is learned. There are numerous internet sites on changing behaviors to change your thoughts and the emotions that pop up automatically. There is also meditation. Some may not be interested in learning meditation or practicing it. That is perfectly alright. I always say that we are all unique and need to learn our individual plans for living Well. I use to teach persons with physical disabilities and mental health issues a body scan to relax the muscles, which in turn relaxes the brain. This is something that is easy to learn and, as I informed the persons in these groups, once you know it you can sit down anywhere, on a bus bench or in your car to spend five minutes relaxing prior to continuing on your way.

The most important item to take with you whenever you go out for any reason is any needed medication. I have learned this the hard way! You might believe you are going out to buy groceries only. Then you run into a old friend and go for a cup of tea. Then the traffic is just not moving. There you are, in pain and unable to do anything about it. If creating a list seems overwhelming right now, put a large sticky note somewhere like your front door, reminding you to bring your medication. I overcome the need for this by just keeping one or two pills in a pillbox in my purse at all times.

*Links to simple meditation and emotional relaxing are posted in blog above this.

Happy today as my mother-in-law is alright and getting the assistance she needs,

Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Advisor

Living with Fibromyalgia, Non-Medical Assistance

Living with Fibromyalgia. The Fibromyalgia Network.

Here is the best link to helping us Peers with our ADL needs. This is another website that directly assists only Fibromyalgia survivors to live Well.

I have a Thera-Cane; it works really well for the spots on my back I can’t reach. I highly recommend it, with the accompanying book. View the second link for more information.

Amazon Thera-Cane, Book and more Books

Hugs

Lucinda, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Coach Advisor