Healthy Living with Fibromyalgia

(Editor's note: This article was republished with the author's permission and was originally published on the Missouri Arthritis Rehabilitation Research and Traning Center web site at

"Pain is like a child tugging on your arm, pleading for attention and crying, 'Mom!' 'Mom!' 'Mom!' Would you ignore that child? No, you wouldn't. But, people often ignore pain. We teach them to acknowledge and answer it," explained Tina Talbert, nurse specialist with the fibromyalgia program by St. John's Hammons Support Services.

Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome with no known cause or cure, can be managed. Although fibromyalgia causes pain in muscles and tissues throughout the body, classes at the Hammons Heart Institute help people reduce physical symptoms and mental stress associated with this musculoskeletal disorder.

"We concentrate on teaching people how to take care of themselves. We encourage them to find balance in their lives, moving away from always working and never stopping to a healthy combination of work and rest," Talbert added.

To promote healthy, balanced living, Talbert and her colleagues focus on each individual's physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs.

The program's multi-faceted approach includes the following:

* Psychological coping skills
* Water aerobics
* Massage therapy
* Electromedicine

To help reduce pain and improve sleep patterns, the physical regimen consists of graduated aerobic exercises in a heated pool. Massage therapy loosens muscles and demonstrates the restorative powers of touch. Neurologically based, massage utilizes the body's natural "trigger points."

In addition, the fibromyalgia program offers two types of electromedicine: auriculotherapy and cranial electrotherapy.

Auriculotherapy stimulates the outer ear using specialized instruments. Various parts of the ear correspond to pressure points on the body. Since points on the ear comprise a micro system comparable to the body's macro system, a safe probe stimulates points on the ear to restore balance to the body's systems. Similarly, cranial electrotherapy is an anxiety reducing treatment that uses electrodes; an instrument is clipped to the earlobes and emits a micro current pulse.

From auricular therapy to aqua aerobics to applied kinesiology, the program does more than help people accept their condition; it empowers them to improve their health.

"We try to instill an awareness of the body, mind, spirit connection. The body believes what it's told. Our basic message is that you're important; you're needed; and you should know how to take care of yourself," Talbert explained.

According to Talbert, participants first receive a physician referral. People who meet the program criteria begin a succession of classes-once a week for two months, every other week for four months, and, finally, once per month for six months. In the course of one year, more than 250 participants change their lives forever.

"We concentrate on teaching people how to take care of themselves. We encourage them to find balance in their lives," says Talbert.

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