Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Exercise (A series on surviving Chronic Pain)
If you live with Fibromyalgia and/or Chronic Pain you have been told at least 100 times, you need to exercise it will help with your pain. My reply for the past 17 years has been, “you don’t understand, if I exercise I will be so fatigued I won’t get off the couch for a week!” That has been true since the start, except for that one time I was in remission, otherwise exercise has been an impossibility for me and the scale was sure showing it! I went to my doctor six weeks ago and the scale was at an all time high and I sat in the exam room crying. I was at my whits in and so discussed with myself and I felt so defeated, but that was a turning point for me. I decided I had enough and something had to change! I would not and could not except that every time I got on a scale my weight would just be higher and higher. I had to do something. It was time to make a change. So I started looking into exercises I thought I could do and this is what I found….
The most important thing about exercise and chronic illness is to start slow, I mean super duper slow and build up. Also, find something you will do, cause if you don’t you will not follow through. My doctors told me for years to do warm water exercise and that would be fine if… I didn’t live a half hour drive from the nearest indoor pool or I had a pool in my yard that was shaded from the sun and heat, because I’m so sensitive to both. I don’t have that pool and frankly, I don’t want to get dressed, drive to the YMCA, change into bathing suit, do pool exercise, shower, get redressed, and then drive back home. It all just sounded so exhausting and I would probably have gotten home after the first day and laid on the couch for a week, then who knows how long it would take me to recover to do it all again. Just too much and was more than I know I am capable of at this point. Then there’s the expense of the membership and the gas. I know the new me well enough by now, to know once and that would be it and all that money would be a waste. So I had to find something that Wasn’t as big an investment in time, money, and energy. This is what I found after researching chronic pain and exercise, and what’s working for me at least right now.
Is an excellent form of aerobic exercise, which has a plethora of healing benefits bringing oxygen and nutrients to muscles
Helps rebuild stamina
Reduces stiffness and pain
An elliptical trainer (has lower impact than a treadmill)
Low-impact aerobics is the most effective form of exercise for improving symptoms.
Biking (another good option)
Reciprocal (back-and-forth) motion helps provide relaxation
Stationary bikes are inexpensive and having one at home makes it easier to stay committed
Recumbent bikes are good because they don’t put as much stress on your knees, back, and rear end
Swimming and water aerobics in a heated pool
Warm water relaxes muscles
Buoyancy in the warm water helps with movement (cold water can make muscles tense up)
Use light weights (start with 1 to 3 pounds)
Lift slowly and precisely to improve muscle tone and strength
Can help treat depression (sometimes as well as some medications)
Work each major muscle group (legs, chest, shoulders, back, arms, and abs)
Do 2-3 times a week (at least a 1-day break in between)
Start with weights you can lift comfortably for 8 reps (gradually increase to 10-12 reps)
When you can lift weights for 12 reps-sessions in a row, you’re ready to increase the weight slightly, only by 1-2 pounds (then start back at eight reps with heavier weights)
Practicing a more gentle combination of postures, breathing, and meditation (reduces the physical and psychological symptoms of chronic pain)
People who do yoga regularly reported significantly less pain
Helps build endurance and energy and improves sleep and concentration
Tai chi has also been shown to help relieve pain and other symptom (could be even better than stretching)
Getting a DVD you can do at home will make it easier to get into a routine (the first few times you do yoga or Tia chi you should go to a class, so a certified instructor can make sure you’re doing the poses correctly and there will be less of a possibility of injuring yourself doing these at home)
Everyday chores and activity
Yes! Studies show that cleaning your house, folding laundry, playing with your kids, mopping floors, gardening, and other activities you have to do daily count toward increasing fitness, exercise, and relieving symptoms
Vibration platform (or plate)
The vibration of the platform causes the body’s skeletal muscles to contract and stretch, engaging and strengthening more muscles than voluntary movements alone
Increases blood flow, flexibility, and circulation
Could help speed rehab for spine
Studies support use for exercise and rehab purposes, specifically for rehabbing back injuries
Could improve bone density
Improves strength, metabolic rate, core conditioning, and stability
Tones Abs, thighs, and buttocks
Improves range of motion
Increases muscle recovery after working out
Do stretches at least once a day to help increase flexibility
Loosen tight, stiff muscles
Improve range of motion
Stretching during workouts may also help you to tolerate exercising better
Stretches for Headaches
Headaches are one of the main and most debilitating issues I deal with. My headaches come from damaged muscles in my neck, shoulders, and scapula from severe whiplash. I find I clench my jaw and scrunch up my shoulders when I’m in pain or stressed, inevitably if I don’t catch myself and relax and stretch I’m going to be suffering with a headache and likely a migraine. If I let it go as far as a migraine it could be days to weeks before I get relief. If it gets out of control to that point I have to see the chiropractor to get relief and it could take multiple visits.
So I try to be conscious of how I’m feeling mentally, physically, and emotionally, and stop myself from getting to tense and do the following stretches (it’s a good idea to do these several times a day, so you don’t get to tensed up and tight).
1. Stand against a wall with your arms extended. Move your arms up and down, as if you were trying to stretch your wings and fly. Move slowly to release tension. Keep your head up and your back against the wall the entire time. Do a set of 8.
2. Sit upright with your arms at the side. Shrug your shoulders and release them in drastic fashion while dropping the shoulders down.
3. While sitting upright, slowly drop your chin to your chest, then slowly bring your head up and gently look up to ceiling with head back. Try doing this in one fluid motion. Repeat several times until you feel muscles relax.
4. While sitting upright, slowly drop your chin to your chest then roll your head all the way around until your back at the starting position. Do this several times to stretch and relax neck and shoulders.
Since that fateful day at the doctors, I decided I have to eat right (to see what I’m doing on that front go here), and exercise is a must. I couldn’t let my health and weight spiral out of control! So after all this research I decided on a Vibration Platform and Recumbent bike. I ordered both online, put them in my living room (where I have to see them daily). I bought a Fitbit, and started wearing it faithfully, I had never wanted one because I thought it would say I moved like maybe ten times a day! What I found out was I move more than I thought I did, just around the house on an average day. I set the steps at the lowest setting and started trying to meet that goal daily, just around the house, once I was consistently meeting that many steps I went up to the next level and I’m still there until I exceeded that consistently and then I’ll go up again. I get on the Vibration Platform daily or every other day. I started with 5 minutes on the lowest speed and I’m slowly building up my time and speed. In six weeks I’ve increased from 5 minutes on low speed to 10 minutes on medium speed. I do this first because it seems to relax and warm up my muscles. Then I get on the recumbent bike. I don’t have any resistance set and I started with five minutes slowly peddling, I’ve built up to 10 minutes at medium speed. Now that I’ve adjusted to the extra activity I get back on the Vibration Platform for 5-10 minutes to relax my muscles after riding the recumbent bike. This is what’s working for me right now and I’m happy with it. I will continue to increase my time a minute or two at a time, the speed I peddle, and will eventually add some resistance.
If I have a bad day, I don’t do any of this, but I don’t allow myself to go more than a day or two without exercising. I know if I do I will be right back where I started and I don’t want that! The keys are to go slow, as slow as you need to, do something you like, and be consistent. I take an hour off from my business daily to eat lunch and exercise. It’s my gift to me and necessary for my wellbeing. I try to do this at noon during the week, because the show I like to watched is on and I can watch while I eat and exercise. Find what works for you, make a commitment to do it, and reward yourself for your accomplishments! If I stick with it all week, I take the weekend off or sometimes I get a treat like a piece of candy or a fancy coffee to reward myself. It helps me stay motivated and gives me something to look forward to.
Be good to yourself and always if you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me, I’m here to help!
DISCLAIMER: The information here is NOT medical advice. Do not institute any changes in your current health programs without consulting your Medical provider. For medical advice please consult your private physician or preferred health service provider.
If you are suffering from a specific illness and would like to know specific things you can do to treat yourself, please feel free to Instant Message, call, text, or email me, I will be happy to help!