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Preparing for the Postpartum Period with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia

All areas around bearing children with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia are sorely lacking in readily available knowledge. The postpartum period is a mystery to all women, but when there is a chronic illness in the mix it is vital to be prepared. In the Pregnancy and Parenting with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia Facebook group (which you are welcome to join if you are a female considering children, are pregnant or have children) we talk through all of the areas regularly.

Recently though, I realised I hadn’t addressed the postpartum period here on the blog. Mostly because I have no idea how much of my experience was unique to the chronic illness and how much was “normal” to all postpartum periods.

Preparing for the postpartum period with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia: the top five tips

If you have seen the Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia eCourse you will know that as part of that we make plans for coping during delivery and those early weeks and the Postpartum Checklist I have created will now be available as a special bonus for enrolling in the course. Also, for the month of August, while we promote the latest edition of Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia book (updated to reflect my third journey) purchasers can email me proof of purchase and receive the checklist free too. Look out for my next post which will discuss things to consider prior to trying to conceive which will include another handy checklist that will also come with it.

So what are my top five things to consider for the postpartum period as a mama who has done this three times?

Arm yourself with knowledge

The first step is always to arm yourself with knowledge. You need to know what to expect during a “normal” postpartum period and what might occur as a mama with fibromyalgia, chronic pain, chronic fatigue.
 As a good start you can check out my Pregnancy Resources page.
 Learn about breastfeeding, expressing, formula feeding and mix feeding so you are prepared for whatever happens. Take advantage of your midwife or doctor’s experience but disregard what doesn’t work for you. Take the knowledge that you can mix feed in so it doesn’t feel like all or nothing if breastfeeding is a kick in the pants.

Have your natural pain relief mechanisms down

Not only crafted a list, but actually use them so often that they are second nature to reach for. In the pregnancy and nursing period, the more natural options the better. This is not to say medicine doesn’t have a place, but natural options are vital. See this post for My Top Five Natural Pain Relief Mechanisms.

Research and discuss medicinal options with your doctor/medical team

Be prepared before you have had the baby and realise that your are having a massive flare up or the after pains are mean. Have your medicines pre vetted for the breastfeeding (if you are) and ensure that nothing you have been given interacts with the other. The Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia course has a list of advanced pain relief options including lots of places to go for more information, but www.drugs.com is a good place to start. I always encourage people to do some information gathering themselves so they can make an informed decision with their doctors.

Consider what and how you will tell the delivery team about your illness

In my first delivery/postpartum no one really knew what fibromyalgia was and I didn’t know what or how to tell them. For my second and third I knew better. I was able to advocate for myself much more strongly. Although my pelvis issues needed more advocating than the chronic pain and fatigue. Consider making a list with a brief description of your illness, how it might impact you in your labour/postpartum period, what medicines you are on, what you cannot tolerate and if there are any special considerations.

Compile a list of handy items that will help you

Things like urine alkiliser, warm socks, nursing bras, bottle spray with witch hazel for a sore botty, open button pyjamas, heat pack, your pillow and your pre approved medicines and natural pain relief options. All those things that will make you comfortable as a postpartum person and as a person with chronic pain and fatigue.

Free checklist with new edition of book or freshly updated course

For the rest of the items on the checklist be sure to grab your copy of Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia book updated edition and then email me proof of purchase to melissa[at]melissavsfibromyalgia.com or enroll in Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia eCourse.

Or come and join the newsletter list and access it along with all of the other free resources in the exclusive members resources page!!

In Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia book I share my research and personal journey through three pregnancies, deliveries and postpartum periods. In Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia eCourse I help you prepare for the best pregnancy, delivery and postpartum periods possible despite chronic pain and fatigue. It is practical, easy to understand, with heaps of resources and made by a mama who has done it all three times herself.

“This course gave me the confidence to know I will cope and I will get through it.” – A Fibro Parent

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4 Healthy Eating Choices You Can Make Now with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia

Nutrition is important for optimal health. What “healthy eating” means exactly varies from person to person. I have been researching food as a gateway to good health recently and while I haven’t settled on a massive lifestyle change such as paleo or plant-based etc I have formulated the below four key healthy eating choices you can start enacting right now.

Affiliate notice: Some of my links are affiliate links. If you make a purchase using my link I will make a commission at no extra cost to you.

four healthy eating habits you can start right now

Here’s the video about it

I still don’t believe in making food a battleground or making massive changes without a lot of preparation, but these things I have managed while nursing with three children five and under and chronic pain and fatigue.

So here are my eating healthy eating changes you can make right now:

  1. Lots of fruit and vegetables.
    I am aiming for eight servings a day with most from a colourful array of vegetables.
    What are my secret weapons? Soups and smoothies. I have used my Nutribullet to make many types of smoothies with a mix of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and dairy free milk. I also make my dairy free milk using it! You can get your own Nutribullet here, I’m obsessed with mine!

2. Hydration – in the book Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Hydration they suggest many conditions are caused by dehydration. I am aiming for more hydrating drinks and less caffeine.
How? My first drink is water with some lemon. Then I’ll have my coffee with a piece of toast.  At morning tea I have a coffee with fluffy milk and some cinnamon. Then the rest of the day I only drink water.

3. Less grains – there’s a lot of discussion around grain. Having done a gluten-free trial a few years ago I know I am not allergic or intolerant but I am keen to reduce my reliance on grain based carbohydrates. By prioritising vegetables and fruits I have managed to de-prioritize grains. When I have them they are wholegrain and well soaked.

4. Avoid what you are intolerant to
If you suspect something doesn’t agree with you, avoid it for 30 days then add back in. Eliminating lactose has helped me a lot. If you suspect there are many issues in your diet and these four things are not helping then you might consider doing the Whole30 elimination diet or a similar idea. They remove the most common intolerances and then you add them back in one at a time to challenge them. This way you can eat what works for you.

Checking your intolerances

You can also check for intolerances with testing. IntoleranceLab provides Food Sensitivity Testing and is a quick start way to identify your intolerances. You just send them a sample of your hair. I have not used this lab personally because I am in New Zealand, but I have done intolerance testing using my hair and it was surprising what came up. I vaguely knew at the time that dairy was not good for me and that bananas were difficult to tolerate – and my test confirmed it. Simple!

So these are my four tips you can work on right now. I am actually finding subtle benefit from my changes. I am less bloated and uncomfortable and I am noticing that I am experiencing less reactive hypoglycemia (physical reaction to hunger such as dizziness and being hangry.) I am also able to eat slightly less often than I used to, which is a relief as I am over figuring out what to eat all the time!

What would your tips be? What have you worked on and found made a difference?


Want some help with your journey?

Come and join the conversation at Melissa (you) vs Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia Facebook group.

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What Works for Me Now: Fighting Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia

Several years ago I first shared my list “what works for me: nine things to fight fibromyalgia”. It included:

  • Reduced work hours
  • Supplementation
  • Physiotherapy
  • Sleep
  • Reduced activity levels
  • Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Pain management techniques
  • Hope

So what would I keep in this list? What would I add?

What works for me fighting chronic pain, chronic fatigue and insomnia

My current understanding is that there are six key areas to fight chronic pain, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia:

  1. Knowledge and taking control for ourselves
  2. Sleep
  3. Perpetuating factors
  4. Central nervous system
  5. Fatigue and pacing
  6. Pain relief

What works for me right now?

Find the video here

Sleep

Sleep is the biggest component of my journey. I will discuss this more under Low Dose Naltrexone, below, but it is HUGE. See also my giant insomnia post for more.

Pain Management

Aside from sleep and physiotherapy I do a lot of stretching, self-trigger point work, yoga, meditation, essential oils, heat and more. I am employing more natural remedies than medicinal.

Low Dose Naltrexone – is now number one on my list. This one covers sleep and pain management . It helps me sleep in more than one hour blocks, which has been the biggest part of my puzzle. Now, when I sleep only six or seven hours (due to the baby) but a few hours in a row, I feel infinitely better than I ever did on my eight or nine broken hours. As a result I experience less pain, less anxiety, less brain fog. More health and a much better quality of life.

Physiotherapy – this is still crucial, more specifically the insertion of dry needles into trigger points and left for 15 minutes to rest to encourage blood flow and relaxation followed by stretching and mobilizations. I only have to go every three weeks at the moment, which is a big win as I pay privately for every treatment. Learn more about myofascial pain syndrome and trigger points here.

Pacing

A combination of reduced work hours and reduced activity levels. Both are key. Reduced work hours is the first thing that jump started my journey to wellness and is still part of managing my energy envelope.

Perpetuating Factors/Normal Human Needs

For me, this means managing the myofascial pain syndrome and the fibromyalgia. Most of my six key ways hit multiple symptoms. Aside from managing my posture, avoiding triggers and sleeping as best as I can, these two are important:

Nourishment – I am learning about the importance of nutrition right now. I haven’t yet finalised my template for eating going forward but all of my research seems to suggest the number one thing we can do is prioritize vegetables and fruits. Then I am prioritizing healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil etc) and good quality protein. This leads to a lower consumption of grains. As an offshoot, supplementation, is key. I am using magnesium and 5HTP to sleep (after finally getting off amitriptyline after years which precluded 5HTP). I also supplement with MSM as our soils are generally deficient in sulphur and this seems to help me. I am preferring whole foods over supplements – I am taking moringa powder or hemp powder for naturally occuring vitamins and minerals.

Gentle exercise – this is still key but I am able to do more than I was previously. I can now do 30 minute walks without pain hangovers. My exercise of choice includes yoga, walking and Pilates.

Central nervous system

Meditation – this has only become more integral to my daily life. I have meditated daily for more than five years now. I use it for rest (I can’t nap), for pain relief (or a break from it when it is bad) and stress relief. The benefits I have reaped since my initial post are so many that I am a mindfulness and meditation cheerleader.

So these are the key things that are working for me now.

I know it is complex. It has taken me years and a lot of research and personal trial and error to figure out. I have provided many links in this post to help you in your research.

If you would like to learn more about how to get a jump start on your journey then you can join You vs Fibromyalgia free micro course and my newsletter list (which will give you access to a heap of other free resources including printable templates, reports, micro courses, workshops and more).

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Learning Options for Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia

Do you miss learning? Or want to up-skill but don’t have any spoons leftover after life to go to class? Online learning options might be the way to go.

flexible learning options for those with chronic illnesses

I have found online learning options to be excellent for filling that gap as a mama with chronic illness. I’m not expected anywhere at any specific time. I can access lectures while wearing the fussy baby in the wrap. And while I am tired from the baby waking regularly in the night, since I have experienced the improvement in my symptoms from low dose naltrexone, I can’t bear not to indulge my love of learning.

Affiliate notice: Some of my links are affiliate links, if you make a purchase using my link I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Benefits of online learning for those with chronic illness

  • You can lie or sit however you need (in bed with your heat pack?)
  • You don’t have to leave the house at a specified time
  • You don’t have to do the work at a specified time
  • You can do as little or as much as you can fit in (around energy, children, etc)
  • You can use your phone, laptop, tablet or computer – whatever works best for you
  • Keep your brain active
  • Up-skill yourself no matter your current employment status
  • You can learn a hobby you have been curious about

Online courses are the most useful when you do the work and can demonstrate what you’ve learned. So if you want to put it on your CV, be prepared to talk about how it helped you and relate it to your work.

How to get the most out of online learning

  • Complete all of the work offered, the reading, the quizzes, the videos, the extras
  • Ensure you understand it all
  • Participate in forums provided
  • Practice what you have learnt
  • Ensure you understand what you have learnt and how it can help you in your career (if you intend to use it on your CV)

laptop cup studying

Below I share some learning platforms I have come used.

Lynda

When I was off work while pregnant due to severe pelvis issues last year I did a course on SEO (search engine optimisation) through Lynda.com. I had free access to this as my public library has a bulk membership which was awesome. The app was easy to use and there is a great selection of both longer and shorter courses. As a bonus it shows the certificate of completion on LinkedIn. There were no assignments but I practiced everything on my blog.

Udemy

Earlier this year I completed a life coach certification through Udemy. I paid just $11.99 USD (down from $200!) for my course in the January sale and it is a fairly comprehensive one. After this one I moved on to mindfulness certification and group coaching. Once I had completed my courses I received my certificate. I also joined the networking group associated with my course provider (The Transformation Academy) to learn even more. I also practiced my new skills as I went. I have loved every minute of the training, the practicing and then using my skills in this blog. It will also be useful when I go back to part time work. The beauty and tricky part of Udemy is that the courses are run by different people and are not necessarily vetted by Udemy. I highly recommend the Transformation Academy though.

Alison

Their About page says, “We believe that free education, more than anything, has the power to break through boundaries and transform lives.” And living with chronic illness is definitely a barrier to further learning.

I have just found Alison and have my eye on a few of their free courses for some future up-skilling. With options for 2-3 hour certificates or pathways for diplomas there is a lot to search through. Subjects range from touch typing to French to graphic design to project management.

FutureLearn

You can choose the premium (paid) option and gain access to all courses for as long as you need, or you can enroll in courses and complete them within a designated time frame without paying (but you won’t receive a completion certificate). You can choose short courses up to online degrees.

Subject ideas you may like to explore as a start

  • Nutrition
  • Health
  • Literature
  • Marketing
  • Writing
  • Coaching
  • pretty much anything you like!

Have you embarked upon any online learning? Do you have one you recommend?


If you are curious about up-skilling yourself for your fight to be well you might like to look into my learning options. To learn from the comfort of your bed, couch, or comfortable chair with your phone, tablet or computer. Take my shortcut – all my years of research, personal learning, trial and error to make your plans.

Fibromyalgia 101 Workshop Free – your free introduction to what fibromyalgia is, who gets it and how you might be able to treat it.

Mindfulness for the Chronic Life Workshop Free – your free introduction to mindfulness and how it can help us manage our chronics (chronic pain, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety)

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Fibro Mama Interview: Using Essential Oils to Manage Chronic Pain, Fibromyalgia

This is another interview with a fellow fibro mama, this time we are learning about how one mama uses essential oils to manage chronic pain, fibromyalgia. Since this interview was conducted Kara welcomed her gorgeous baby.

Fibro mama interview managing chronic pain with essential oils

Could you introduce yourself in a few sentences for us?

My name is Kara Carril, I’m 28, and soon-to-be first time mom! I live in Arizona with my husband and our two dogs, Diesel and Rain!

How did you get into essential oils for fibromyalgia?

My mom is a distributor for Young Living Essential Oils here in the US. After she had breast cancer 10 years ago, she got into living a more chemical-free lifestyle. She did a lot of research on essential oils and the potential help they could give to autoimmune diseases. She has fibromyalgia as well as ankylosing spondylitis amongst other health issues. The oils helped her pain management dramatically, so she eventually introduced them to me, and I was hooked!

What are your favourite ones and what do they help with?

The ones I use most often are lavender, frankincense, copaiba, PanAway (a blend), Valor (a blend), cedarwood, and eucalyptus/peppermint. I use lavender and cedarwood mixed with distilled water for a pillow spray before bed. It helps calm and relax to be able to go into a deeper sleep. I use lavender/cedarwood in mascara to help strengthen lashes (I know it’s not fibro related but a cool trick!-just a drop of each).

I use lavender/frankincense in homemade face soap with coconut oil and baking soda. PanAway I use on my back spasms. Valor and copaiba I also use on my back spasms. Valor is often referred to as a “chiropractor in a bottle” and copaiba is compared to “morphine in a bottle” and often enhances whatever other oils you use in conjunction with it. I use eucalyptus/peppermint on my sinuses and throat when I feel I’m getting sick, and I also use either with lavender and epsom salts in baths when I’m having a bad flare up.

I will stop using peppermint when I’m breastfeeding though because it is said to drastically reduce your milk supply (good for when you’re trying to stop producing though!).

“The ones I use most often are lavender, frankincense, copaiba, PanAway (a blend), Valor (a blend), cedarwood, and eucalyptus/peppermint.”

Do you have any blends you make yourself?

Lavender/Cedarwood for sleep/relaxation- 5-10 drops of each in a 3oz spray bottle filled with distilled water. Make the strength based on your scent preferences. I also spray it on the bottoms of my feet before bed or will use straight lavender drops when my feet are really sore. I also use this combo in my diffuser at night next to my bed.

I make a ton of diffuser blends based on what my needs are. Lemon/peppermint combo is really good for getting rid of stinky smells, lavender/cedarwood is great for relaxing/sleep. Orange and lemon or any citrus combination is great for morning and energy! Ginger, peppermint, and lemon is good for tummy aches too!


For more research into using essential oils in your journey you may like

Essential Oils for Pain Relief and a Pain Cream I am Loving
Copaiba Essential Oil for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain

If you are a mama fighting chronic pain and fatigue you may like the following:

Come and join Pregnancy and Parenting with Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia Facebook group

Pregnancy and parenting with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia

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Stretching Options for People with Fibromyalgia

As we know, fibromyalgia is a painful condition that many suffer from. In fact, it’s believed that in the United States alone, over 10 million people have some form of it. While medications might help calm symptoms, they don’t always have the best side effects or lasting results. Because of this, many often look for other methods they can use to help ease their symptoms.


This is a guest post from Dr. Brent Wells, a chiropractor who founded Alaska-based Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab. There is more detail about his work below.


Surprisingly, one of the best ways to help with fibromyalgia pain is to stretch. This is because it will reduce inflammation in the body and help to keep it active. Because of this, it will keep the body calm which can significantly reduce the symptoms of this medical issue. Below you’ll find more about why stretching is so important for those with fibromyalgia and some stretching options you can use to help with it.

Stretching options for people with fibromyalgia

Benefits of Stretching for Those Who Suffer From Fibromyalgia

There are many benefits that come with stretching if you have fibromyalgia. Below are some you’ll find if you do.

  • It Increases Serotonin and Endorphins in the Body

When you suffer from fibromyalgia, it can decrease the levels of serotonin and endorphins in your body. Serotonin and endorphins are neurotransmitters in the brain that help with emotions. When they have low levels, they cause the body to feel drowsy and irritable which can affect your mood and physical wellbeing.
Stretching can help by boosting the levels of these two chemicals in the body. It will help to improve your overall mood which can lower the side effects of fibromyalgia, like anxiety and stress.

  • It Can Help with Muscle and Joint Movement

Stretching works to help increase muscle and joint movements in your body. This can prevent nerve pain as you will keep these areas active. It also helps you to be more flexible.

  • It Works to Improve the Heart

You might be surprised to learn that stretching can actually help to improve the heart. This is because it will expand the surrounding arteries and keep them open and pliable. It also reduces any fat around the heart and can help you to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

  • It Can Improve Your Sleep

Stretching can improve your sleep because it reduces tension in the body. It also helps to release endorphins which can make you feel better both mentally and physically. This will encourage your body to stay calm which can help you to get a better night’s sleep.

lady stretching no att

Stretching Options for Those with Fibromyalgia

If you suffer from fibromyalgia, you’ll find there are a few simple yet extremely beneficial stretching options you can consider trying out.

  • Make Circular Motions with Your Joints

One simple stretching option for those with fibromyalgia is to make gentle circular motions with your joints. For instance, move your ankles around in circular motions and then counterclockwise ones. This will help to awaken your muscles and joints in the area but do so in a simple and pain-free way.

  • Do Calf Stretches

Calf stretches are very important as it helps to relieve tension in the Achilles tendon. To do a calf stretch, place your hands on a flat surface, ideally a wall. After doing so, press and bend one leg forward while keeping one leg back. Lean gently against the leg that is forward and then switch it with your other leg. You can continue this stretch for a few minutes.

  • Try Aerobic Stretching

Aerobic stretching can be very simple and helps to keep your heart healthy. There are a few different types of aerobic stretching you can consider:

  • Circular arm motions: stand straight and hold your hands out sideways. Then, move them in circular motions forward and then backward.
  • Jogging in place: you can stand in one place and start doing a gentle mini jog. This doesn’t have to be intense, just a few minutes of you slowly running in place.
  • Do Pool Exercises

Stretching in a pool can help you to move around more freely because the water doesn’t mix with gravity. This can make it feel as if you’re floating and give you more mobility. There are plenty of pool exercises to consider doing that are very easy to do. Some include:

  • Sidestepping: hold on to the pool’s wall and then take about 20 steps to one side while holding on to the wall. You can then reverse the direction.
  • Knee lift: hold on to the pool’s wall and carefully lift one knee up to your chest. Hold this position for about five seconds and then switch to the next leg.
  • Hip kicks: stand with your body sideways to the pool’s wall while holding on to it. Then, lift one leg up in the water as if you are kicking something and then switch to your other leg. Continue this motion with both legs for a few minutes.

Keep in mind though that if you feel any pain when doing stretches, stop immediately. This could not only worsen your fibromyalgia pain, but cause muscle strains and injuries.
Fibromyalgia doesn’t have to overtake your life. By doing simple stretches, you can work to naturally relieve many of its symptoms. Better yet, most of them are very easy to do so everyone can try them out no matter what stage of fibromyalgia you might have. Because of this, stretching is ideal to implement into your lifestyle to help give you relief.


About Dr. Brent Wells

Dr. Wells is a chiropractor who founded Alaska-based Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab. This practice offers numerous services to help those with everything from mild to severe pain and is designed to provide great care to those on the search for top Anchorage chiropractors in AK 99515.


References
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354780
http://www.fmaware.org/about-fibromyalgia/prevalence/
https://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/guide/fibromyalgia-and-exercise


If you liked this, you might like my posts:

Yoga and stretching for Fibromyalgia

Sleep and Fibromyalgia

Healthy Practices I’m Doing with Three Tiny Ones and a Chronic Illness

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The Case for Taking Insomnia in Fibromyalgia More Seriously

Insomnia is a serious and often ignored problem, especially for people with chronic conditions like fibromyalgia.

I would like to suggest that we need to take this more seriously.

This is a long post. You may want to grab a cuppa and get comfortable! If you have fibromyalgia and brain fog is an issue, there is a handy (free) PDF document below for you to download!

The video: Insomnia and Fibromyalgia

The serious, undertreated problem that millions of people are fighting alone

Key facts about insomnia and fibromyalgia

Insomnia is:

  • A key problem for people with fibromyalgia and many other chronic illnesses
  • Debilitating and makes other already incapacitating symptoms worse
  • A recipe for a shorter, less fulfilled life
  • Pain inducing – even for those without chronic pain conditions
  • A money drain – in health care costs from those who suffer the side effects, in absenteeism from inability to work, in lost income, if you could place a value on a fully functioning human being able to participate fully in life then multiply that by the 10 million people estimated in the US alone (and 3-6% of the world’s population) it would be a massive number.

And:

  • Sleep helps pretty much every symptom of fibromyalgia
  • Sleep improves our quality of life and our emotional state
  • We can improve sleep! It might be multi factorial and a doctor needs to help in many cases, but we can improve sleep.

Shall we take a look into the literature that supports my statements?

Does insomnia lead to death?

Laboratory animals subjected to extreme sleep deprivation can die relatively swiftly of unknown causes — exactly what goes wrong is not clear, but their body temperatures start to drop and then they suffer rapid and widespread physiological failure. [1]

Does insomnia cause pain?

“According to the majority of the studies, sleep deprivation produces hyperalgesic changes.”[2] (That means yes!)

What side effects does insomnia cause? A summary based upon all of the research I have ever done and experienced after more than a decade living with it:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Headaches
  • Attention problems
  • Anxiety and/or depression

Sleep as a treatment for pain

“More broadly, our findings highlight sleep as a novel therapeutic target for pain management within and outside the clinic, including circumstances where sleep is frequently short yet pain is abundant (e.g. the hospital setting).”[3]

Why is sleep a novel (or innovative) treatment for pain??

So we have found that research supports insomnia as life threatening, costing money, leading to pain (and sleep is a treatment for pain) what is the insomnia problem specifically relating to fibromyalgia?

What is insomnia, exactly?

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking too early
  • Not achieving good quality sleep
  • Waking unrefreshed

What’s happening for people with fibromyalgia and sleep?

Dr Ginevra Liptan, MD, writes about sleep in her book The Fibro Manual (2016):

Sleep studies show that Fibromyalgia subjects show abnormal ‘awake-type’ brain waves all night long, with reduced and interrupted deep sleep and frequent ‘mini-awakenings’ (Brandi 1994; Kooh 2003). This deep-sleep deprivation leads to pain, fatigue, and poor brain function (Lerma 2011; Moldofsky 2008; Harding 1998). Treatment focused on increasing deep sleep is the key to improving all these symptoms.

In plain terms, people with Fibromyalgia don’t tend to reach stage four of the sleep cycle (the deep, restorative stage), and therefore, they suffer from chronic, deep sleep deprivation, which causes all sorts of issues with the body: pain, fatigue, fog, anxiety, etc.

Insomnia—along with poor sleep in general—is believed to make fibromyalgia symptoms more severe, which means treating your sleep problems may have the secondary effect of improving painfibro fog, and more.[4]

Let’s just repeat that – treating sleep should help with pain, fatigue and fibro fog.

How have I experienced insomnia?

Every single night for more than a decade (including my entire twenties), despite researching and using a lot of sleep hygiene tips and natural sleep aids, having trouble falling asleep, not staying asleep for more than one hour at a time, spending time awake in the night too exhausted to get up but too sore to remain lying still and waking feeling more tired than I went to bed.

This was while on the only option the doctor every offered me – amitriptyline.

Finally in 2017 I began taking low dose naltrexone and it helped me to start sleeping in blocks of up to a few hours. This made such a difference on my quality of life. But I still struggle with insomnia every single day.

I can’t imagine how much more I could achieve if I could sleep well. Or what it might have been like if my doctors had been willing to work with me to help me achieve more sleep. Even utilizing low doses of medicines for a short amount of time to achieve some rest, like two prominent physicians who have fibromyalgia and treat patients with it suggest (Dr Teitelbaum From Fatigued to Fantastic and Dr Liptan The Fibro Manual – thank you so much to these two doctors who have done so much for our community).

I was miserable and missed out on the usual things one does in their twenties. I couldn’t do my OE, I could hardly make it through the day let alone travel long distances.

Now, with the amount of sleep I’ve been able to reclaim I am managing day to day, but I still experience severe costs. I cannot stay up late, it is difficult to manage my children myself, I cannot work and when I do work I can only manage part-time work (so a cost of 30,000-80,000 per year lost there). Add the costs of things I need to manage such as the low dose naltrexone prescription, doctors’ visits, supplements, physiotherapy, and the many, many things I have tried to help myself. Add in the impact on my quality of life of dealing with chronic pain all day every day. I don’t know what a pain free day might look like!

And there are people who are worse off than me.

What do other people with fibromyalgia and insomnia say?

“Fibromyalgia insomnia is a very real issue for me. I am currently breastfeeding a six month old. She wakes for one feed a night and resettles quickly back to sleep. It then takes me two to three hours to get myself back to sleep. I am exhausted. I have not had a good night sleep in years.” – Amanda

“Where do I start? It’s a vicious cycle in so many ways. If it’s not the pain keeping me up, it’s restless leg syndrome or another of the plethora of symptoms and comorbid disorders that come with fibro. Otherwise, it’s pure anxiety from having night terrors brought on by my medication and the trauma that landed me with fibro in the first instance. The more I get into a terrible sleeping pattern, the worse my pain and other symptoms get, the worse my mental health gets, the worse my relationships get because I just cannot function or am not physically able or awake to conduct a “normal” life. And of course all of these things contribute to not being able to sleep or sleep well. Which perpetuates the issue.

While I was at uni my insomnia was seriously affecting my studies but I got flat out told by several doctors that they refused all students sleeping meds because they were so highly abused. I cried in Drs appointments, I cried as I lay awake at night in pain, I cried when I was forced to ask for extensions on my coursework, I cried when I got sub-standard grades because I knew it wasn’t a reflection on my ability but my circumstance. It’s such an underestimated burden that so many are forced to “put up with” because “everyone’s stressed” or “everyone’s tired” for one reason or another. I wish it was taken as seriously as my pain, which has had all manner of meds thrown at it. I’m sure it hurts me just as much.” – Rebekah

So for them, and for me, I want to beg doctors to take the sleep problem much more seriously. I want to beg researchers to look into how we can fix this (ideally without long term drug use).

Taking Insomnia in Fibromyalgia More Seriously

If you are suffering from insomnia and fibromyalgia what can you do?

  • Learn (I have a Sleep and Fibromyalgia 101 micro course, and offer coaching to help you work through your sleep plan and the other key areas to fight fibromyalgia)
  • Experiment
  • Beg for help – show your doctor you have tried all the things and hope for help!

References

[1] Insomnia Until it Hurts, The role of sleep deprivation in chronic pain, especially muscle pain, Paul Ingraham, updated Mar 5, 2019 https://www.painscience.com/articles/insomnia-until-it-hurts.php

[2] Kundermann B, Krieg JC, Schreiber W, Lautenbacher S. The effect of sleep deprivation on pain. Pain Res Manag. 2004;9(1):25–32

[3] Krause AJ, Prather AA, Wager TD, Lindquist MA, Walker MP. The pain of sleep loss: A brain characterization in humans. J Neurosci. 2019 Jan. PubMed #30692228. ❐

[4] Coping With Insomnia and Fibromyalgia Common Bedfellows  By Adrienne Dellwo  | Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician Updated July 26, 2018 https://www.verywellhealth.com/insomnia-fibromyalgia-716169

I’d love to hear your experience below. Comment how insomnia has affected you, have you found anyone to help you with it? What helps you sleep?

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The case for taking the sleep problem in fibromyalgia very seriously

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Yoga for Chronic Fatigue: A Book Review

It isn’t a secret that I adore yoga and meditation as tools for managing the chronic fatigue and pain associated with fibromyalgia.

I read and reviewed Kayla’s first book Yoga for Chronic Pain and loved it, so I was super excited to read her second book Yoga for Chronic Fatigue.

Yoga for chronic fatigue book review

In the first part Kuran explains chronic fatigue, the part the central nervous system is theorized to play and how the parasympathetic nervous system can help:

“When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, you’ll notice
that:

Digestion improves

Your muscles relax

Your heart rate slows down

You can breathe deeper” part one understanding chronic fatigue syndrome

Interestingly after years practicing my meditation and yoga I have noticed all of these benefits in my daily life – particularly improved digestion and relaxed muscles.

In part three, The Yogic View of Chronic Fatigue, we are introduced to Ayurveda and yoga’s holistic view of health.

Kuran explains complex ideas with clean, concise language such as the theory of the central nervous system’s part in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and yogic components such as Ayurveda.

Step three goes through mindfulness as a tool for healing. (Which I am super passionate about!)

Step four discusses using the breath as an energy source, “Pranayama can increase your fitness and energy levels – without getting out of bed!”

Step five is the actual yoga! Kuran provides a more active routine, a gentle restorative routine and discusses yoga Nidra.

“Like other forms of meditation, yoga Nidra helps release serotonin and decrease cortisol which lowers your stress response.” I adore yoga Nidra and it’s a vital part of my coping when I’m tired, especially when I have tiny babies and am not sleeping much at night – so I always enjoy learning more about it.

I loved the suggestion that even in a flare up we can do yoga. Practicing yoga doesn’t mean a big routine or even physical movement – Kuran points out that even visualizing yourself doing yoga poses can be useful. A breathing practice while lying in bed is sufficient. This makes yoga such a useful tool for those fighting chronic fatigue – its adaptability.

If you enact the action points suggested at the end of each step you will be a long way toward a holistic healing process.

I highly recommend this book and yoga if you struggle with chronic fatigue.

Get your reading on

Purchase your copy from Amazon here. (Affiliate link: Please note that if you make a purchase using my link, I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you).

If you love reading like me try Amazon Kindle Unlimited Membership – you can try your first month free and access unlimited reading or listening on any device! They now have magazines too! It’s also available for those of us who use Amazon.com.au *squee*.

If audio books are more your speed, as they are for me with three little ones, you know you can get a free trial of Audible on Amazon here. I’ve recently started reading a lot more audio books as the hands free option is far easier to access with the wee ones. You will get access to two audio books, plus two Audible Originals, and other cool membership options for 30 days. Cancel anytime if you don’t want the full subscription.

Yoga for chronic fatigue

See my review of Kayla’s first book!

Join us for this special course to utilise mindfulness and meditation in your journey.

Mindfulness for the chronic life

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Copaiba Essential Oil for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain

Copaiba essential oil is relatively new in the chronic pain relief discussion however has been widely used in traditional health practices since the 16th century.

What is copaiba essential oil?

The essential oil is distilled from a resin that comes from tapping the Copaiba tree.

copaiba essential oil for chronic pain and fibromyalgia

What it does

It works in the endocannibinoid system- much like low dose naltrexone, cannabis and CBD oil. Copaiba is thought to directly effect receptors that deal in the nervous system with effects in inflammation, endocrine system, pain, cardiovascular system and more. The nervous system is a part we would like to positively influence in fibromyalgia.

I have found success with low dose naltrexone and write about that here. So when I found out that CBD oil can work synergistically with LDN, I put it on my mental wishlist.

Unfortunately CBD oil is classified the same as cannabis under the law in New Zealand. Meaning it will be a long time before I can try it. People with certain conditions can receive a prescription for it but if they do get one, the CBD oil is very expensive.

Copaiba is legal! And cheaper.

Why I’m Treating the Fibromyalgia as Naturally as Possible – Natural Remedies for Fibromyalgia

Essential Oils for Pain Relief and a Pain Cream I am Loving

Why I’ve Gone as Natural as Possible Fighting Fibromyalgia while Pregnant

How to use copaiba essential oil

Topically is the most often recommended way to utilise essential oils. You can also diffuse or inhale. Some companies say you can ingest their oils if they are food grade. Do check with a qualified professional about this as some oils can be dangerous if ingested.

Also remember that essential oils are like super charged herbal teas – they are way more concentrated so a little goes a long way. Please check with a medical professional before using essential oils to ensure safety of their use and any potential drug interactions.

My experience with copaiba

It was suggested that I try either one drop sublingually (under the tongue) or a drop with some coconut oil topically where the pain occurs.

I found it difficult to administer the sublingual drop but found you can take a drop in water or juice.

On the first night, after being unable to get a drop under my tongue I wiped the dropper saw some oil in my finger and wiped that under my tongue. I did seem to be able to fall asleep faster than I had been.

The next day I tried a drop in coconut oil and placed it directly on my neck and shoulders – my trigger points had been playing up since a car accident a few weeks prior and those muscles became more tight and sore again. It really seemed to help. The effect was probably amplified as I lay down to do a 30 minute meditation too.

It became my go to for increased muscle pain and tightness in my shoulders and neck. It was especially useful as my trigger points were flared up due to a car accident and being unable to take a muscle relaxant while breastfeeding.

I am super excited for this addition to my pain plan!

Where to get your own to try?

Eden’s Garden is voted the number one non MLM essential oil company and has copaiba – not all companies do. You can get that here. (Affiliate link, I will receive a small commission if you purchase using this link at no extra cost to you).

While you are at it you might like to add Frankincense and lavender. These are the components of my wee blend, along with fractionated coconut oil, in my roller bottle. You can add peppermint if you are not nursing. Please Google search for dilution ratios if making your own blends.

Let me know what you think of essential oils for pain relief? Have you used copaiba?


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Mindful Parenting with Fibromyalgia: Mindfully Parenting While Fighting Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Insomnia

I was so frustrated that they had woken the baby again that I yelled. I yelled so loudly I am sure the neighbour was sorry the baby was awake. My heart rate rose, my headache was exacerbated and I felt terrible. The boys didn’t mind because they were used to periodically top blowing. This was not mindful parenting.

And then it clicked for me.

Mindfulness for our parenting journey with chronic pain and fatigue`

I am a Fibromyalgia and Mindfulness Coach. I have learnt and teach others to utilise mindfulness and meditation in their fight against chronic pain, chronic fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and overwhelm. But what about utilising this knowledge in my daily life? What about using it to help not only myself but my kids?

I dug into the research. As I do.

I found this article, “Analyses showed that parents who reported more mindful parenting engaged in more positive and less negative parenting behavior, which was then linked to more positive behavior in their kids—meaning less anxiety, depression, and acting out.”

So what are the characteristics of a mindful parent?

Attentive
Non judging
Non reacting

It means managing our responses – emotions and behaviours – so that our children learn to manage theirs also.

This can be tricky when we face chronic, all day, every day pain, fatigue and insomnia.

If you wanted to practice a five day challenge for yourself here are the days:

My Mindfulness through Chronic pain and fatigue challenge

Your Free Breathing Practices

Find your one minute breathing practice – to use the calming breath from day one here.

Find your five minute breathing practice – to use in day five here.

Mindfulness for the Chronic Life

I added a module specifically on mindful parenting to my Mindfulness and Meditation for the Chronic Life: Mindfulness and Meditation to help Chronic Pain, Fatigue, Insomnia, Anxiety and Overwhelm running from 1 June. So now it’s nine weeks of content to help you utilise mindfulness in your chronic life!

Mindfulness for the chronic life

You can get in on my free Mindfulness for the Chronic Life Workshop here.

I’d be so delighted to have you join us!