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Can You Really Train Your Brain to Ease Your Fibromyalgia Pain?

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Train Your Brain to Ease Fibromyalgia Pain

Your brain is an incredibly powerful organ –– the command center for your entire body. Whether you’re awake or asleep, conscious or unconscious, your brain is constantly at work, ensuring that you keep breathing, your heart keeps pumping and every organ in your body continues to function as it’s supposed to. You’re seldom even aware of at least 95% of what your brain is doing. But did you know that it’s possible to influence how your brain operates, even on an unconscious level? Yes, you can actually rewire your brain and guide it into a healthier, more healing path –– a path that can lead to less pain and fewer fibromyalgia symptoms.

Research into the mind-body connection has exploded in the last few decades. Things we long suspected––like the idea that stress negatively affects our physical health––have been empirically proven to be true. While other things we thought we knew about the brain have been proven to be completely untrue. For example, neural pathways in the brain were originally thought to be permanently set, however, scientists have since discovered that the brain has neuroplasticity –– the ability to continuously change and form new neural connections throughout a person’s lifetime.

Train Your Brain to Reduce Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Although I knew our brains were super powerful, it wasn’t until I read Get Back into Whack, a new book by Sue Ingebretson,* that I understood just how much potential there is for me to actually train my brain to reduce my fibromyalgia symptoms.

If you’re a regular ProHealth fibromyalgia reader, you may be familiar with Sue since she’s been a frequent contributor for more than six years, with well over 100 articles published on ProHealth.com. Her first book, FibroWHYalgia, an Amazon chronic illness best seller, tells the story of her search to find the root causes for her fibromyalgia and her subsequent journey to recovery.

Sue’s newest book, Get Back into Whack, is the result of her work as a medical researcher, Master NLP Practitioner and health coach. She was determined to find the best way to help her clients, as she explains in Chapter 1.

I want all of my clients to experience the healing transformation that I’ve found. I want them all to feel in charge of their personal healing options. I want my clients to conquer rather than cope with their limiting symptoms.

Sue Ingebretson: Author, Health Coach and Friend

Sue Ingebretson

Sue Ingebretson

Before I tell you more about some of the life-changing things I learned from her book and in the interest of full-disclosure, I have to confess that this is not a totally unbiased review. I’ve had the privilege of working with, being coached by and being friends with Sue for more than six years. We first met when ProHealth’s founder, Rich Carson, recommended her as a potential writer for ProHealth.

As we discussed possible article ideas, I was captivated by Sue and her personal story. At that point, she was only the second person I had ever met who had recovered from fibromyalgia. What made it even more intriguing was the fact that both attributed their recovery to nutrition and other natural means. I had to know more.

After several conversations and dozens of questions, I asked her to work with me as my health coach. It wasn’t a decision that came easily for me. Other health coaches I’d heard about seemed rigid, insisted on strict adherence to their requirements and were apt to scold if you didn’t follow their instructions to the letter. I tend to be resistant to drastic changes, so I knew that type of coaching wouldn’t work for me. Fortunately, Sue is nothing like that. In fact, she may be the kindest, least judgmental person I’ve ever met. She treaded lightly, accepting me as I was and gently encouraging me to make changes as I was ready and able. In the end, choosing to work with Sue was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. She has made a huge difference in my health and my life. And in the process, we have also become close personal friends.

Over the years, Sue taught me quite a bit about the brain, and how we are able to consciously guide and direct what it does –– even when we’re not consciously aware that it’s doing anything. But Get Back into Whack took me so much deeper. Not only does Sue clearly explain how the brain works in layman’s terms, she also maps out practical steps we can take to rewire our brain’s neural pathways so it is functioning in the most optimal way possible to meet our own individual needs.

What Does the Brain Have to do with Fibromyalgia?

If you have fibromyalgia, you’re well aware of just how hypersensitive and over-reactive our bodies can be. Often it feels like all of our senses are in overdrive; we’re much more sensitive than the average person to light, sound, smells, tastes and of course, touch. As a result, pain and other fibromyalgia symptoms abound.

All of that suffering naturally leads to negative thoughts. (After all, who has happy, positive thoughts when they’re in severe pain?) But did you know that those negative thoughts are actually instructing your brain to continue over-reacting to external stimuli? It soon becomes a vicious cycle. On the other hand, when you learn how to train your brain to tame down the pain, your other fibromyalgia symptoms will be tamed down as well.

What Get Back into Whack Has to Offer

Train Your BrainIn Get Back into Whack, Sue acts as a guide, leading you through the labyrinth of your brain. Although explaining how the brain works is a serious and complex subject, her light-hearted, sometimes humorous approach makes it fun to read.

This book is so jam-packed with valuable information, it’s hard to single out just a few highlights, but I’ll try. Here are some chapters that I found particularly interesting and helpful:

Chapter 2 – “The Great Mental Divide” is fascinating as it details how the brain functions, defining the unique characteristics of both conscious and nonconscious thought patterns. Some examples:

  • The conscious mind is analogous to the captain of a ship (the nonconscious mind, the crew). The conscious mind declares a destination, and the nonconscious mind says, “Aye, aye Captain!”
  • The conscious mind is the goal-setter, the nonconscious mind the goal-getter.
  • The conscious mind can be critical and judgmental. The nonconscious mind does not judge the intentions of the conscious mind. It only follows given directions.

Chapter 4 – “The Pain Brain & Chronic Symptoms” will be of particular interest to you if you have fibromyalgia. It discusses the relationship between the functions of the brain and how the body perceives pain, as well as delving more deeply into the importance of understanding the mind-body connection. This chapter also contains what may be my favorite quote from the whole book, “Our thoughts have the power to tell our bodies at the molecular level how to function.” That is a powerful truth!

Chapter 7 – “Motivation Mastery: Potholes & Bridges” answers the age-old question of “why is it that I do what I don’t want to do?” It explores the connection between our intentions and our actions and provides a method to amplify motivation (which improves results).

Chapter 9 – “Stress: Waiting for the Stop Sign to Turn Green” discusses what impact stress has on the brain itself as well as a discussion about one of the primary subjects of this book – the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). The chronic illness body becomes “stuck” in the fight, flight, or freeze response of the ANS, and suggestions for counteracting this effect are shared.

Chapter 10 – “Sketch Your Own Success Blueprint” provides a detailed and powerful strategy to put what you’ve learned into practice called the ADAPT and GROW technique. Step-by-step details of this method are illustrated as a blueprint for success. A real-life case study of putting the ADAPT and GROW technique into action follows in Chapter 11.

My Wake-Up Call

When Sue first asked me to read an early draft of this book, I was going through a bit of a rough patch and feeling a little overwhelmed. The coaching aspect of our relationship had been on hiatus for about a year due to the fact that we both were experiencing heavy workloads. I knew I missed our weekly chats, but what I didn’t fully realize at the time was what an important part those regular coaching sessions played in helping me stay on a positive, healing path.

The best thing that first reading of Get Back into Whack did for me was to wake me up to the fact that, without even being aware of it, I had allowed myself to slip into a downward spiral of negative thinking. Since I’ve always thought of myself as a very positive person, it really took me by surprise. I was shocked to discover that my negative thoughts had been, in effect, telling my brain that I was never going to get better and would continue to go downhill physically. Of course, my nonconscious mind was obediently working to carry out those “orders.”

Thankfully, that wake-up call was exactly what I needed. Once I realized what was happening, I immediately took steps to change my conscious thought patterns, which in turn caused my nonconscious mind to reverse course as well. It wasn’t long before I began to improve physically as well as mentally and emotionally. Now I try to stay very aware of my thoughts and quickly turn around any negative thoughts that try to creep in.

I can honestly say that even if Sue were not my friend, I would highly recommend Get Back into Whack simply because of what it has done for me.

Meet the Author

I asked Sue to answer a few questions to help you get to know her and why this book is so important to her.

Karen: Why did you choose the title Get Back into Whack?

Sue: When I returned home from Texas after doing a TV interview for my first book, FibroWHYalgia, I felt accomplished. Like, I’d done what I set out to do.

That’s why I was so startled by this question from a friend, “What else do people with fibromyalgia need to know?” Goodness — I hadn’t even unpacked my luggage yet!

But later that night my mind was still spinning on that question. I thought about how out of whack we all feel when dealing with chronic illness. And, I knew we needed better, more helpful, information on how to Get Back into Whack. I hopped online right then and there and grabbed the domain.

I should be embarrassed to share this, but that was in 2011!

Karen: What inspired –– or should I say compelled –– you to write this book?

Sue: That’s a good choice of words, Karen~ I was compelled. As I started to write this book years ago, I began with what comes so easy for me: I outlined all the things people need to do to heal and transform their lives. (It could have been a relatively short book.)

But then a reader shared this, “I absolutely love FibroWHYalgia and I feel motivated to make changes. Now, I need a FibroHOWalgia!”

My mind began to spin again. What’s missing in fibromyalgia books and coaching programs? It’s human nature to want a list of what to do. But that doesn’t mean we’ll do it, right? What’s really needed is an explanation of why we don’t always follow through … why we sabotage our own behaviors … why we sometimes succeed yet fall short at other times.

I had to figure out all of this for myself, first. I jumped into the topics of habit formation, neuropsychology, and the neuroscience of the brain. This set me off on the next (and most powerful) part of my own healing recovery.

After many years of research, experimentation, and classroom trainings, I finally understood the workings of the brain – and I had the science to back it up. At that point, I couldn’t stop writing if I tried. I included everything needed to understand how to adapt to healthy changes and how to make those changes last.

Karen: What kinds of benefits can someone with fibromyalgia expect by learning how to rewire their brain?

Sue: This question brings up the most exciting part. When we rewire our brains to think in specific ways, we find that our actions naturally follow. Did you catch that? We act without effort, artificial motivation, or even willpower.

Most people believe that our thoughts are a result of our experiences – but it’s more like the reverse is true. Our thoughts (which follow very distinct patterns) filter and define everything we experience.

Therefore, when we enlist the brain’s natural patterns to work for us––rather than against us––dealing with life’s ups and downs becomes easier.

This is the astonishing power of working with the natural tendencies of the brain and the mind.

Once readers become aware of the strategies outlined in this book, they’ll have what they need to avoid the challenges that can keep them feeling stuck. They can adopt new and simple habits (of their choice) and move toward the path of healing the chronic illness body.

Karen: Why is Get Back into Whack different and what do you most hope readers will gain from reading it?

Sue: Many have already shared that this book is an unexpected surprise. Most readers expect information about what to eat, how to exercise, and how to get to get better sleep. And, information about all of these topics is included, for sure.

However, I realized a key principle while I was writing. It’s equally important to solve the problem of, “what to do” as it is to solve the problem of, “what gets in the way.” This is a subtle, yet powerful, shift in how we look at our healing challenges.

When I first began coaching over 15 years ago, after I got to know the needs of my clients, I handed them tailor-made food lists and fitness suggestions. Most followed through with my guidance and support. But some didn’t. I had a lot to learn about that “what gets in the way” part of human behavior.

In a light-hearted and humorous way, this book shares that journey and takes the reader along the way. After the first several chapters, readers will be able to optimize their brains for peak performance and take action on their healing plans. They’ll be able to do this without feeling that one foot is on the gas and the other is on the brake.

What I want readers to come away with is true insight and a better understanding of how healing happens. I pray they finish with a deep sense of peace and comfort about who they are, what health struggles they’ve already come through, and what possibilities lie ahead. In other words, I want them to finish Get Back into Whack feeling encouraged, informed, inspired, and filled with hope for the future.

Your Opportunity to Get Back into Whack

The official launch date for Get Back into Whack is Tuesday, November 12. For a very limited time, the digital version will be available on Amazon for only $0.99 and the print version for $12.99 –– both are significantly reduced prices. I would encourage you to set a reminder or mark your calendar so you don’t miss the chance to take advantage of these special low prices. There is also a Get Back into Whack Workbook that will be available in a month or so.

* In addition to being an Amazon chronic illness best-selling author, speaker and workshop leader, Sue is an Integrative Nutrition & Health Coach, a Certified Nutritional Therapist, a Master NLP Practitioner, and a Clinical Therapeutic Hypnotherapist. You can find out more and contact Sue at RebuildingWellness.com.


Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) in 1997 and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, then worked for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network before coming to ProHealth. To learn more about Karen, see “Meet Karen Lee Richards.”om/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=28715″>Meet Karen Lee Richards.”

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