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Diary of a high-functioning Fibromyalgia [part 2]

So far, you’ve read my perspective on the start of my journey with Fibromyalgia. My intention in writing this is to share my unshakable belief that myself and my fellow sufferers can overcome this. I also have the desire to raise an awareness of how real this condition is and to eventually encourage more studies to be done in order to find a cure.

Staying Positive

How do I deal with the condition, you ask? Well, I’ve learned how to listen to the pain and instead of feeling defeated by it, I found a way to channel my “quiet days” into something productive. For example, due to the aches and pains in most parts of my body, I would sit upright on my bed and read a book or listen to music. I call it the “quiet days” because some people I know who suffer from this condition liked to call it the “bad days”.  I personally think that calling it something so negative is not going to help you stay positive. Being positive about your down moments are the best medicine. If you are like me and are easily stimulated by smells and temperature, then I would recommend an essential oils burner. I would have it going for a few hours and sit with my hot water bottle while reading. Some of my favorite “quiet days” activities are drawing, crocheting and doing research.

I have found that winter can the hardest time to manage the pain. Therefore keeping myself warm at all time is crucial. I kept my mind active and entertained with things such as drinking aromatic tea like the Lady Grey or Jasmine Green Tea while reading or illustrating. My all-time favorite tea actually comes from my home country, Indonesia. They call it the “bottle tea”, I guess it is the same generic name that we use for “gumboot tea” here in New Zealand. Its aroma would fill the kitchen and it helps me stay positive throughout the day.

Exercises Regularly

Although I haven’t mentioned anything about exercising doesn’t mean that I disregard it completely. I have to be very careful here when advising a fibromyalgia sufferer to set a workout regime. I found that different people have a different capacity that only they themselves know. As I mentioned earlier in the previous post, I have tried just about anything from walking, running, to a low-level workout such as yoga. I know a few people benefit from yoga, myself included (Carville et al, 2007). Though, you have to be careful not to overdo it. This is my ongoing challenge, to recognize my limit, when to push on and when to stop. When I do about 10-15 mins walking, I feel fantastic for 3 days. Then when I thought I would notch it up to a 5 mins running, my body starts to feel worse. When I do about 10 mins of yoga and felt great for weeks, but when I do 20 mins, my body suffers for weeks. So, if you ask me, I don’t think I can give you a definite answer as to what type of workout would be best. As it is different for other people who are struggling with the same condition. It is up to them to find out where their limit is and how they can commit to sticking with it. This is it’s own physical and mental discipline. Don’t give up, finding what works for you is liberating and totally worth it!

Massages

I personally think that massage is one of the best treatment in dealing with “quiet days”. I wouldn’t recommend the hardcore Asian massage therapy. They would do anything to get rid of those tight knots in your tender points. I have tried them myself and I can assure you, it doesn’t help. In fact, you will feel like you’ve been bruised and battered for days afterward, which is the worse feeling you can have. So, last year, I bought myself an electric TENS therapy unit. I use it on the back of my neck, the lower back, and legs. Studies have shown that Fibromyalgia sufferers have a significant benefit from this treatment (Dailey et al, 2013) (Noehren et al, 2015) (Vance et al, 2014). Sometimes, when the pain gets too much, I attach the electrodes on my body before going to work, and activate them on my break time. 10 mins on the machine is all I need to ease the pain and get back to work again.

Medications

Studies have shown that anti-depressants have a role in treating the nervous system of Fibromyalgia patients. My doctor prescribed me two anti-depression drugs that target different parts of the symptoms. First, I was prescribed Fluoxetine (also known as Elavil) for 6 months. I noticed my mood was definitely improved but the pain remained. Although it may seem like a superficial fix, I certainly felt much better. It gave me the energy to stay positive and the ability to manage the pain significantly. Then 6 months later, the doctor put me on Amitriptyline (commonly known as Prozac), which is usually used to treat people with chronic pain, however, this drug specifically helps my sleeping pattern (Goldenberg et al, 1996) (Millea & Holloway, 2000) (Moret & Briley, 2006). I have taken both of these drugs at night an hour or two ahead of bedtime. Occasionally, I would take one Magnesium tablet to help assist sleep even better. I also found, taking a regular Vitamin B complex and Vitamin D has also significantly help me to get through my days at work, I take them together with Omega-3 tablets with breakfast. Although these medications sound like a lot for one person to take I personally have benefited from them all.

You may not be a big fan of this one, but I have found a significant improvement from consuming Apple Cider Vinegar. I know, it doesn’t taste great but you can mix it in a juice or honey or tea. You also don’t need a lot, just one teaspoon mixed in your drink twice a day, one glass in the morning and another before bed. It also comes with an added benefit like weight loss! Double bonus I’d say. 🙂

Now, I want to be clear that I am not a doctor or certified medical professional. If you are a Fibromyalgia patient reading this and considering these medications, you MUST seek advise through your doctor first! I cannot stress enough the importance of having proper medical advise that comes from a proper channel.

References:

  1. Carville, S. F.Arendt-Nielsen, S.Bliddal, H.Blotman, F., Branco, J. C., Buskilla, D., Da Silva, J. AP., Danneskiold-Samsøe, B., Dincer, F., Henriksson, C., Henriksson, K., Kosek, E., Longley, K., McCarthy, G. M., Perrot, S., Puszczewicz, M. J., Sarzi-Puttini, P., Silman, A., Späth, M., Choy, E. H. (2007). EULAR evidence-based recommendations for the management of fibromyalgia syndrome. 
  2. Dailey, D. L., Rakel, B. A., Vance, C. G., Liebano, R. E., Anand, A. S., Bush, H. M., Sluka, K. A. (2013). Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) reduces pain, fatigue, and hyperalgesia while restoring central inhibition in primary fibromyalgia. Pain154(11), 2554–2562. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pain.2013.07.043
  3. Goldenberg, D. et al. (1996) A randomized, double-blind crossover trial of fluoxetine and amitriptyline in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Arthritis Rheum, 18521859. https://www.jwatch.org/jp199701010000018/1997/01/01/fluoxetine-amitriptyline-or-both-fibromyalgia
  4. Noehren, B., Dailey, D. L., Rakel, B. A., Vance, C. G. T., Zimmerman, M. B., Crofford, L. J., & Sluka, K. A. (2015). Effect of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation on Pain, Function, and Quality of Life in Fibromyalgia: A Double-Blind Randomized Clinical Trial. Physical Therapy95(1), 129–140. http://doi.org/10.2522/ptj.20140218
  5. Millea, P. J., Holloway, R. L. (2000). Treating fibromyalgia. Am Fam Physician. 62(7):1575-82, 1587. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/1001/p1575.html
  6. Moret, C., & Briley, M. (2006). Antidepressants in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment2(4), 537–548.
  7. Vance, C. G., Dailey, D. L., Rakel, B. A., & Sluka, K. A. (2014). Using TENS for pain control: the state of the evidence. Pain Management4(3), 197–209. http://doi.org/10.2217/pmt.14.13