Runner’s World

Raining and running along the bayou.

Raining and running along the bayou.

I’ve been a longtime believer in exercise as a means of keeping sanity. I’m vegan. I prefer to live without prescription drugs whenever possible. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know these things already.

Some of you have asked to know more about Fibro Athlete, so here’s your answer. I’m in the online edition of Runner’s World. Check it out if you’re interested, and keep running, friends! :-)

Physical Therapist and Chiropractor to the Rescue

I sometimes undervalue the effectiveness of physical therapy and chiropractic work. In my latest bout with back and hip pain, I was reminded of something that I ironically tell my patients and friends regularly: non-invasive treatment can be the best kind of medicine.

After my sacroiliac joint pain progressed into gluteal spasms and a rotated pelvis, sitting became impossible. I stood for as many hours of the day as I could, and laid prone with a pillow under my hips for the remaining hours. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain, and I finally had a “duh” moment. I work at a spinal rehab clinic. My bosses are a top-shelf physical therapist and an awesome chiropractor. Time to ask for help from the best.

I’m sometimes too passive in asking for help because fibromyalgia makes me feel like I need help way too often. But when I couldn’t sit or sleep, it was time for intervention. My boss /physical therapist put me through a thorough evaluation, and I started treatment two days later. It can be a little strange to be a patient in my own clinic, but the tradeoff is knowing that I’m getting great treatment. The decrease in my pain, progress in flexibility and mobility, and renewed ability to sit (and sleep) are testaments to how well chiropractic care and physical therapy can work together to heal even chronic pain suffers.

I’ve been to two PT/chiro sessions this week, and am currently able to sit pain-free on the floor. I had no idea how important sitting is until I couldn’t do it for a few days. I ran 6 ½ miles on Monday and was able to concentrate on the blue sky over the beach rather than the pain in my back and hip. Tuesday, I could do light weightlifting at the gym and actually sit down for dinner rather than standing through meals. Today, I ran 5 miles, walked the dogs, and was able to sit for 15 minutes in the hot tub without feeling like my sacrum was about to stab through my skin.

Forgive the pun, but fibromyalgia is a pain in the ass. I think the best way to sum up fibromyalgia to people who don’t understand it is to say this: it’s not just a cluster of random and sometimes unexplained painful symptoms (although there are definitely those). Normal injuries happen, but the aftermath is abnormal. The consequences from a healthy runner falling on a trail run are usually some bruises and scrapes. The consequences from a fibromyalgia-suffering runner falling on a trail turn into weeks of muscle spasms, misaligned bones, and exhaustion. It’s like fibromyalgia makes a worst-case scenario out of every situation.

The longer I live and the longer I fight chronic health problems, the less faith I have in pills and surgery. While those things are good options for some people, I prefer to stay as minimally invasive and drug-free as possible. Luckily, I have access to extremely competent and like-minded health practitioners who can stretch, massage, and manipulate my body into a good enough place to keep me out of the pill bottles and out from under the knife. I’ll never again underestimate the power of a physical therapist and a chiropractor—or the convenience and comfort of sitting.

Sacroiliac Dysfunction and Exhaustion

I ran 10 miles on Sunday and felt like a million bucks. I drank sips of sugary tea every 20 minutes and was able to maintain a pace of 8:40 per mile for all 10 miles, which is pretty fast for me at that distance. I was on top of the world that night and felt motivated and energized for more.

The next morning was a different story. My right sacroiliac joint felt off, and my back was stiff and extremely sore. My walking gait was awkward, and sitting was very uncomfortable. I went to my boss/chiropractor/friend for an adjustment, and he confirmed the problem in my right SI joint. He had to use a lot of force to get a proper adjustment, but the relief was immediate. However, so was the fatigue.

I barely managed 15 minutes on the elliptical that evening, and today, I’m totally wiped out. My back is holding its position, which is great, but I feel like I’ve been run over by a bus. The actual SI joint is majorly inflamed and has palpable swelling, and when the alarm went off for my 6:30 a.m. run, I opted to stay in bed with an ice pack instead. Work was pretty torturous the rest of the day, and I laid down as soon as I got home.

We all know that fibromyalgia causes fatigue. My questions are these—has anybody else experienced SI joint dysfunction along with fibromyalgia? If so, has extreme fatigue come along with it? Have any other fibromyalgia patients had massively increased fatigue after chiropractic adjustments? Thanks for your input! I’m going back to bed with an ice pack.

Raynaud’s After Running

raynaud's

White, cold, and numb. Yuck.

I ran six miles in 58-degree weather, and even though it was sunny and beautiful outside and I never felt too cold, my hands told a different story. Raynaud’s Phenomenon sometimes turns just one or two of my fingers white and makes them go numb, but this particular run provoked several pasty appendages. I know there’ve been suspected links between fibromyalgia and Raynaud’s, but I wish there were more information for patients. I don’t want to take medications or have surgery or do anything else drastic, but I would definitely like for my fingers to stop going numb when it’s not even extremely cold outside.

Caffeine Provokes Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Caffeine, as I’ve suspected for several months, makes my fibromyalgia symptoms much worse. While that revelation kind of sucks, it’s also always nice when something can be easily controlled, like caffeine intake.

I love coffee. As a vegan, I’ve been enjoying soymilk, coconut milk, and almond milk as creamers. I never add sugar or sugar substitutes to my coffee, which makes me even more certain that it’s the caffeine that, even in very small amounts, massively increases my anxiety and provokes muscle spasms.

I kicked caffeine out of my life for a couple of months, then started drinking less than one cup of coffee per morning last week. Within two days, my neck pain was worse and I felt less hopeful. My running improved. Even hills felt like less effort. But the increasing pain and hopelessness were absolutely not worth it. By day five of drinking less than a cup a day, I was in bad shape.

Going cold turkey wasn’t too hard since I’d only been drinking coffee for six days. It wasn’t great fun, but it wasn’t the worst thing to quit. And, on Sunday, I not only ran eight miles at a decent pace, but I also took my paddle board on a two mile journey.

Fibromyalgia is picky. It demands a lot of sacrifice. But if forgoing caffeine allows me to live a more normal life, then I’ll never touch another cup of coffee again.

Brrr… Is Cold Weather Making Fibromyalgia Worse?

The cold snap across the US is wreaking all kinds of havoc, and I’m curious if anyone else who has fibromyalgia is seriously bothered by the cold?

While I’m still feeling pretty good in general (thank you, vegan diet), my back and neck are super tight and my hamstrings are getting tighter. I feel achier all over, and I’m sleeping under an electric blanket. I haven’t been able to use my hot tub in several days because we turned it down for the cold snap, so maybe that’s part of the equation.

What do y’all think… is fibromyalgia aggravated by cold?

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! Do you have any resolutions? I do. First, I resolve to not only stay vegan, but also to try a month of being gluten-free to see if more of my fibromyalgia symptoms resolve. Second, I resolve to make a serious attempt at practicing yoga, and to incorporate more stretching into my workout routines. Third, I resolve to stop slipping into hopelessness so easily.

Chronic pain makes it so easy to throw in the towel, but I don’t want to feel hopeless. The day I stop fighting is the day I die. I may smell like a medicine cabinet and walk like an elderly person, but I resolve to never stop working out and fighting fibromyalgia.

Vegan Conversion

My dietary transformation is complete. I’ve been vegan for a while now, and I’m a believer. I assume that the lack of dairy and meat in my diet is reducing inflammation in my body, but whatever’s happening, I feel better than I have in years. My life is mine again. My mind is clear (well, mostly—I’m always a little scattered!), my body is getting stronger, and my gym routine is getting more vigorous.

I’m not taking any prescriptions, and I didn’t even get Botox in my neck last time I went to the doctor. I still have stiffness and aches, but between the vegan diet and the hot tub, I’m alive again. I can’t say that being vegan cures fibromyalgia, but mine is certainly massively improved.

Fibromyalgia is a bit like a monster under the bed at this point. It’s there, and it reminds me of my presence fairly constantly. But it’s more under the bed now that I’m vegan, whereas just a few months ago, I thought my life was soon to be over. The pain, spasms, and debilitation were crushing.

I ran six miles today, a distance I hadn’t been able to cover in months, and I did it with very little pain. Afterwards, I got in the hot tub, then ate a huge bowl of vegan organic potato, kale, and lentil soup. As of this evening—a time of day that I used to dread—I’m stiff and uncomfortable, but I’m not in the familiar agony that plagued me for so long.

I’ve undertaken a new project to chronicle what feels like my new life—a life filled with activity and vegan food. Check it out here if you’re interested.

Merry Christmas

Christmas is a time of reflection for me. I have to be careful not to get caught up in self-pity or dwell on the things I can’t do. Chronic pain is a huge downer, but I do believe that fighting the pain is important. The day that I give in to it is the day I drop into my grave.

On Christmas, the only present that I want is to be free from fibromyalgia. Since that’s about as likely as world peace, I also asked for a new running vest so that I can run through (not away from!) the pain. Merry Christmas, and may you all find peace and painlessness.

Fibro Athlete Christmas Wish List

As someone who’s both an athlete and a fibromyalgia sufferer, I have a dichotomous wish list for my material presents this year. At the top of my “stuff” list is Two Old Goats lotion, which is supposed to be great for pain relief. Next is running clothes, so I can pound the pavement while looking cute and updated. Third is Tiger Balm, because I love it for muscle spasm relief. Forth is running shoes, because mine are worn out. Sports and pain have always gone together, but with fibromyalgia, there’s almost never a break from the pain. These days, it’s nice to get a stocking full of goodies that cater to an athlete with fibromyalgia.