I have seen these pain relief apps and been curious for a while. The basis of science and the mind-body connection as a way to help treat chronic pain resonates strongly with me.
When I was offered the opportunity to review the Pathways Pain Relief App, I jumped! I am beginning a one year trial now in exchange for my honest review. I will keep you updated.
A bit about Pathways Pain Relief App:
It is designed for those of us with chronic pain – pain that has lasted more than three months, for which little helps. It provides an interactive journey through educational sessions in pain science, meditation and mindfulness and more.
What can Pathways help with?
According to their website any pain of a chronic nature (lasting three months). This includes fibromyalgia.
What can you expect from the app?
“We take patients on an interactive journey that starts with pain science education. Understanding that pain is much more complex (and interesting!) than a signal from damaged tissues, is an important step towards turning down the volume on pain.
We then move onto breaking any behaviours that could be keeping your pain system in high-alert. We also cover physical therapy, guided imagery, visulization and mindfulness exercises, hundreds of meditations and more.
Our sessions are audio based and between 2 and 20 minutes long.”
My take at the beginning of my journey with it
As a busy mama of three children five and under I don’t have the time for full on programme. I do have time for 2-20 minute audio sessions to be completed on my own schedule. In addition there really is nothing to lose, this is all natural and is bound to have relaxation benefits if nothing else. And we can all benefit from relaxing more.
The first thing I went through was the collection of meditations, there is a great selection for pain, relaxation, sleep and more. So that is a great resource.
I am looking forward to reporting back on my progress.
Please note: I never make things look like a cure all – there is no such thing. This could be one part of your fibromyalgia puzzle.
If you want to download it and have a look at the free content before purchasing, you can find more information here.
Have you tried the Pathways app? Or one similar? I’d love to hear your experience.
One of the things the You vs Fibromyalgia free micro course will take you through is pain relief. Sign up to my newsletter and receive access to this and more free resources.
I hope that you have learnt heaps and have lots of things to try.
Today we are going to delve into normal human needs and a little deeper into how yoga helps me.
NORMAL HUMAN NEEDS
I have held this belief for a long time, that we are human beings first and foremost, so there are some crucial keys to wellbeing that ought to be followed, whether we have a chronic illness or not. We cannot heal an illness such as fibromyalgia without having an overall healthy lifestyle. We cannot throw pills at this problem while not looking after our body. Our body is an interconnected being – what effects one area will effect another.
It is far beyond the scope of anything I can go over here, but I will I briefly outline some general lifestyle tips that will help us to live well, especially once we have begun to address the other parts of this series.
Address other health issues
For me this includes managing myofascial pain syndrome as it definitely contributes to the fibromyalgia and vice versa. For some this will be thyroid issues, other nutritional deficiencies, other conditions such as migraines etc.
Gentle exercise is very useful in helping our body to move and loosen up. Every human being is recommended to exercise for wellbeing. I will go into this in more detail below.
Avoiding any foods we are allergic or intolerant to and making good choices to fuel our body.
Getting enough sleep
Although this is more difficult for us than most, it is a vital human need.
Some of us might need to address any emotional issues that may have contributed to our situation including childhood trauma or very stressful events that have occurred. You could tackle this alone through expressive writing or mindfulness. You may benefit from finding a counsellor.
This is going to be an ongoing and vital part of helping us to manage our condition. We are even more susceptible to stress due to our overactive nervous system.
Human beings are social creatures, even introverted people need some level of social proximity. I was able to make up for the lack of people in real life who understood the fibromyalgia with virtual connections in a couple of great Facebook groups. If you have people who don’t understand in real life, try to find some online. But try to keep it positive, venting can be useful, but so can solutions-focused discussions.
Just because we are limited in our energy envelopes, doesn’t mean we don’t deserve passion. Find what makes you happy and pursue it. Even if you have to adapt it for now, or ongoing.
Below we will chat about yoga and gentle exercise.
YOGA (OR GENTLE EXERCISE)
Yoga is one of many gentle exercise options for people with chronic pain and fatigue. One of the golden rules for fighting Fibromyalgia is to keep moving. Walking is my go-to form of movement, a gentle walk in the sunshine has multiple benefits for mind and body. There are a ton of ways to move besides yoga and walking: a simple stretch, tai chi, Pilates, swimming, aqua jogging, weight lifting… the list is long.
We shouldn’t be doing so much that our pain and fatigue levels skyrocket, the aim is for better quality of life, not worse. If walking is currently out of reach, then stretch or wander around in a warm pool or try yoga.
Type “Yoga for Fibromyalgia” into Google and you will find a wealth of information trails to follow. Countless blogs and articles cover the benefits of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness for people with Fibromyalgia.
Find an entire post here about yoga benefits, how I utilise it and some links to get you started if you’re curious.
Non-Yoga Workout Here is the YouTube channel of a person who makes fitness videos especially for people with chronic pain and fatigue.
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So that completes our series!
If you have loved this series and would like all of the content and templates in one place, with space to write notes as you go…find it physically here (affiliate) and digitally here.
Do you like the work I do here ensuring that people with fibromyalgia receive the tools, education and support they deserve? Especially while pregnant. Then consider joining the Melissa vs Fibromyalgia Inner Circle Membership group and get access to the exclusive members library. It’s a pay what you can model starting at just $5 per month.
This post is Fibromyalgia 101: I share what Fibromyalgia is, the definition, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options and more.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain-based illness of unknown origin and cure. It effects approximately 3-6% of the world’s population. It is said to effect far more women than men, but there are definitely men who suffer with it too. It appears in-discriminatory in race, education level and socioeconomic demographics.
I have struggled with this illness for most of my life. I have also put a lot of work into my wellness journey. In 2017 I was the most well I had been since I was 17 years old. In 2020 I am the most well I can ever remember being. This does not mean that I am not affected 24/7 – I just have it as well managed as I possibly can.
For a brief run down of what Fibromyalgia is, the symptoms and some treatments see below.
Fibromyalgia 101 What is It?
On the University of Maryland Medical Center website, Fibromyalgia is explained in this way: “Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by pain in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons; fatigue; and multiple tender points on the body.”
And on the same page, they list the signs and symptoms of Fibromyalgia:
Widespread pain and stiffness
Fatigue [and]/or trouble sleeping
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Heightened sensitivity to noises, bright lights, smells
Pain after exertion
Memory lapses/difficulty concentrating
Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
However, the trouble is that Fibromyalgia seems to be very unique to each person: how it comes on, what symptoms are present, what helps said symptoms.
There is also a debate as to whether trigger points are present in Fibromyalgia or part of a separate issue called Myofascial Pain Syndrome. A lot of the above symptoms overlap with a lot of different conditions.
Some Associated Physiological Abnormalities
Research has found alterations in neurotransmitter regulation, immune system function, sleep physiology and hormone level control. A lot of research suggests that Fibromyalgia is the result of central nervous system dysfunction – specifically an overactive nervous system, stressing and exhausting the brain (Dennis W. Dobritt, Fibromyalgia – A Brief Overview).
Getting Diagnosed with Fibromyalgia
This great article from Fibro Daze explains why it takes so long to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the process and the Widespread Pain Index and Symptom Severity Scale.
Long story short, it takes a long time to be diagnosed – years on average and multiple doctors – because it is a tricky illness with no widely accepted test and because a multitude of other illnesses must be ruled out. This is particularly difficult because Fibromyalgia tends to co-exist with a multitude of other conditions. It is a disease of mimicking and misdiagnosis.
Fibromyalgia 101: Treating It
We have been told it is incurable, but that is only because they don’t know what causes it. But some smart people are working on it and I believe we will see progress soon.
There are a multitude of treatment options on offer. Some of them help a little, some help a lot, some help one person a lot and another person a little – therein lies the difficulty.
I have been sharing my journey for the past several years because I want to help you cut down the time it takes you to find what helps you. I have carefully researched, trialed and written about all of the treatment options I have tried.
There are few certainties in treating Fibromyalgia but here are some from a seasoned Fibromyalgia fighter:
Treatment will require multiple options (natural and medicinal)
One option can help me incredibly and you not at all and vice versa
Sleep is king. Tackle sleep first. With medication if you must. This is a widely agreed finding from key doctors who treat Fibromyalgia including Dr Liptan, Dr Teitelbaum and Dr Vallings.
Check out “pregnancy” and “parenting” in the categories box (below or beside this post) for articles to help you have the best pregnant possible despite Fibromyalgia.
All My Articles on Fibromyalgia
Look at “fibromyalgia” in the category box for all of the articles that I have created to help you fight Fibromyalgia. There are over 250 of them.
My Journey: 2020
As of 2020 I am enjoying my best quality of life that I can ever remember. Thanks to low dose naltrexone, yoga, meditation and all the things I have enacted to be more well. I am so thankful every day.
I am hopeful and I am excited as to what the future brings.
My hope for you is that you keep fighting for yourself. Don’t wait for a doctor to do it for you. But do work with your doctor, find another if they won’t.
There’s a pernicious symptom of living with Fibromyalgia that can fall into the background of the twin peaks of pain and fatigue. Something that affects our everyday lives and we may not even realise it is a thing.
Brain fog, fibro fog, or cognitive dysfunction (a very unattractive term, but there it is.)
It can strike during any conversation, any task, any time.
I can’t do confrontations because the stress causes me to forget how to stand up for myself. All the words or well-articulated statements I’d have written down become buried in fog when I try to access them in the moment. Even subjects I’m well researched on become minefields when reaching through my memory for the information. Which is part of why I write everything down.
There’s been a thousand conversations where I’m reaching for simple words that blew away a moment before I want them. There have been even more times when I say one thing when I mean another. Sometimes I know I’ve done it, but often I don’t. Occasionally I’ll realise later.
As someone who loves words and writing it’s more than a little upsetting.
Brain fog was thought to be another thing that is all in our heads, however, “a 2015 study in Arthritis Care and Researchfound that fibro fog is a real issue. In a study of 60 individuals – 30 with fibromyalgia and 30 without fibromyalgia – researchers found various impairments of attention and memory in fibromyalgia patients when compared with healthy controls. What remains unclear is what is causing the cognitive challenges.” Reference: Fibro Fog: Sleep, brain dysfunction likely culprits for cognitive difficulties associated with fibromyalgia on Arthritis Foundation accessed here.
It is thought as many as 50% of Fibromyalgia patients struggle with it, perhaps more.
Brain fog has been theorized to be caused by poor sleep, the nervous system being off-kilter, stress and anxiety, and pain severity. Though, they really don’t know the cause yet.
Here’s the ways fibro fog can manifest:
Clumsiness/loss of spatial awareness
Mixing up words
Confusion (I’ve never experienced this but see how it could occur)
Overwhelm (too many competing sensory inputs)
Becoming easily distracted
Here’s some things that help minimise fibro fog:
Get the best sleep you can get (something I have found and is supported by the literature – sleep really is king to managing Fibromyalgia symptoms)
Pace activity and rest
Give yourself time and understanding
These are not small things for us to do. I spend a lot of time working on good sleep and managing pain. However it’s far better to what it was when I was at my worst. I go through all of these things in my course You vs Fibromyalgia and help you make plans to manage pain, sleep and pacing, so do come and join us now (the early bird offer disappears on 18th August 2018) if you would like help in these areas.
Here’s some ways to combat fibro fog and the effects:
Lists, write it all down – even before I was diagnosed or had any idea of why life was so much harder for me, I planned religiously and had lists upon lists.
Routines, automatic pilot can be useful
Explain it to those around you often – I often tell my family that there is nothing more dear to me than a person who mercifully adds the right word in their own head for or me or gives it to me gently.
Check your medicines are not the culprits – sometimes our medicines cause as many issues as they solve, it’s good to be aware of what their side effects are so we can mitigate them.
Brain fog is just one of those things that come with chronic sleep deprivation, pain and fatigue, but there are many things we can do to compensate for it.
Keeping an eye on our health through a daily log and maximising the many choices we make each day can have tremendous impact on our quality of life. I firmly believe that we have the power to impact our life, dramatically, with each little choice.
Succinctly, Why Do I Keep a Daily Log?
Aka what are the benefits?
Knowing the longer term patterns
Ensuring the things I am trying are working
Knowing what doesn’t help
To help me communicate with my medical team
In short, to help me target my treatments (so I don’t waste money on the things that don’t work) to improve as much as possible.
What I Track in my Daily Log
Tracking experiments – like diets, new supplements or medicines and the like – are a good time to take note of what is going on. You want to be sure things are tracking upwards.
Even though I’m not actively logging my Low Dose Naltrexone experiment any longer (please see my Etsy store for my How to Choose a Treatment Option with template for experiments), I keep track of a few key details.
Namely: Sleep hours and quality, three key symptoms (neck, back and fatigue), medicine/supplements, exercise and self-care.
By jotting down quick notes each day, I can see patterns arise and continue the good ones and work on the bad ones.
I believe self-efficacy is vital in managing pervasive symptoms like pain and fatigue. I also believe we are our own best advocate. And with brain fog as a likely issue, we need to write things down. This also helps us when we are seeking help from our health professionals.
What are our Options for Daily Tracking?
You can scribble notes in a journal, make a bullet journal or try a template.
You can print them out and put them in a pretty binder or punch a hole and tie ribbon. Or the apricot ones will fit in an existing A5 planner. They are all designed to be flexible – print to the ratio that suits, A4, A5 or letter size. Full colour or greyscale.
You might also like to look into bullet journals. I find the setting up of the sections a bit too time consuming, but if you are creative and enjoy doing that – a simple Google search will equip you with ideas – and there are a lot.
I created a health and habits bullet style tracker as well – this gives you the space to track the things that matter to you in addition to those simple healthy habits to help us in our wellness journey. You can cut them out and paste them into your bullet diary too. The thing I love about this is that you can track more than just symptoms so easily.
Some of the healthy habits you could track include:
Fruit and vegetable intake
Getting to bed at your designated time
However you choose to do it, I would encourage you to keep track of your key symptoms in order to help you manage this beast.