Fibromyalgia can make you suffer for a long time from the agonising pain it causes. The majority of the affected individuals rely solely on painkiller medications to relieve their fibromyalgia symptoms, particularly pain. However, long-term use of painkillers exposes you to many side effects. Many of those pain relievers in your medicine cabinet can cause stomach ulcers, anemia secondary to persistent ulcer bleeding, liver damage, kidney problems, miscarriage, and more severe conditions such as internal bleeding within your stomach or intestine, and stomach perforation (hole) when used extensively.
Let me tell you this, there’s “no magic pill” to treat fibromyalgia because its exact cause is not yet clear to the medical community, but there are many ways to manage your pain and at the same time, save you from the debilitating side effects of chronic use of painkiller drugs.
In this article, I will share with you a different approach to managing your pain related to fibromyalgia. First, let’s have an overview of what fibromyalgia is and the indications that will tell you, “you are suffering from fibromyalgia.”
What Signs And Symptoms Indicate That You Have Fibromyalgia?
Ninety percent (90%) of the individuals diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women, and the remaining ten percent (10%) are men. This means out of 10 patients with fibromyalgia, 9 are females and there’s only 1 male diagnosed. It is not yet clear why this disabling musculoskeletal disorder is more prevalent in women, but factors like stress, traumatic events, repetitive injuries, illness and certain diseases (i.e. Irritable Bowel Syndrome) are associated with fibromyalgia.
When you have fibromyalgia, you experience unexplained chronic (long-term) pain and tenderness throughout your body that lasts for at least 3 months. The pain can be mild to severe and it affects your muscles, bones and joints.
Aside from the disabling body pain, fibromyalgia will make you feel excessively tired (fatigue) even after sleeping. Another problem is that the pain in this musculoskeletal disorder is sometimes excruciating enough to give you sleep problems, which is a significant factor why people with fibromyalgia experiences fatigue.
Many of those who have fibromyalgia have persistent headaches or migraines too. So when widespread body pain and headache occur simultaneously, don’t ignore it. Fibromyalgia and migraine usually coexist because both are believed to be the by-product of disturbances in your brain’s pain center. Difficulty in paying attention, focusing or concentrating on mental tasks is common in fibromyalgia as well.
The next thing you should watch out for is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The majority of fibromyalgia sufferers have IBS. A study using the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database revealed that the incidence of IBS was higher in patients with fibromyalgia, and the findings were associated with the common risk factors shared by these two functional disorders. When you have IBS, you will likely have persistent abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea and bloating.
Now, if you have the majority of the signs and symptoms mentioned above, especially the chronic widespread pain, then you’re most likely suffering from fibromyalgia.
As mentioned earlier, long-term use of pain relievers has many side effects. Most of the time you resort to using over-the-counter painkillers, the medications you may take without the doctor’s prescription. Over-the-counter medications are safe when taken at the proper dosage. However, sometimes when you feel desperate to relieve your body pains, you may end up overdosing yourself, which worsens the side effects. Hence, I highly recommend that you try other supportive pain management methods.
The The first thing that you may do is to follow an energy conservation plan.
#1 Relieve Fatigue and Other Fibromyalgia Symptoms By Using an Energy Conservation Plan
Conserving your energy is crucial in fibromyalgia because one of the debilitating symptoms of this disease is fatigue.
But, why is fatigue relief a key factor in managing fibromyalgia pain?
Pain and fatigue often occur simultaneously in fibromyalgia. The pain in fibromyalgia can be quite exhausting and at the same time, this pain intensifies when you are fatigued either physically or mentally. Does this make sense to you?
So how will you prevent or manage fatigue in fibromyalgia?
You need to learn to slow down and prioritise your tasks and obligations. Do not overwhelm yourself. Don’t force yourself to do everything beyond your limits. Learn to say “No” to extra activities that would exhaust your energy further. Just pick your top priorities for the day and do what you can. It is also best to tap your support system (family, friends, workmates) when you feel overwhelmed. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help in managing the household chores or other tasks at your workplace, especially when you are in pain. Most importantly, make sure to get adequate sleep each day. Lack of sleep is the primary cause of fatigue in most fibromyalgia cases.
Another way to ease your fibromyalgia pain is massage therapy.
#2 Try Massage Therapy to Relieve Fibromyalgia Symptoms
Massage therapy is one of the oldest yet effective methods in dealing with fibromyalgia pain. It moves your body’s soft tissues and muscles using different manipulative techniques.
And here are some reasons why I recommend massage therapy in managing fibromyalgia pain…
Fibromyalgia involves muscle and joint pain; hence, massage therapy is one of the effective ways to deal with it. Aside from relaxing your tensed muscles, massage also reduces pain by stimulating the body to release serotonin, the body’s natural pain-relieving chemical.
Moreover, people with fibromyalgia often have trouble sleeping, which is a contributory factor to fatigue and pain. Thus, massage therapy is helpful because it increases deep, restorative sleep.
Now, the question is “How will you choose the most appropriate massage therapy for fibromyalgia?”
You need to choose a massage therapist with experience in handling patients with fibromyalgia. In particular, look for a massage therapist who is specialized in Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy (MLDT). In a study finding, it was revealed that MLDT is more effective than regular massage in managing fibromyalgia pain. Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy can also help your body to dispose of body toxins and wastes efficiently. It improves blood flow and removes lymph obstructions that have been worsening your body pain.
The next effective way to ease your fibromyalgia pain is acupuncture.
#3 Manage Fibromyalgia Symptoms by Using Acupuncture
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese pain management technique that uses very fine, long needles.
Let’s look at why you should consider acupuncture in managing your fibromyalgia pain…
Acupuncture has been used for centuries. It is a safe technique. In certain studies, acupuncture was found to significantly improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia including pain, fatigue and anxiety.
How does acupuncture relieve your pain?
First and foremost, acupuncture affects the brain’s chemicals. It increases the release of endorphins, your ‘feel good’ hormones. It also stimulates the nerves in your muscles and tissues, which further increases the level of endorphins. As a result, significant changes in the processing of pain occur in your brain and spinal cord. Moreover, acupuncture improves the local microcirculation of blood that helps in relieving muscle stiffness and enhancing joint mobility. So, that’s how acupuncture provides pain relief.
But that’s not all! Last but not the least among the effective pain management techniques in fibromyalgia is Tai Chi or Qigong.
#4 Practice Tai Chi or Qigong for Fibromyalgia Pain Relief
Tai Chi, also know as Qigong, is an ancient Chinese exercise that combines meditation, physical posture and breathing techniques. This exercise focuses on cultivating your body’s vital energy to help strengthen and promote recovery of your ailing body systems.
Why is Qigong an effective pain reliever?
Any pain of various causes including the pain in fibromyalgia indicates an energy block. Tai Qigong specialises in maximising positive energy (known as CHI or Qi) flow in your body.
Moreover, meditation is integrated into Tai Qigong. Since fibromyalgia is also triggered by disturbances in the brain’s pain center, then an activity that calms the brain and changes the way it processes pain signals like meditation can provide pain relief.
Now, how can you get started with Tai Qigong?
There are local Tai Qigong teachers so you don’t necessarily need to go to China. Just search the Internet for “Qigong teacher or Qigong master + your location.” You may also practice at home whenever it’s convenient with the help of Qigong DVDs if you can’t find a local teacher. I suggest that you start with Bojan’s Qigong DVD and spend 20 minutes a day practicing Tai Qigong. For more details about Tai Qigong, you may read Bojan’s article HERE.
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