Reprinted with the kind permission of Barbara Keddy
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In the newspaper today, there is an editorial written by Jane Brody titled “More specialists explore treating pain without drugs” (The Globe and Mail, L5, September 15, 2017). She cites the conditions that drug free options for pain can help with, such as fibromyalgia, news of which was published last year by Richard L. Nahin in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Some of the tools that the research has shown to be effective (for such conditions as back ache) are massage therapy, chiropractic manipulation, superficial heat, mindfulness meditation, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and yoga. They are among the many strategies I have tried at one point in my long journey, accompanied every day with fibromyalgia.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is intended to help people restructure their thoughts and let go. It has shown to be effective for changing the brain, although it cannot be said at this point to be highly evidence based. Of late I have used a small book which is intended for the same purposes. It is based upon the principle of “Logosynthesis,” a strategy to help those of us with chronic anxiety, which often leads to fibromyalgia. It is somewhat of a self-help book, but based upon the premise that the brain is elastic and can change (neuroplasticity) by using a few key phrases.
While all of these approaches, such as ‘walking mindfulness,’ yoga, Chi Gong, Tai Chi, among a host of others may seem airy-fairy to some, they are not, in fact, simply feel good strategies. Mild exercise of any sort immediately changes the neuropathways of the brain and replaces by movement thoughts that create angst, pain and fatigue. While logosynthesis is one mechanism that a person can employ, there are countless others that require discipline to let go of the trauma that was long ago created which resulted in a hyper-aroused central nervous system. Choosing one or more that fit your lifestyle helps to become the mistress of our own fate. Massive amounts of drugs which seem to proliferate the shelves of those suffering from fibromyalgia are not the answer.
The strategies that do not cost anything are mindfulness, walking, Chi Gong, Tai Chi, CBT, and logosynthesis. Others which are comforting from those who do ‘body work,’ such as chiropractic therapy, massage and physiotherapy can be expensive and are not intended to directly change the brain, although they do have the benefit of relaxation. We must do what we can to heal ourselves from past trauma thoughts which resulted in anxiety and stress. We have to train ourselves to LET GO.
The news today is that Lady Gaga is hospitalized and has cancelled performances because of fibromyalgia. We can all commiserate with her during this intense flare-up. More troubling is the fact that the kind of high stress profession she is involved with does not allow much time for attention to the discipline required to calm the CNS, the culprit in fibromyalgia.
About the Author: Barbara Keddy, BSc.N., M.A., Ph.D., Professor Emerita, School of Nursing, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, has lived with fibromyalgia for more than 40 years. Barbara has been interested in social justice issues throughout her professional career, with particular focus on women’s health, resulting in her book Women and Fibromyalgia: Living with an Invisible Dis-ease.