If the princess that Hans Christen Anderson created in The Princess and The Pea, told me she had tossed and turned all night and woke up feeling bruised, black and blue, I would suspect fibromyalgia not a pea under twenty mattresses.
Approximately 15% of the population suffer from the pain of fibromyalgia. Many of these are women who work hard, aim for perfection and sleep poorly. Slowly over a period of weeks and sometimes months, pain creeps up on them. Their brains become foggy as they are fatigued from poor sleep and living with pain advances. Eventually, they are told they have fibromyalgia.
What causes fibromyalgia?
Like many illnesses, no specific cause has been found for fibromyalgia. It appears to be a series of cascading events which trigger physical and mental challenges. There may be a lingering viral or Candida infection and accompanying nutritional deficiencies. Often the full spectrum of fibromyalgia is brought on by a physical trauma such as a car accident or falling off a bike. The physical trauma is the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
How to get relief from fibromyalgia
Because the fibromyalgia has several causes and results of different symptoms, a multi-factorial approach brings the most comfort. Such an approach includes dietary changes, exercise, deeper sleep, enhanced mind/body awareness, body therapies and herbal medicine.
Dietary changes are hard to make. Begin with simple changes. For example, substitute an apple for the sugar fix in the mid-afternoon. Order a salad with chicken instead of hamburger and fries at lunch. Replace flavoured (highly sugared) yoghurt with plain and add fresh fruit.
Many with fibromyalgia find it very difficult to exercise, as the pain limits their movement. Like dietary changes, begin slowly and be gentle with limitations. Some recommend short periods of aerobic exercise three times a week. I also recommend yoga, Tai chi and a walk around the block in the evening.
There are many ways to improve sleep. The easiest is to take a calcium supplement before bed. Calcium relaxes muscles, helping the body unwind. Melatonin taken with the calcium will calm the mind. Together they enhance sleep.
For those that wake through the night, a bedside herbal remedy for sleep which includes hops (Humulus lupus) and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) will ease one back to sleep.
Good sleep hygiene involves taking the TV and clutter out of the bedroom, sleeping in the dark and going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning.
Mindfulness and meditation
Many have found relief by changing their relationship to the pain. Meditation and creative visualisations can be used to develop distance from the pain. This, in turn, decreases the sense of being overwhelmed by the pain and gives room to breathe a little deeper. Deeper breathing results in a calmer mind/body experience.
In the book, The Full Catastrophe of Life: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness, Jon Kabat-Zinn documents his experience of using meditation to help others manage chronic pain at the Massatcheush Medical Centre. I highly recommend this book.
Treatments that involve laying on hands, such as Cranio-sacral can bring relief from the pain as well as release emotional tensions associated with chronic illness. These types of therapies are often important in the initial stages of finding wellness, as they are excellent tools to relax muscles.
In herbal medicine, the protocol often has several stages: gentle cleansing, increase relaxation and help with recovery from long term stress.
Herbs like yellow dock (Rumex Crispus), red clover (Trifolium pretense) and burdock root (Articum lappa) will help move toxins from the body without stressing the body further.
Herbs that relieve the chronic gnawing of the pain on the mind are used simultaneously; these include skullcap (Scutellaria latrafolia) and green oat seeds (Avena sativa).
Herbs that relax muscles are essential, cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) and valerian (Valeriana officinalis) are two that are frequently used.
Then there are the adaptogens, which I like to say gives life space. These include Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Adaptogens will build the body’s resistance to stress.
A topical salve of cayenne (Capsicum minimum) is also essential for symptomatic pain relief.
And, finally, patience!
The knots of fibromyalgia take time to tighten, and unravelling them also requires time, but with patience, it can be done.
One morning, I am sure, the princess woke to the sun shining, stretched and felt refresh from a deep nights sleep.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Now I would like to hear from you. Do have Fibromyalgia? What have you tried to help with their symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.