Those with fibromyalgia often suffer from things like sleep disorders, cognitive issues, and emotional problems that go along with the chronic pain and tender point tenderness so commonly seen in patients suffering from fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes.
Many of these individuals have never heard of mindfulness therapy and mindfulness techniques that can actually be very useful in overcoming pain, emotional distress, and cognitive issues seen in fibromyalgia.
Often pain medications and other Western medical therapies fail for fibromyalgia patients because they don’t address the overall picture of what’s going on with this complex disease. Instead, these people need a holistic approach that involves alternative therapies and techniques, and that take the entire patient and their symptoms into account. This is where mindfulness therapy can be very appropriate.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness focuses on here and now issues and attempts to draw away from past traumas, past issues, and worries about the future. In mindfulness, all that is happening is accepted and embraced as part of the living condition. In many ways, mindfulness can reduce the common symptoms of depression and anxiety, which are part and parcel of what it means to be a fibromyalgia patient.
Mindfulness can be practiced by anyone with or without emotional difficulties and is a good approach to life in general. It is all about acceptance of what is and not focusing on anything other than what is directly felt, heard, seen or experienced by the individual, regardless of their mental and emotional state.
The Purpose Of Mindfulness
The whole point of mindfulness and mindfulness therapy is the acceptance of how you feel, including the physical symptoms and mental symptoms you are experiencing. This is done on a moment-to-moment basis so that you are focusing on what is around you and within you rather than what has happened to you in the past or might happen to you in the future.
Mindfulness is all about being nonjudgmental and accepting the feelings that exist no matter how they exist.
In mindfulness, you are allowed to have the feelings, whether they are physical or emotional feelings, and then you can let them go. It results in less rumination over the physical problems that face fibromyalgia patients as well as the emotional trauma going on inside your mind.
Mindfulness therapy has been found in research studies to be extremely helpful in people who have cognitive and emotional pain syndromes including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. These patients often suffer from symptoms that are very resistant to standard pain therapies and have symptoms that are considered medically unexplainable.
One Research Study
Researchers have been studying mindfulness therapy for people with somatization problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome for many years. In one study, researchers combined the results of many different smaller studies and discovered that, for the most part, mindfulness therapy can reduce stress and the perception of pain in patients suffering from fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome (which often goes along with fibromyalgia), and chronic fatigue syndrome (which can also be part of the fibromyalgia picture).
Some of the studies conflicted with one another but the researchers felt it was due to the multitude of ways the earlier studies were performed. Some of the older studies didn’t include control groups that were adequate so the placebo effect may have taken place, allowing other therapies to be just as useful as mindfulness therapies in the management of these chronic pain conditions.
The study showed, in particular, a reduction in anxiety when the individuals practiced the techniques used in mindfulness therapy. Anxiety is a common problem in patients with fibromyalgia and was relieved when mindfulness techniques were employed when compared to placebo treatments. Things like quality of life, depression, and fatigue were also found to be lessened when mindfulness was practiced.
Keys To The Effectiveness Of Mindfulness Therapy
The important factor to remember when it comes to mindfulness therapy is that acceptance is what it is all about. The symptoms themselves do not change but your perception of and acceptance of the symptoms is what actually changes.
When you learn how to accept the symptoms for what they are, you begin to cope better and your quality of life improves. The depression and anxiety experienced by fibromyalgia sufferers can be lessened by refusing to ruminate on them.
When you suffer from a chronic pain condition such as Fibromyalgia, you can find yourself in a never-ending cycle. This cycle involves feeling stressed because of the pain, the stress causing anxiety, the anxiety making the pain feel more intense and then pain in turn increasing the stress. Pain, anxiety and stress all make you feel unhappy. Although being happy will not take away your pain, it can make it more bearable.
It’s easy to give in to the stress you live with every day because of your chronic pain. However, there are many ways you can combat this stress and anxiety caused by pain. Taking a positive approach to life can help lessen the stress, anxiety and even the pain itself.
To help you deal with pain better, below you will find 10 ways you can be happy despite living with a chronic pain condition. These are things you should remember and implement in your life, even if you are not living with a chronic pain condition, but even more so if you are.
You Don’t Need To Be A People Pleaser
It is interesting to note that we often feel worse when we let other people down than when we let ourselves down. Even though the majority of people that really matter in your life will understand if you are unable to keep to appointments or do things. You need to remember that you do not have to please anyone and that no one is expecting anything from you. When you start adopting that attitude, you will feel happier and less burdened.
Not Everything In Life Is Always Easy
There is nothing worth having in life that doesn’t require work. Although it would be nice to just wish for something and for it to be so. To just go to sleep and wake up feeling free of pain and the stresses it causes. However, this is simply not the case. You have to actually work to change your mindset and attitude towards the positive. In addition, this may involve big and difficult changes in your thought process and a lot of effort. Just like anything – relationships, work, and even pain management – you are never going to be successful in life without hard work. Therefore, to be happy, you need to work on being happy. Positive affirmations can help, as well as being around positive people and actually learning the skill of seeing the silver lining behind every cloud and the positive side of even the worst situations.
Understand There Are No Guarantees In Life
Often the thing that stops people from really putting the effort required to achieve happiness is the lack of guarantees. When you are not sure what will happen, you don’t want to put the effort in. It is important though to understand though that there are no guarantees in life. Understanding there are no guarantees can help you to put forward the effort and take the risks that could make your life happier.
Avoid Comparing Yourself To Other People
It is only human to be envious or make comparisons to other people, but most of the time, it only makes you feel worse. You need to realize that it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing and who they are – it only matters who you are. When you understand this, you can embrace your life and your experience and make the very best of what you have and you will feel happier.
Freeing Yourself Of The Need For Control
Although it is good to be in control of your life, when you have a chronic pain condition, you can often feel the need to have a control over everything. That need for control can make you feel anxious and stressed. When you let go of that need for control, not giving up but realizing that sometimes things simply aren’t going your way – you will be able to feel happy, no matter how much pain you are in, in one word this is called acceptance.
Celebrate The Small Things In Life
It’s good to celebrate the big events in life. However, putting too much focus on the big events can also mean that you avoid the smaller victories and happenings in your life. The small things that happen every day can be the greatest sources of joy.
When you start to take notice of those and enjoy them, you will feel happier on a day-to-day basis and not just on special occasions.
Make Your Own Happiness
We find it easier to rely on other people to make us happy, but in doing that we also give them the power to ruin our chances for happiness. For example, if your husband or wife comes home stressed from the day’s events at work, you can let his unhappiness darken your own great day. It is better to rely on yourself and take responsibility for your own attitude and feelings, which will not only prevent their unhappiness from rubbing off on you, but may in turn make them feel better.
Be Honest And Real
Often we try to invent and create a version of life that doesn’t exist, such as wishing that the condition that causes us pain did not exist. In an effort to avoid confronting things we don’t like about life, we avoid speaking truths. Usually we hold on to the truths until they explode.
This stress can have a monumental effect on someone with normal health, let alone on one who has a chronic pain condition like Fibromyalgia. Rather than pretending everything is okay, it is healthier to be honest – even if that means admitting, everything isn’t.
In this situation, if you are real and honest from the start, you can avoid the stress that has built up holding back these truths and sink into the calm and peace that goes with true acceptance of reality as it is.
No One Is Always Happy
Everyone has bad days. It is important to keep in mind that this is normal and okay. You are allowed to have a bad day and to feel happy. By thinking that you should always be happy, you can set yourself up with unreasonable expectations, which create more stress and more pain.
Live For The Moment
It is easy to be wrapped up in past errors and mistakes. Holding on to things that have happened though will not help you when you are suffering from a chronic pain condition. It is more beneficial to live in the now, to be glad of what you have and the good things that are happening now. Staying in the moment is one of the easiest ways to improve your level of happiness every single day.
If you are used to being very active and suddenly get a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, it can come as a big shock. Things that used to be easy to do become much more difficult and you will find that your energy level is much less than it used to be.
There are things you will have to get used to when fibromyalgia strikes and you find that you can’t do the things you used to do.
Learning to accept the condition and its effect on your life can be difficult, but it can be done. You will have rewrite your life in a sense, but you can certainly find pleasure and satisfaction in new activities better scaled to your condition and symptoms.
Here are some tips for active people who find that fibromyalgia pain is getting in the way of their activities:
• Focus on what you can do. Acceptance comes easier with awareness and so making a list of all you can do, instead of focusing on what you cannot is helpful.
• Learn how to rest. If you are used to being very active and are suddenly struck down by fibromyalgia, you may still be able to do some of the same activities you used to do but may not be able to do them at the same pace. Instead of exercising for thirty minutes straight in your exercise program, you may have to scale back to exercising ten minutes at a time, resting for a while before you go back to exercising. Listen to your level of pain and fatigue as guides to tell you that you need to rest a bit before going back to what you were doing.
• Scale back the exercise. If you are used to running marathons or even a 5k run, you may not be able to do those things right away if you are suffering from fibromyalgia pain. You may have to scale back your activity level to include exercises that are easier on your muscles and joints, such as swimming or yoga. These are exercises that can be done by just about anyone with any kind of pain level and yet will be doing something active.
Join a health club that has a pool and take part in swimming aerobics. This is an easy form of exercise that will not be hard on your joints and yet will exercise your muscles in a much gentler way. Try to exercise in a pool that has relatively warm water in it as this will be soothing to your pain and will make it easier to exercise.
• Get plenty of sleep. Even though many people with fibromyalgia complain that sleep is no longer restorative, you should try to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night. The sleep will hopefully allow your muscles to rest. When you wake up, do some gentle stretching exercises in bed in order to get rid of the typical morning stiffness seen in patients with fibromyalgia.
If you have difficulty getting to sleep, use good sleep hygiene techniques. This means sleeping in a dark and quiet room and going to bed at the same time every night. Use your bed only for sleep or sex. If you feel like you need some kind of noise, purchase a white noise machine, which will help lull you to sleep. Don’t drink alcohol or any beverages containing caffeine right before sleep and don’t eat a big meal before trying to go to sleep.
• Do exercises that also relieve stress. Having fibromyalgia may spur you to find ways of exercising that will not exacerbate your pain and yet will improve your level of stress. Think about, for example, taking a yoga class. Yoga will teach you various poses, also called “asanas” that you will practice along with breathing exercises that will focus your mind and improve your balance.
If you choose a more gentle form of yoga, such as Hatha yoga, the poses will not be difficult and you will feel as though you have done some decent exercise. You can keep on taking the yoga class or you can bring the yoga home to do in your living room. Other forms of exercise that are easy on the joints/muscles and will relieve your stress include tai chi and qi gong. There may be classes for these types of exercises or you can buy a DVD and learn the exercises at home.
If you suffer from chronic pain in the form of fibromyalgia or some other kind of chronic pain, you will know how hard it can be to successfully and effectively treat it. A major part of the problem with finding a solution or treatment for chronic pain is that while acute pain is often a warning sign of an injury you may be suffering from; chronic pain is entirely different.
Chronic pain often lasts for months, possibly even years. In the following post, we hope to show you how restorative yoga can help in the treatment of chronic pain.
Understanding Chronic Pain
There is no special test that can be done to pinpoint pain and how intense it is, other than speaking to the patient and gaining some understanding of the location, timing, and type of pain based on their descriptions.
You may classify your pain as being one and off or constant, aching or burning, dull or sharp for example and these descriptions is what is known as your pain history. Pain is a very subjective and personal experience and one person might experience pain in the same part of the body or caused by the same condition in a very different way from another person.
As chronic pain may originate from any part of the body for various reasons, it takes medical professionals and patients working together to figure out the causes, symptoms and how it can be treated.
The fact that chronic pain can manifest itself differently from patient to patient and that one person with a similar condition to another, such as fibromyalgia may have a different perception of pain and how it effects their lives. This is why treatment plans are tailor made for individuals.
Aim Of Treatments
Obviously, with chronic pain, the aim of treatment is not so much to get rid of the pain entirely as this may not be possible. However, it is to help improve mobility, performance in every day activities, to decrease the intensity or frequency of the pain and to improve quality of life.
It can be something of a trial and error type of process finding the treatments that work best together to improve your day-to-day life.
Along with medications, nerve blockers, surgery and other less-invasive treatments, restorative yoga has been shown to be an effective treatment for chronic pain.
What Is Restorative Yoga
Yoga is obviously a very popular mental and physical practice that many people participate in to center themselves better both on the inside and outside.
Restorative Yoga is a particular form of practice that includes both breathing and meditative techniques to bring the practitioner a deep state of relaxation.
This practice was inspired by B.K.S Iyengar from India and perfected by Judith Hanson Lasater PhD, an American physiotherapist and notable figure in American yoga circles.
Similarly, to yoga in general terms, the purpose of Restorative Yoga is to create balance between breathing, blood circulation, energy, and organs within your body and bring your central nervous system to a very relaxed and calm state.
The theory is that when your central nervous system is balanced, calm, and extremely relaxed, your chronic pain will be greatly reduced.
How Does Restorative Yoga Work?
As with any form of yoga, RY uses specific poses, but it also makes use of various props to provide the utmost comfort to support and promote relaxation.
Each pose is linked to a specific system within your body.
Along with poses that alleviate head and back pains, there are even specific RY classes and poses designed for people suffering from cancer.
The goal of RY is to unlearn chronic stress and pain responses to give the mind or retrain the mind to healthier healing responses.
Relaxation specifically helps improve pain and reduces stress, which promotes pain and its occurrence.
Unlike other styles of yoga in RY, the poses are meant to be held for 10 minutes or longer. This is to attain a complete state of relaxation and elicit the relaxation response with gentle yoga poses and conscious breathing.
How Do You Find A Restorative Yoga Teacher?
It is always important to consult with your doctor or pain/care team before you start attending any yoga classes or practicing at home.
If it is recommended as something you should try, you should be able to find an RY class at nearby yoga studio or possibly at a community center.
Always check for certification to be sure they are qualified, so you know you are learning from an expert.
There are also many instructional yoga DVDs available to learn at home.