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Fibro Fridays: Aquatic Therapy

Happy Friday! We’ve been enjoying lots of hot, sunny days in central Virginia and, I’m not gonna lie, I’ve loved every minute of it!

Today is Fibro Friday, and I wanted to move away from discussing the pain and frustration of the condition, and move towards talking about ways to reduce pain and improve our quality of life. So I’ll spend a few weeks talking about treatments that work.

Of all of the treatments I’ve employed in my fibromyalgia journey, aquatic therapy was, hands down, one of the most effective. I spent two days per week in a heated pool, where I did careful stretching and conditioning exercises. The exercises were designed to stretch the muscles gently and to begin restoring flexibility and strength to previously stiff and achy body parts.

Water is a healer

After spending time in the pool, I noticed that my range of motion was better, and my pain was decreased. I won’t lie: those aquatic exercises EXHAUSTED me. I slept so well after each visit. But that was a good thing; as someone that experiences awful bouts of insomnia, a good nights’ sleep is a dream come true.

Along with the physical benefits of stretching in a warm pool, there were other unexpected positive side effects. I find that water stokes my creativity, so my mind felt clearer and rejuvenated after each visit. I also found my confidence in my body’s abilities growing with each session. You see, fibro made me quite unsure of what my body can do, since the condition significantly impaired my energy levels and range of motion. But the weightlessness I experienced in the pool reminded me of what I was like before fibro took its toll.

I haven’t gone to aquatic therapy since last year. My pain levels are far more manageable now so I don’t need this particular treatment any more. However, at the time, this worked extremely well for my pain, and I recommend it for anyone that is experiencing muscle discomfort or chronic pain.

That’s it for today! I hope you all continue to remain safe and take care of yourselves. Have a great weekend!

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Fibro Fridays: My Difficult Diagnosis Journey

As promised, I’m back to share with you my journey to diagnosis. I’ve discussed some aspects of this journey before, but I really wanted to share additional details of what was involved with getting diagnosed. It’s really easy for me to focus on the immediate months leading up to my diagnosis, but, in all honesty, my diagnosis was a nearly 5-year journey of doctors’ visits and frustrating experiences before I confirmed what was happening with my body.

I had two primary care doctors throughout the time that I’ve suffered from fibro symptoms. My first doctor didn’t see anything concerning on my bloodwork, but she believed me when I said that I felt unwell. She referred me to a rheumatologist for clarity (an appropriate response), because some autoimmune conditions cannot be determined from basic blood testing. I visited the rheumatologist, who seemed to understand that I was experiencing extraordinary stress along with physical discomfort. However, after completing one round of blood tests, she ended up dismissing my concerns (as you all may know, fibromyalgia cannot be determined by blood testing, which is why some medical professionals deny its existence). I was discouraged by my pain but also relieved that I was not suffering from an autoimmune condition.

I continued to battle my symptoms and found myself vacillating between less pain and more pain, but never experiencing a complete absence of pain. After the first doctor decided to retire from medicine, I started working with a second doctor, who repeated the blood work 3 years after my last round of testing. This doctor also didn’t see anything concerning on my blood testing, but she attributed my symptoms to stress and a demanding daily routine. She didn’t seem to believe that my physical symptoms were real and not easily remedied by minor lifestyle changes.

After having a horrible symptom flare, I knew that I had to take my health into my own hands. I directly contacted a rheumatology office that had good reviews and scheduled my appointment sans referral (I have a PPO for this reason: waiting for referrals can be frustrating). I had already been discussing my symptoms with friends, and more than one of them mentioned fibro as a possibility. I did a little research and was able to clearly communicate my concerns with the rheumatologist. Less than one month later, I had a diagnosis confirming that I was indeed suffering from fibromyalgia.

I “fired” my primary care doc and got a new doctor that was far better for me and my condition. I worked with several specialists and finally started to feel better for the first time in years. The journey wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. I’m just glad that it only took me a few months from the time that I took control of my healthcare to get a diagnosis: for that, I’m fortunate. I know intimately how this process can take many years and many tears, and anyone suffering from this condition has my sympathy and empathy. This path isn’t for the weak, which is why some have labeled themselves “fibro warriors”.

If you have a fibro warrior in your life, please send them a little loving energy: this isn’t an easy experience, and many are doing the best that they can.

That’s all for this week. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe 4th of July weekend. Take care!

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Fibro Fridays: My Five Favorite Spoonie Essentials

Happy Friday! I hope you all had an amazing week and an amazing weekend ahead! It’s Fibro Friday, so I’m sharing some more tidbits from my fibromyalgia journey. One of the things I’ve noticed is that there are a few items that I keep nearby (especially during flares) to make my life a little easier and more pleasant. Here are five of my favorite “spoonie” essentials (if you want to know more about “spoonies” and Spoon Theory, you can read my post here). If you have some essentials that you think should be on my list, please share in the comments!

If I had to toss my spoonie essentials into a backpack, these are the ones I would include.

Knee pillow – Sometimes, my trigger points can be especially sensitive, to the point where it hurts for the insides of my knees to touch one another. When this happens, I love using a knee pillow for relief. There are knee pillow designed for side, back, and stomach sleepers. I have two knee pillows, but this one is my favorite.

Magnesium cream – I’ve written about this before, so if you want more information, you can check out this previous Fibro Friday post.

Ginger candy – This is one that I suspect a lot of spoonies keep nearby, because they are so handy and effective. Sometimes, even if you don’t have a digestive condition (such as IBS or chronic nausea symptoms), you will still find yourself feeling a bit nauseous. Fibro is a condition of nerve dysfunction and improper nervous perception, so there’s an element of unpredictability with the symptoms. In any case, nausea can flare up unexpectedly, and ginger candy can be great for soothing upset stomachs. I’m including the link to my current preferred ginger candy (you can probably find it for a much better price in stores, but if you can’t find it, this Amazon link may help). I prefer a stronger ginger flavor, so ginger mints are my favorite. However, I’m also including the link to a milder version that I used years ago, which are also effective.

Kindle E-reader – When I’m spending a lot more time in bed, I like having my Kindle e-reader nearby. My Kindle is OLD (LOL!) but it still works well. The most economical Kindle available right now is less than $100 USD but it is a great item to have, especially if you’re a bibliophile like me. I love that Kindle e-readers retain their charge much longer than my cellphone, and it’s far more portable than my laptop. Here is the basic black Kindle e-reader.

Easy-to-prepare foods – Some days are more exhausting than others. When I simply don’t have the energy to prepare an elaborate meal, I enjoy having a few easy-to-prepare foods around the house. I love instant soups, noodles, and even protein shakes that take less than five minutes to prepare. The local international grocers have a lot of healthier quick meals than typical grocers, so I generally prefer to shop there. However, one of my favorite meals is by Tsubi Soups (I’ve written about it here) and I can only order it online.

That’s all for this week! I hope your weekend is spectacular, and I’ll be back on Monday. Take care and be safe!

*This post contains affiliate links.

fitness · health

Fibro Fridays: My Fibromyalgia Library

Happy Friday! This week has been pretty good overall, even though the weather here in central Virginia has been gloomy and rainy. I suppose I should be thankful for the rain that keep my flowers growing, but can we get a little sunshine, too? I know the sunnier days will return soon: I just have to be patient.

This week’s Fibro Friday will be all about the books in my “fibro library”. While the Internet has been a fantastic resource for learning more about this complex condition, I still enjoy reading books that can give me some insight into fibro. I have several books that I’ve used in learning about fibro as well as ways to give myself some relief from the symptoms. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with this condition, perhaps these books will be helpful to you.

My first recommendation is Career or Fibromyalgia, Do I Have to Choose? by Karen R. Brinklow. This book was one of the firsts that I read on my fibro journey. It’s actually what inspired me to hire a fibro coach last year, to help me manage this transition into a new lifestyle. My coach, Julie, was fantastic and instrumental in helping me to see that fibro can be managed and my life can still be full of fun and meaning.

This next book, 12 Healing Herbal Recipes: Herbal Medicine The Delicious Way by Mary Thibodeau, is a light read that I enjoyed tremendously. The book has little facts sprinkled through it, and has information about foods and spices that can help heal the body. I love the emphasis on the fact that we can use food as medicine, and, by giving our bodies the nutrients that they need, we can alleviate some of the symptoms that we experience.

Next, Beyond Powerful: Your Chronic Illness is Not Your Kryptonite by Lala Jackson is an inspiring read about the many “superpowers” that come to the fore when you’re faced with a chronic illness. Jackson doesn’t have fibromyalgia, but her examples and advice easily apply to any chronic condition.

Finally, Taking Back My Health and Happiness: Hope and Healing from Chronic Pain, Fatigue, and Invisible Illness by Marie Anne June L. Tagorda is an inspirational book that also outlines a step-by-step wellness plan that can be used to improve your health. This book does a good job of addressing the physical and metaphysical aspects of illness. I’ll admit: I’ve read the book but haven’t committed to completing the steps yet. But when I do, I’ll be sure to share my results on this blog!

That’s all for my fibro library! I hope this information helps you to forge a path to wellness, or, if you don’t have fibro, I hope that these books will give you additional insight into this condition so that you can better understand the symptoms.

Have a great weekend, and take care!

These are affiliate links featured in the post, but rest assured, I purchased each of these books with my own money and I’m only sharing what has worked for me 🙂

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Fibro Fridays: Why It’s Difficult to Treat Fibromyalgia

Happy Friday, friends! Today’s post is one that I’ve been eager to write, because I feel that explaining this (from the perspective of someone living with fibromyalgia) may give a little clarity to others that are struggling with their diagnosis, or may help people that are unfamiliar with the condition to better understand why there is no easy “fix” for fibro.

Whenever you try to learn about fibromyalgia online or directly from a medical professional, there is generally a lack of consensus on the causes of the condition. The condition is treated as a bit of a “catch-all” category for a set of uncomfortable (to the point of painful) symptoms. This “catch-all” designation is one reason why there are still some medical professionals that continue to deny the existence of fibro (I already wrote a post touching on this topic).

In any case, the overall lack of understanding behind the WHY of fibro leaves a lot of questions regarding the HOW of treatment. Different root causes call for different treatment protocol. However, fibromyalgia can be linked to muscular, nervous and even digestive malfunctions, so most treatment is, at best, akin to a game of darts. Medical professionals will try to hit the “bullseye”, and many treatments can offer a level of relief, but it seems that no one has hit the “bullseye” of fibromyalgia – YET.

Prescription medication is one treatment option for fibromyalgia

There are many researchers that are getting closer to an agreed-upon definition of fibromyalgia, including its root causes. However, until consensus is achieved, we have an assortment of treatments that can be explored and that may have varying levels of effectiveness. Many of the most popular treatments include physical therapy, aquatic therapy, acupuncture, prescribed medication, nutritional supplements, lifestyle overhaul and lots of intentional self care (which is, by far, usually the most effective treatment [maybe I’ll write more about this in the future]), chiropractic care, etc.,. The trick to managing the symptoms is finding the perfect cocktail of treatments, along with having an excellent support system and medical team in your corner.

Well friends, that’s it for this Fibro Friday! I hope you all have a great weekend, and I’ll talk to you on Monday. Take care!

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Fibro Fridays: Magical Magnesium

Happy Friday, friends! We’ve survived another week and I’m happy to give you some more tips and insights into the fibromyalgia (and chronic pain) experience.

Magnesium is a great tool to have in your pain relief kit

Recently, I spoke to one of my friends that has also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and she commented on how achy she’s felt recently. When I asked her if she has been taking a magnesium supplement, she immediately went and took her daily dose. As it turns out, she’d been neglecting this supplement (this is very easy to do when you’re taking a handful of prescriptions and supplements daily). She felt relief rather quickly and thanked me for reminding her.

As I shared in my May empties post, I take chelated magnesium daily. I’ve found magnesium to be somewhat magical. This element is crucial to a multitude of biological functions and works extremely well in relieving pain in the chronically ill. Magnesium is one of the most powerful elements that our body needs, yet roughly 70% of Americans are magnesium deficient. Magnesium deficiency contributes to poor utilization of calcium, fatigue, mental disorders, nerve and muscle dysfunction and, of course, chronic pain.

What’s amazing about magnesium is that it may be even more effective when applied topically than when consumed orally (I’m still doing research on that, though several websites have confirmed that topical application is preferable). So, along with the oral magnesium supplement, I keep a topical magnesium cream nearby for especially painful days. The cream I use is Frida Botanicals Magnesium Cream (fyi this is not an affiliate link or a paid endorsement: I purchase this product with my own money).

I want to share this tidbit for anyone that is trying to improve their overall health and to help reduce pain in the body. Try magnesium and see how it works: you may find that it really helps your pain levels!

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Fibro Fridays: Why It’s Hard to Get a Diagnosis

Happy Fibro Friday, friends! It’s been a fantastic week, and I’m positive that the weekend will be full of even more JOY and delight!

One of the things that I consider when reflecting back on my fibromyalgia journey is how long it took to get an accurate diagnosis. For years, I had symptoms of fibro yet it took me being completely out of commission (in bed for weeks at a time, unable to sleep for more than 2-3 hours, intense physical pain) before I got close to an accurate diagnosis.

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As it turns out, my experience isn’t unusual. In fact, most fibro sufferers take more than two years to get diagnosis. This statistic is appalling, considering the pain and diminished quality of life that we experience while we wait to get some clarity on what’s going on with us.

I have a few theories on why it takes so much time to be diagnosed. I’m sure that there are more reasons why this happens, but these are the reasons that I experienced, and I’m sure that many others with fibro can relate to at least one of these scenarios.

  • Fibro symptoms often mimic other conditions. Many times, primary care physicians (PCPs) will diagnose you as being depressed (which is a frequent comorbidity of fibro), having muscle strains, or suffering from a viral infection (again, this can often occur with fibro patients). As a result, the PCP, in an attempt to make a conservative diagnosis, ends up “under-diagnosing” (yes, I know that isn’t a word, but bear with me LOL!) their patients. And when this happens, it creates a delay in getting an accurate diagnosis.
  • Primary care doctors are hesitant to refer to rheumatologists unless there is conclusive test results indicating some sort of auto-immune issue. When having blood work done, your primary care may see unusual results . . . Or not. And if everything looks “normal”, they will often doubt that you need to be referred to a specialist. I have a whole story about this, and I will share it in a future post.
  • Some PCPs deny the validity of fibromyalgia. The vast majority of physicians believe that fibro is a real condition, but there is still a minority that aren’t convinced of the seriousness of the condition. If your PCP doesn’t believe that your condition is real, how likely is it that you will get an accurate diagnosis?
  • Some PCPs are very unfamiliar with fibro as a condition, and, while well-intentioned, they may overlook this common but still mysterious diagnosis.
  • Using a variety of PCPs, or having more impersonal relationships with care providers, makes it difficult to determine your “baseline” condition and what symptoms are truly abnormal for you. This is especially relevant for those that have milder chronic pain symptoms or higher pain tolerances. If you aren’t experiencing major, life-altering discomfort and inconvenience, it may not be apparent to a new physician (or a physician that doesn’t know you well) that you are experiencing abnormal pain.

These are just a few of the reasons why getting an accurate fibro diagnosis usually takes quite some time. Even though my symptoms were mild at first, they eventually intensified. It took me becoming incapacitated to get diagnosed, and even that occurred nearly two months after I was in bed for weeks at a time. My advice to anyone that suspects that they have fibro is to get a referral to a rheumatologist as quickly as you can (if you have an HMO), or, if you have a PPO (like I do) contact a well-reviewed rheumatology office and schedule an appointment yourself. It may take some time, but an accurate diagnosis and the right medical team can make a world of difference in your health and quality of life.

That’s all for this Fibro Friday. Have a fantastic weekend!

health · life curation

Fibro Fridays: A Thought on Spoon Theory

Happy Friday friends! We survived another week and here’s hoping that we are all feeling great as the weekend begins.

I was just thinking about how much things have changed since my fibro diagnosis last year, as well as the concepts and terminology that has become second nature to me due to fibro. One of the most fascinating concepts that I’ve heard about is spoon theory. This principle speaks to the finite energy stores possessed by the chronically ill, as well as how easy it is to fall into an energy deficit, resulting in the inevitable “crash” phase.

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The Spoon Theory essay was written by Christine Miserandino, and I love that this simple teaching has offered such an accurate visual representation of the daily reality of chronically ill individuals. Once we have used up our energy, the results of exceeding our limitations can be devastating in the days and weeks to come. Also, it illustrates how having casual/less active days can allow us to “save up” energy for anticipated intense days.

I’ve shared this theory with friends and relatives so that they can better understand what I experience. It’s hard to describe the specific feelings that I may have each day, but I can easily tell you if I’ve used too many spoons in the previous days, or if, on a particular day, I have a lot of spoons at my disposal. It’s very useful for quantifying my energy levels on any given day.

If you really want a better understanding of chronic illness, I highly encourage you to read the Spoon Theory essay for yourself. If you’ve already read it, let me know your thoughts in the comment below!

Those are my views on Spoon Theory. I hope you all are doing well, and enjoy your weekend!

 

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Fibromyalgia Awareness Day

I try to bring awareness to fibromyalgia every week via my Fibro Friday posts, but I wanted to spend this Tuesday, Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, as an opportunity to share some of my insights about my condition.

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(Photo credit)

My fibro journey has been an absolute roller coaster at times. There have been some intense highs (finding occasional relief and modifying my lifestyle to make things easier for me), and some dramatic lows (which I won’t be reliving here on the blog LOL!) In any case, I’ve learned so much from this experience, and despite the discomfort, I’m thankful for this condition.

Yes, I’m thankful for fibro.

If I hadn’t been diagnosed with fibro, I would have continued to overwork myself, abuse my body through inconsistent sleeping, and deny that a deeper part of myself needed healing. My fibro forced me to slow down, learn how to really care for myself, and start taking the steps to live an authentically healthy lifestyle. Fibro led me to relocating to my dream home (which is closer to my healthcare team), find work that wasn’t mentally draining, and gave me an opportunity to spend more time at home with my family.

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Fibro forced me to re-examine the balance within my life

Most importantly, living with fibro taught me to ask for help and to allow others to help me. I was so independent and “strong”: I never felt the need to ask for help. But now I’ve learned to rely on my wonderful support network and I can really appreciate the way that my love ones have rallied around me.

Fibro was the most painful gift I’ve ever received, and I’m grateful for it.

I can’t speak for everyone diagnosed with fibro, but as for me, I see the silver lining to this “purple cloud”. And I’m okay with how things are unfolding for me.

That’s all for today. If you know anyone suffering from fibro or another chronic illness, please send them some love today. Take care!

fitness · health

Fibro Fridays: Yoga for Fibro Relief

Happy Friday, friends! We’ve completed another week, and aren’t we happy for that? This first full week of May was pleasant, despite the fact that we’re all still adjusting to our collective new normal.

As a person managing fibromyalgia symptoms, I look for relief from multiple sources. I prefer to supplement my prescription and alternative medicine routine with physical activity that is gentle, effective and easy to do at home. For that reason, I turned to yoga tutorials on YouTube to help me to stay active and reduce physical pain.

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I’ve tried several different tutorials and I have a few that I can recommend. I hope that you can use these to get pain relief and feel better!

Firstly, Shima Flow Yoga’s Yoga for Fibromyalgia is the gentlest routine that I’ve used, and I always feel so good after I do it. It’s the perfect length (a little under 30 minutes) and doesn’t require any special equipment. I highly recommend this one!

Next, Sleepy Santosha’s Gentle Yoga for Fibromyalgia is a little longer than the previous video (a tad over 30 minutes) but is still a good one. This channel is really good because the yogi is a chronic pain sufferer, so she’s mindful of our physical limitations. I noticed that the routine is a bit more intense that the previously mentioned video, but I like that this channel does have multiple videos specifically for fibro.

Finally, when I’m pressed for time, I go to Shima Flow Yoga’s abbreviated Yoga for Fibromyalgia video. This video is less than 15 minutes and you can pace it as quickly or as slowly as you like.

Let me know if you try any of these videos, and how well they work for you. I’ll talk to you all next week. Take care, and enjoy your weekend!