Trigger Point Therapy

Having been plagued by spots of extreme tightness on various parts of my body for years that numerous physical therapists have attempted to release and only ever achieved a small but fleeting degree of success, I am keenly interested in the study of trigger points.

It started with an article that I’ve long since lost. It showed me a few key trigger points to do for my shoulders and neck to release stiffness and pain. I use these every night when I wake in pain due to my neck.

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This fantastic article was posted on Fibro Daze recently and gives a good explanation of trigger points and has a video showing you how to deal with your neck to relieve dizziness.The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook

Now I am reading The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief by Clair and Amber Davies.

I am loving it!

Because I have so many active trigger points, I had to start with the ones that were screaming the loudest. My neck. I have been working on my sternocleidomastoid and trapezius muscles. The book gives an overview of the muscle, the symptoms the trigger points in these muscles cause, where pain is referred to, causes and treatment. It includes great instructions on how to deal with them safely, as pressure on arteries can cause havoc.

The theory is that you deal to your trigger points three times a day until they are no longer sensitive to touch. I am unsure how helpful this will end up being. I have a lot for trigger points and my body overreacts to stimuli.  For example, I get sore legs if I don’t exercise enough and if I overdo it!

This is not a Tiny Mission. This is a big piece of work. But I’m game! Giving myself the ability to treat my body is a big opportunity. It gives me power. It gives me control. It gives me the opportunity to help myself, not helplessly wait for my next treatment session with my muscles clenching tighter and tighter!

I have also made the decision to try trigger point injections for my neck if I can’t relieve the daily tightness. I can’t go back to work and look after my baby if I continue to have daily tightness and pain to the point of headaches, nausea and dizziness.

It’s very exciting. I’ll check in with it in a few weeks. Has anyone else tackled their own pressure points and found success?


Update March 2018

Trigger points have become such an important issue for me to face since realised I had myofascial pain syndrome. The trigger points in my neck being the biggest issue I have fought for  a long time. I see a physiotherapist every three weeks still. I also self-treat at home with my theracane trigger point massager, which I adore. It is so helpful to be able to treat myself at home and not hurt my poor fingers with the level of pressure that I need.


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What They Don’t Know, Or Some Encouragement

There are a great many things those people in the lives of chronic pain and fatigue sufferers will never know.
  • They’ll never know much harder it is to do those things that everyone else takes for granted.
    • Staying up later
    • Doing a little bit more exercise
    • Some days, making dinner
    • Cleaning the bathroom
    • Having a baby and looking after that baby.
  • How many days we spend miserable, not wanting to be awake, but knowing that going to bed won’t help.
  • The extent of our pain. Sure, we tell them about the parts of our body that are screaming. But they won’t often hear about the stabbing pain in our knees or glutes when we do something routine like walk the dog. Or the pain across our back from holding our baby.
  • How often we are so sore that we feel nauseas and/or dizzy.
  • How often we feel like we are letting our partners/families/husbands/children down. EVERY day.
  • How much further our bodies can keep going, despite feeling like we ought to be falling down already.
  • How hard we try to regulate our emotions. Because that is hard with so much pain and exhaustion. Think about how grumpy they get when they’re tired, could they imagine being bone-tired AND knowing that they will not wake up feeling refreshed?
  • The grief. How often we cry. Knowing no one can truly understand. Knowing how many people don’t believe it. How many people push aside your cry for them to understand the depths of your pain and fatigue. Knowing it’s every day. All day. And if you give in, if you falter, you make life that much worse for yourself.
Not knowing these things, no one will ever realise our resilience. How hard we fight. How much we deserve our moments of nice. But I know. And you know. All of you spoonies, all of you who push through chronic pain and fatigue, I know. We’re freakin’ awesome.

Food, Body Image and Fibromyalgia

There are some serious struggles involved with having a chronic illness, especially one that heavily impacts your energy levels.

I have struggled with body issues for forever (don’t most women?). Before I was struck by the chronic fatigue syndrome in in my last year of university, I exercised a lot. I walked everywhere and I went to the gym. Sometimes I walked to the gym (20 mins each way).

Before I left my full time job I was forcing myself to walk as much as possible and do one Pilates class each week. But my legs, glutes and lower back were ALWAYS tight and sore.

When I changed my lifestyle, I allowed myself to find the balance between enough exercise but not so much that it hurt. I walked 20-30 minutes each day and did a 20-30 minute Pilates or yoga routine three times a week. But I was less rigid on “bad” days.

Due to my body type and my previous levels of exercise I have very muscular legs. So when my pregnancy forced me to slow down (a very slow 20 minute walk by my last day) my legs became less defined.

As I progress further from pregnancy and my baby sleeps a bit better, I am able to pick it up a little. I have been able to do more walking and exploring which I love to do. I love finding a new walkway or beach and I love sharing this with my boy and husband. Numerous family adventures include walking in new places.

With the tremendously low levels of energy and high levels of pain that I have experienced since I had my boy, I have come to look at food more as fuel. I am more relaxed about it. My husband loves that I am not super finicky about food (as I’d have to be to maintain a tiny figure). Though, he does love the idea of my having a flat tummy!

I have a better understanding of food and exercise for fuel and survival, rather than aesthetic reasons. But I still struggle with my body image and that is a work in progress. I am learning to be thankful for what my body can do. That it carries me through each day, even if some of those days are slower than others and all of them are slower than most people’s. Having chronic pain means that I am more aware of my body and all of the work it does to keep me alive. And for this, I am thankful.

Overwhelmed: A Book Review

I am reading Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No one has the Time by Brigid OverwhelmedShulte. Well, reading assumes a more peaceful process, I keep finding sections I adore and then either write them down or Google search something related to it.

You see, the concept of slowing down and looking after yourself is something everyone could do with, but especially a person with chronic pain and fatigue.

“She herself [an assistant professor of psychiatry] works hard at not feeling stressed. Among other things, she gets enough sleep, eats right, exercises, stops to breathe, meditates, sets realistic expectations, and makes constant adjustments to her goals and schedule – as life around her shifts.” P56

She sounds amazing. And like she has no children.

It’s the perfect time to read this book as I contemplate my new work/life balance as a mama.

Shulte explores the current employment law in America (very limited and not at all employee focused) and some of the innovative companies who are incorporating more employee focused measures. Things like flexible work hours, part time hours and less face time, surprisingly, lead to higher levels of productivity and retention of good staff.

I devoured this book.

I clung to it as if it could give me the answers I so desperately need about how to balance motherhood with work with a chronic illness. And it did give me a lot of guidance.

Shulte explores the concept of time and how gendered expectations can get in the road. She weaves memoir with research in a seamless story, leaving you feeling like you’re reading a stream of consciousness as it’s happening.

My learning highlights: Time is power; work smarter not longer; balancing work/rest periods; choose your most important goal and tackle that first; dads are as capable as mums; help kids develop resilience, perseverance and grit; play; meditate.

How I Decided to Have a Second Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia

Having a baby is a tremendous (and rewarding) undertaking, particularly when you have chronic pain and fatigue. My first pregnancy with fibromyalgia was extremely difficult. It was so hard that I really didn’t think I would have a second (let alone a third baby!)
This post was written prior to having my second baby and I have since had a third, I have edited it a little but it retains much of it’s original text.
how i decided to have a second baby: pregnancy with fibromyalgia

There are plenty of things I want to do before I consider trying again:

  • I want to conduct some research and find some professionals who know about pregnancy with fibromyalgia.
  • I want to go to a new doctor and ask for a proper diagnosis process, just to be sure.
  • I’d like to write about all this here on the blog and potentially put it into an e book to get the information out there.

I totally managed to write about it all on the blog and put it into an eBook! Pregnancy and Fibromyalgia book is now available! Affiliate notice: This is an affiliate link and I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase using my link. All of my tips for coping in the first, second and third trimester, along with delivery and the early weeks are in there!


IF I decide to have another baby I will be making my physical decisions.

I need to be free to make the decision to have a second baby myself. Pregnancy, labour and sleepless nights are physically harder for someone with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. So I need to be trusted to make the decisions that will help me cope.

Why should I just cope with life? Can’t I enjoy my babies? I don’t understand the rationale of “getting it over and done with” and I don’t hold with it for my situation. Two (plus) super hard years are still super hard years, whether I give myself enough time to recover or not!

There are a few guidelines (pre research) I will follow if I go ahead with another pregnancy with fibromyalgia:

Pregnancy:

  • My boy will be at an age where he is more self-sufficient, preferably in preschool (at least three years old) so that he will get enough attention and stimulation and I would get time alone with the baby. I can’t imagine anything worse than trying to deal with another baby while my boy is still a baby himself. He has been a pretty challenging baby!
  • Feel somewhat physically prepared, I would have the ability to plan and get my body into a place where I am more prepared than last time. For example, I would build my iron levels and keep an eye on them so that I don’t run out of stores at week 28.
  • Keep up a core few resistance based exercises throughout the pregnancy to keep my strength up.
  • Stop working in the third trimester, if I am struggling like I was last time, and I would need at least six months off afterwards.
  • Attempt to find a team, or at least a few health professionals who understand both fibromyalgia and pregnancy. After a pregnancy with only a physio (who was pregnant herself and unable to treat me in the last trimester) who understood, I need people to support me.
  • Utilise acupuncture for morning sickness in the first trimester and general wellness during pregnancy.
  • Get more done in the second trimester, so that the third trimester could be more restful and I could rest in the fact that we are prepared.
  • Do my absolute best to avoid stress throughout the pregnancy.
  • Take the belly support belt if I needed it, I avoided it last time at the advice of my physio, but I think it would have helped more than it would have hindered. The pain was too bad to endure again.
  • Use an obstetrician, barring complications, my husband would be my key coach. My husband would know and (better) advocate for me. I would try to avoid an epidural.

After:

  • I would plan a babymoon, I would try to make the first month after labour a time for me and baby to just be, together.
  • This follows from the above guide, but I would treat the first three months like the “fourth trimester” as I have seen written about. I’d want the baby to be close to me, I’d utilise a sling and, especially in the first days, have baby mainly held by my husband and myself.
  • Plan and enforce the visitor rules and how to schedule family support. For example, I would have the immediate family there for only short times in the first few weeks. I wouldn’t invite other visitors for a few weeks.
  • Definitely make use of the organic cotton swaddle blankets again (our favourite brand was Aden and Anais).
  • I would purchase a portacot with the built in bassinet– we made do with a carry cot last time, but I have often wished we had invested in the portacot.
  • Purchase a proper pushchair, I would invest in this key piece of baby ware, a swanky, comfortable, convertible infant seat, carry cot, baby seat combo. We actually ended up purchasing a City Mini Jogger when my first was 12 months old and used it through our second and third babies, it is my favourite and I recommend it to everyone! See my post Essential Baby Items.
  • My husband would be just as involved as the first time. He would stay with us from the beginning (unlike the first time, when I was abandoned from 9pm – 9am) due to the rules of the birthing center. He would take turns with me, he would feed baby (hence the bottle use) and he would bond with baby, as he did with our boy. Their relationship is beautiful and it creates a sense of space for me. It’s parenthood, it takes two, especially when one has chronic pain and fatigue.
  • Be more gentle with myself and advocate more strongly for myself, particularly in the babymoon phase.
  • Document and enjoy it as much as the first. I don’t want a marked decrease in pictures and scrapbooks because I have double the children taking up my time.
This list is long but not exhaustive, I just thought that I could share it, in case my hard gained knowledge helped another in their pregnancy and/or planning. Also, because this has become a place in which to express my views and not deal with people, who don’t understand the fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue element at all, commenting.

So what did I end up doing?

We ended up having our second baby at the end of 2016 and our third at the end of 2018. I had a much better experience both times for all of my knowledge and experience. So please do search the category bar for “pregnancy” posts. I have shared my whole experience with you. You can find it succinctly in my book too.

Mindfulness: The Mindfulness Solution to Pain Book and Ruminations

I recently read the book, The Mindfulness Solution to Pain: Step-By-Step Techniques for Chronic Pain Management (2009) by Jackie Gardner-Nix. Katarina from Painfully Aware wrote about it and I decided I needed to check it out!

Affiliate notice: Please note that some of my links may be affiliate links and I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use these links.

One key idea from this book latched onto me and has not let go since. The idea of noticing my pain and, non-judgmentally, taking note of all the details. Where it is, how it feels, what may have caused it.

mindfulness for pain

Through this idea, I have come to understand more and more the separate components of my pain. For example, I know that the pain in my neck and back is probably caused by the overreaction of my muscles to stimulus. Also, there may be a problem in my right shoulder that is causing some of the problems around there.

Edited to add 2019: It is amazing that I noticed this as I learnt in 2017 that my neck pain was caused by myofascial pain syndrome and that was a huge piece of the puzzle!

I have noted an interesting paradox with my leg muscles, they respond most negatively to exercise when they have had a break. Longer periods of exercise do cause more tightness, but it is the getting used to exercise again, even after a one day break that causes the most trouble. So I really need to make an effort to walk or do Pilates every day. Which is not easy with rain, the baby and not much sleep!

I have also noted, more clearly than before, that not enough sleep causes the most problems in my life. When I can get 8-9 hours per night, preferably uninterrupted, I can cope with it all. The pain, the fatigue and the resulting roller coaster of emotions that come with this. When I don’t get enough sleep, for a long time, I spiral. Neck flare ups, more general pain, more deep-in-my-bones fatigue, cold sores, ulcers and lethargy.

The idea of meditation has always appealed, but I have never been any good at the sitting still and focusing on the breathe version. I would take to the five minutes of lying down after yoga practice, happy for the rest after the work. I can enter a mindful, peaceful state while walking and just being. But I don’t just go and meditate.

One afternoon, I had an hour to lie down between finishing work and getting my boy, and I didn’t feel like struggling with myself to have a nap. Falling asleep in the day time, potentially because I use Amitriptyline at night-time to get to sleep, is very difficult. I get frustrated. So instead, I meditated. I breathed, I performed a body scan (mentally checking in with all of my muscles) and rested. I felt very nice afterwards.

One night, after several particularly bad nights with the baby, I found that my neck was too sore and my headache too great to fall asleep. So I attempted visualisation (the concept of visualising my pain receding and the muscles relaxing). I gave it a good effort and found it not to be a useful form of pain relief for me. I took Panadol, waited about 20 minutes and finally, when the medicine took the edge off enough for me, got to sleep.

Mindfulness and the tools that this entails are useful aids for dealing with my pain and help to lessen the effects of the emotions that come with the chronic pain. But they can’t replace medicine when it is bad, or my whole of life wellness plan.

The Mindfulness Solution to Pain is well worth checking out!

If you are interested in using mindfulness for chronic pain and fatigue:

Check out my free workshop

Six Months of Awesomeness

I’ve had my precious boy for six months.

So I think it’s time to take a minute and recognise how awesome I am for getting here.

I survived pregnancy with symptoms wildly exacerbated by the fibro. I also got married and found out I was severely iron deficient at week 28. The entire third trimester in which my back hurt so much that I couldn’t sit down for long periods of time.

I endured the labour and delivery, which included 20 hours of the worst back pain I’ve ever known. And the physical recovery that spanned further months afterward.

At week three, when my boy went back into hospital with an unknown problem that ended up requiring a minor operation, I coped. The nights that I stayed with him, not sleeping because he was vomiting so forcefully and so regularly. The nights that I stayed at home and expressed every three hours so that I would have food for him when he was ready.

Everything that is part of the new mama experience, not sleeping and not resting enough.

I’ve done it. I’ve conquered it. For many of those days I had a sore neck, headaches, nausea, aching legs and back and shoulders. For more still I was tired right down to my bones. For some I had an upset stomach,  if my neck was super bad I’d also be dizzy.

I am so unbelievably proud of myself.

I’ve also learnt so many things and developed as a person.

If you’re in that battle that is a new baby or pregnancy, know that you can do it. One day at a time, one step at a time. You will get through it. Remember to look after yourself, you need your strength to look after your beautiful baby.

Mama’s who have done the baby journey with additional issues are AMAZING!

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Changes and a Family Home

We have been looking for a house for a while. We have tried different neighbourhoods and different counties. We even considered buying a house for someone else to live in, as an investment, in an area we couldn’t live in.

But we have finally found a house in an area close enough to where we currently live and work. It has plenty of indoor and outdoor space for our growing boy. The neighbourhood is “up and coming”. But there are good schools around.

Now I’m excited to get to work with “cheap chic” decorating ideas. I’ve been waiting to decorate baby’s room and have made do with his scrapbook so far.

Of course, my first stop was the library. They have some great books on the subject. The next will be scouring the internet for ideas.

Last week baby started three short days per week with his in-home carer. I’m so thankful for this option of childcare. He will know and bond with his fully qualified early education teacher/carer, who will have no more than one other baby and no more than four children total at a time.

So the time has come to get back into my business and set up some work. Which is a bit exciting and scary at the same time. Will I have enough energy for work and my baby? Will I be able to find a good balance, physically? Will I have the energy to do other things? Will I be able to generate enough work to help is pay this mortgage? Will my neck pain skyrocket?

These questions can only be answered with experience. Please send positive thoughts my way!

A Letter to Midwives

I remember it vividly. Sitting in a low, grey chair, behind a curtain with a double breast pump at work, tears streaming down my face. I started crying that morning and couldn’t stop.

It was three days after a hard pregnancy and delivery, and I’d had very little sleep.

The midwife said my fibromyalgia must be pretty bad.

I didn’t say anything at the time, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

I want to tell her that it’s not.

I usually cope very well. But she saw me on one of the worst days of my life. After a pregnancy of increasing pain and decreasing sleep. After a hard labour. After three days of very little sleep, with a baby who couldn’t get enough food from me. Hideous pain in my breasts and in my stitches. To top it off my husband wasn’t allowed to stay. So I was alone with this baby from 9pm to 9am.

The midwives on the nightshift didn’t help very much. They latched baby on and left. They didn’t see the pain caused by his latch becoming shallower as he drank. If I took him off to try to re latch, he’d refuse it.

On that last day the best things happened. And only because I couldn’t stop crying.

They taught me to express milk for my baby to drink via the bottle. This meant I was able to see that my baby had enough food, that I could bother my very sore breasts only three-hourly and that I had an element of control.

This enabled me to give my baby breastmilk for eight weeks, instead of just that first week.

We need options. I was committed to feeding my baby, but I needed the option to help me do that. I am so thankful for this, so thankful that they were not judgemental. Cos damn, breastfeeding hurt me!

They also let my husband stay on the final night.

He is why I managed. We took turns feeding, so I got some sleep. I also had a person to experience it all with me. Alone, in pain, with a screaming baby is not a key for coping.

What I want to tell all midwives is that my fibromyalgia isn’t so bad. But there are people who have it worse.

Please educate yourselves so that you can help. Even if you know enough to know that the husband or a support person needs to stay to help.

A person with fibromyalgia is likely to have a higher perception of the pain.
They are more likely to have had a very painful pregnancy.
They are more prone to emotional changes – when you’re in a lot of pain and so tired you can’t think straight, you can’t keep your emotions on an even keel.

So please know this. Please be aware. We need a little extra help.

Ways to Cope in the First Trimester: Pregnancy with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain & Fatigue

The first trimester can be hard for anyone, let alone a woman with fibromyalgia, chronic pain and chronic fatigue. Pregnancy with fibromyalgia is not a picnic, although some women do experience a remission from their symptoms. I was so wrong when I thought that several years of fatigue and a decade of chronic pain could prepare me for this whole new level of fatigue, nausea – and by extension, pain.
For ease of language, I refer to fibromyalgia most often, but this incorporates chronic pain, chronic fatigue and insomnia. I personally have the chronic pain condition myofascial pain syndrome as well, so my experience between the two is indistinguishable.
I had to learn the hard way, through personal experience, how to manage pregnancy with  fibromyalgia before I found enough research to be useful, so I share everything on this blog so it isn’t as hard for you.
pregnancy with chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, ways to cope in the first trimester

Here’s my tips for coping with the first trimester:

  • Acupuncture for nausea I found this to be a total lifesaver, my physio knew the right spots for hitting that nausea caused by the whirling hormones in my body. She also gave me a pressure point stimulator on my wrist that I could press when I needed. Unfortunately, my existing conditions mixed with the pregnancy problems and I couldn’t separate them, I had no idea how much was “reasonable” or “normal” for pregnancy. Try also: ginger and peppermint.
  • Rest when you can – this is something I couldn’t ignore. There were days when I got up at 7 and needed a nap at 10. I was so lucky to work from home! Rest, rest, rest. You won’t get much when the baby comes. I wasn’t able to, but make a rule of not going out after 7 too often, that would have been so awesome. (I haven’t yet learnt to properly stand up for myself, maybe one day I’ll master this). Since I wrote this article, I have profoundly benefited from meditation, see more about meditation here
For a sneak peek into the third trimester when pregnant with chronic pain see here
  • Keep walking – I did my absolute best to keep exercising. Sometimes I couldn’t, other times I managed 20 minutes (something I continued until my last day of pregnancy, and for which I’m thankful for). If walking is out of reach, a bed yoga routine could be an idea.
  • Eat little and often – this is something that’s natural to my metabolism, but I found that eating less amounts, more often helped. If I had food in my tummy, but not too much, I was less prone to nausea and I had more energy. Yes it is best to focus on vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy fats. But if carbohydrates are calling you and you can’t stomach anything else, go for it! Just try to stick with wholegrain rather than refined flours.
  • Find your Shapes – find that food that helps your tummy when you’re nauseous. At first, what helped changed weekly. But after a while Shapes (small, flavoured crackers) became my go-to. I must have gone through a dozen boxes in my first trimester!
  • Manage your pain as best as you can – Ideally you will have previously discussed what medicines you can and cannot continue to take while pregnant with your doctor. If not, make an appointment as soon as possible to discuss it with a knowledgeable (and compassionate) practitioner. Also utilise all the natural pain management mechanisms possible. Rest, sleep, warm bath, heat pack, stretching etc.

This post was written after my first pregnancy and before my second two (when I really refined what helped!) so do check out “pregnancy” category in the category box for more articles to help.