Fibromyalgia is a horrible yet “invisible” illness with no known origin, It causes terrible pain all over the body and overwhelming fatigue. Its victims are often maligned and ridiculed when they try and express how much pain they are in. Because the illness does not have outward signs that others can see, people often assume it’s not that bad, or that it’s “in your head”. It’s not. It’s debilitating and exhausting and can lead many to the brink of suicide. Not only is there pain and fatigue, but fibro sufferers often experience depression, irritable bowel syndrome and “foggy” brain. There are no solid or sure-fire remedies to fibro, but there are steps you can take if you or a loved one is a sufferer.
I have had a lot of luck with certain oils–they do NOT get rid of the pain, but they do make it more manageable. The oils that I always have with me include:
Release: this is a blend from Young Living containing Ylang Ylang, Lavender, Geranium, Sandalwood and Blue Tansy. While historically used for releasing past emotional trauma, I have found it very, very useful for releasing physical pain as well. I use it in a diffuser as well as topically. I use 3-5 drops in a tablespoon of coconut or other carrier oil, and rub it on the area of pain.
Peppermint: I use this particularly on my feet when they are painful or sore. Again, I mix a few drops in coconut oil and rub it on my feet. It’s also energizing, and along with Lemon, can give me a little bit of a lift when I am exhausted.
Cedarwood: I diffuse this for comfort. It has calming properties and seems to stimulate the pineal gland to release melatonin. It is also very cost-effective, so I never feel I have to hoard it.
Trauma Life: This bland contains Sandalwood, Frankincense, Valerian, Spruce and Lavender and is calming and similar to Release in it ability to release trauma that manifests painfully in our body. I diffuse it primarily, although it can be used topically.
Valor: I am never without Valor. This oil instills courage and confidence when you just need to face another day.
My choice of oils is Young Living.
I highly recommend an anti-inflammatory diet such as the Mediterranean diet. I personally follow a Whole-Foods-Plant-Based diet with very little added sugar and oil. This diet consists of a great deal of fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and grains and no processed food, meat, eggs or dairy. I find I do best when about half my intake is made up of raw food, so I eat a lot of smoothies, salads, fresh fruit and raw nuts. When my cooked food percentage creeps up, I feel sluggish and in more pain.
You can learn more about this diet by watching Forks Over Knives (streaming on Netflix) or What the Health (also streaming on Netflix). Or you can visit the Forks Over Knives website, which has inspiring stories, recipes and a bit more information on the diet itself.
I also began consuming 6,000 mg a day of turmeric, a powerful anti-inflammatory. I started 4 weeks ago and have yet to see a marked change, but will keep you posted. I chose this brand.
Exercise is a tough one. When I’m in a flare, I cannot exercise. Sometimes I can hardly move. However, i can almost always do some stretching, and when the flare passes, I practice gentle yoga, walking and sometimes weight lifting. There have been times when I could do quite vigorous exercise but I always seem to get worse afterwards (sometimes it takes a few weeks, but I ALWAYS seem to fall back into pain after a few weeks of hard exercise). I have decided it’s best for me to keep it reasonably mellow. Some sufferers swear by swimming, but for me, yoga, walking and daily stretching seem the best option.
It IS important, when not in a flare particularly, to move. That might mean walking to your front door. That might mean lying in bed stretching gently. But the temptation to remain completely stock still, curled up in pain, must be (gently) resisted.
Deep Breathing and Visualization
I cannot emphasize how much deep breathing has helped me. Sometimes I am in so much pain that I realize I’m practically holding my breath, and it’s then that I have to consciously take deep, slow breaths into my belly. Refocusing my mind on my breath helps release the pockets of pain around my body, and helps realign my perspective on pain in general, I try my best not to “name” my pain as “pain”, but rather view it as “sensation”. Then I use visualization to help move or lessen the pain.
Sometimes I visualize the sensation as a rock and my breath as a river of water rushing over it, slowly dislodging it. Try different methods and see what works for you. The mind is powerful, so don’t discount it. And practice this technique when you’re NOT in flare, so that you can put it to use when the pain gets really bad.
I am an acupuncturist, so this is obvious to me. I take herbs and get (reasonably) regular acupuncture. I also try and get massages a couple of times a month. I know some fibro sufferers recoil at the idea of a massage–too painful! But for me, they help. If massage is too much, find a good reiki practicitioner near you. Very gentle and effective.
CDB Oil/Medical Marijuana
Many people have gotten relief using medical marijuana. If your state has this option, I highly recommend speaking to a medical doctor about this option. Alternatively, there are websites that sell CBD oil without THC (the component of marijuana that makes you “high”) and you can purchase from regardelss of the state you live in. I just ordered from Bluebird Botanicals and will let you know if their products help me.
This is a tough one. I find that stress triggers me, but who in this day and age can truly avoid stress? For me, it’s a matter of moderating it, finding ways to take breaks. It also means giving up perfectionism and the desire to please other people. No doubt you have people around you who are skeptical of your condition, and feel you should just “push through it”. No doubt you feel shame and guilt about your illness, about not contributing more, about your inability to do your job or your life as well as you want. It’s important to not listen to those voices. It’s important to listen to your body and do what your body needs you to do, which in many instances is rest.
It’s beyond frustrating, I get that. All you want is to have a normal life, be able to hang out with your friends, or your kids, or your husband, or even simply clean your kitchen, without overwhelming pain, nausea, and exhaustion. It’s even harder when the people in your life don’t accept your illness. But IF you push yourself too hard, you WILL flare, and you WILL come to regret it.
As sufferers of chronic pain, we miss out on a lot. There’s a sadness, a grieving, that comes along with that loss. Every day, I do my best to find pleasure in at least one thing, and pray that my illness does not negatively affect my children or their perception of me. I find ways to interact with them that are not overly hard for me: I play Words with Friends with my older child, we watch funny movies together, we go for walks on the beach (or just “sits” on the beach). We read books. Find things that give you pleasure, even if it’s momentary.
And hang in there.