Has anyone tried creative visualization? As best as I understand it, focusing on something that you want is supposed to help make it happen. It’s a lot like envisioning how you want your life to be, focusing on that vision, and making it happen.
My visualization of my life has always included sports and outdoor activities. Fibromyalgia has tried very hard to take that vision away. Lately, in part thanks to awesome words from a reader (thanks Stephanie AC), I’m trying creative visualization for the first time. Rather than just imagining something and feeling defeated because it can’t happen, I’m going to imagine it as an attainable reality.
My (hopefully) attainable reality is returning to running. I don’t even have to close my eyes to imagine what it will be like to return to the freedom of moving quickly on my own two feet. Earlier today I drove over the bayou bridge near my house and could almost feel what it would be like to run across that bridge like I did for years. I imagined the salty smell, the hard wind, and the sound of seagulls. I imagined the childlike joy of running so fast down the hill before the bridge that it would feel like flying.
I’m shifting those visions that I’ve always had into energy toward reality rather than disappointment. We’re having almost spring-like weather in northwest Florida right now, and I would love—no, I WILL love to go outside and run in the sun.
I’m curious what you do when you want to do something so bad but you know it’s potentially disastrous for your health. Bottom line—with every fiber of my being I want to return to running, but I’m scared to death of the post-run nighttime pain that made me howl like a wounded animal the last time I ran.
When I see people running, I feel a mixture of hope and bitterness and excitement and disappointment and jealousy. I’m happy for them that they get to experience the joy and challenge of running, but I desperately want to return to one of the last things I had to give up. Soccer is unrealistic. Tennis is probably unrealistic, too. Same with rollerblading. But running was my holdout, the final thing I kept for myself for peace, clarity, adventure, and release.
My internal debate gets more heated every day. I’m walking several miles (and sometimes as many as 5 hours) daily, so it seems like running a few minutes in the midst of all that walking wouldn’t be a big deal. But every time I almost embrace freedom and take off, I think about the way my hips and back felt the night after the last time I ran, and I keep walking instead.
Is there anything you’ve given up for fibromyalgia that you’ve reclaimed? If so, did it come with a price, and is the price worth it?
The lumbar MRI experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I hate being in tight spaces and not being able to see a way out, but I drank a cup of Easy Now tea before the scan and it made me feel relatively calm. The MRI tech was considerate and positioned my legs comfortably since it hurts my back to lie flat. He recommended “spa music,” which turned out to be a decent blend of massage-like songs.
The best part was not having dye injected. When I had my cervical MRI, the technician injected dye into my arm, and like all injections, it was bee-sting-like and left a sore bruise. I assumed I’d need the dye for the lumbar MRI, but I didn’t, and that was a very nice surprise.
Another good surprise was the promise of results within 24 hours. I won’t see my doctor again for a few weeks, but I’ll be able to access the radiologist’s MRI report and look at my results at home. Since I work in healthcare, I’m reasonably competent at interpreting medical language, and by this time tomorrow, I’ll have an idea of whether or not my back is a disaster or not a big deal. I’ll update this post with the results as soon as I get them (or maybe a little later than that, since I’ll probably be at work). No matter what the report says, I’ll try to keep in mind that knowledge is power.
After ditching Lyrica, I resolved to do whatever I could to stay off prescription drugs. Very rarely, I took one Skelaxin for muscle spasms. The side effects weren’t worth it most of the time, but sometimes I would be so bad off that I had to take one. As the one-year anniversary of my back and hip issues neared, I couldn’t take the daily pain and stiffness anymore. I made an appointment with the doctor who’s worked on my neck in the past. He’s smart, isn’t afraid of the latest medical technology, and perhaps most importantly, he actually spends time with his patients and listens like a human rather than a hurried robot. Unfortunately, those attributes make it very hard to get an appointment, and I waited two months despite being an established patient.
When I did finally see him, he examined my back and hip and told me a few things I already know, like I have tight muscles and joint laxity. He decided to order a lumbar MRI, which wasn’t a surprise. He also talked me into filling a couple of prescriptions because he was very worried about my high pain levels and lack of sleep. I left his office with two scripts I’d never heard of before—Piroxicam and Tizanidine.
I thought I might not fill the drugs, but pain wore me down and I headed to the pharmacy. I figured I could try them once or twice and get off them quickly if they sucked. Piroxicam is an NSAID pain reliever and Tizanidine is a short-acting muscle relaxer. I was given instructions to take the Piroxicam once per day and the Tizanidine up to three times per day. I took one of each the first night, and was asleep within an hour.
Going to sleep quickly is a big deal with a body wracked by chronic pain. Hell, going to sleep at all is monumental. When I woke up the next morning, I didn’t feel hung over at all—I just felt better. I felt genuinely rested, unlike the crappy, forced sleep that comes from some drugs.
For several days, I took one Piroxicam in the evening and one Tizanidine before bed, and I felt great. I hiked 21 miles one weekend, and began to feel hopeful about a mostly pain-free back, neck, and hip. As always, I follow a healthy diet and use my hot tub as much as three times per day. The good food, warm water, and new prescriptions gave me a feeling of freedom from pain, and it was priceless.
That feeling was also short-lived. After almost a week, I noticed my back pain was getting more intense again, and my neck felt badly out of alignment. This seems to be the curse with my fibromyalgia—something new helps for a little while, but before long, I’m back to hurting.
I took a break from my nightly muscle relaxer routine and didn’t notice much of a change. However, I’m now on day two of no Piroxicam, and I feel like crap. I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to start taking it again, but I’m leaning toward yes. I’m scheduled for the MRI this afternoon, and if I get stiff having to lie still for it, I’ll probably come home and pop a Piroxicam.
Have y’all tried either one of these medications? If so, what’s been your experience? I’d love to hear from you.
10. I played soccer—a lot of soccer. It didn’t even seem like a big deal when I’d take off my cleats after a game and find a bloody sock. Pain was temporary before fibromyalgia.
9. I ran around mountains, up mountains, and once down a mountain.
8. I tried new sports, like rollerblading, just for fun. There was no fear of the repercussions of taking a stiff, broken body through a new routine.
7. I took ibuprofen for pain and it actually worked.
6. I sat in a chair and read books for hours without my back hurting.
5. I ate ice cream and brownies and cookies and knew nothing about total-body inflammation.
4. I planned my days around choices rather than obligations—choices like when to go to the gym rather than obligations like having to see the chiropractor just so I can stand to be alive.
3. I travelled, and didn’t have to plan trips around muscle spasms and pain. I carried fun stuff in my luggage rather than needing a carload of pain-relieving props (Back Buddy, camping mattress in case the hotel bed is too soft, cervical pillow, Tiger Balm, etc.).
2. I went to sleep like a normal person. No handfuls of herbal supplements, no piles of pillows to ease back pain, no special cervical pillow. I would just lie down and pull up the covers.
1. I was free without realizing it—free to live as boldly as I wished and without pain—free to explore, to take risks, and to relax.
I’ve known for a long time that hamstring inflexibility can cause and exacerbate low back pain. Even when I was younger and my body worked well, my muscles were stiff. Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m stiffer than ever. I’ve been dealing with hip and back pain for a year, but until recently, my hamstrings didn’t seem to be the culprit.
As with all things health-related, our bodies are unique, and what benefits and harms them is often different than what produces similar results in our friends and family. Last week, after my usual chiropractic adjustment, I decided to try a new way of stretching to give my hamstrings one last chance to loosen up and relax their overly powerful grip on my back. My chiropractor agreed that the L5 “involvement” in my back is probably related to stiff legs.
I’ve tried every way imaginable to stretch my hamstrings in the past. I work in physical therapy and have even tried some unconventional methods. This time, I went with the tried-and-true, but with a few modifications.
Lying on my back on a yoga mat, I locked down my abdominal muscles to protect my back. I looped a Stretch Out Strap around my right foot and extended my leg into the air. I allowed my left leg to lie flat on the mat, which isn’t the easiest position to get into while ab bracing.
When I straightened my right leg in the air above my body, I felt an extremely uncomfortable (and familiar) pull at my ankle and knee. Muscles were definitely getting stretched. I used my right hand to hold the Stretch Out Strap and my left hand to force my right knee completely straight. My abs were braced the whole time, and for three minutes without a break I stayed in that position.
I can’t say it was pleasant. Far from it. I sweated. I cursed. I tried to think of distractions. If I’d allowed my resting leg to bend at the knee, as many people recommend, my pelvis would’ve been more comfortable. But I was going for gold. After a year of back pain, I knew taking the comfortable way was not the way for me.
I repeated the scenario on my left leg, with about a minute’s rest between stretches. For a few hours, my back felt worse, but later in the day, I noticed improvement. After five days of aggressively stretching my hamstrings, my back is so much better– no more crazed, pain-driven howling in the middle of the night.
I have no idea if hamstring stretching will work for everybody, but I’m certain that stiff muscles leave us all more susceptible to injury. Ask a physical therapist, check out reputable websites, and get to work on those hamstrings. Don’t give up if results aren’t immediate or the first few positions you try don’t help. You might find relief like I have through trial and error, and once you’re feeling better, the discomfort to get there will have been worth it.
As with all things health-related, ask your healthcare provider before trying anything new.
I’m still feeling stronger in general from cutting out every bit of processed food, but I’ve been having really bad trouble with muscle spasms again. My neck, back, and hips are so tight that I can’t move normally. The orthopedist dry-needled my hip and back last week and shot steroids (which I HATE) into my hip. The chiropractor gave me a couple of a major back and pelvis adjustments earlier this week, and the massage therapist tried to work through my concrete-like muscles. Two nights ago, I had one of the scariest episodes of muscle spasms ever.
I went to bed with my usual grouping of pillows—cervical pillow under my head and neck, memory foam pillow under my knees, thin synthetic pillow under my ankles and feet—and thought I might be able to sleep with minimal back and neck pain. That part was true, but around 4 a.m. I awoke to what felt like someone tearing my left calf muscles off the bone.
Normal calf cramps are something I’m quite familiar with, and this episode was nothing like the post-workout, dehydration-induced cramps of the past. The pain was so intense that I was yelling, and I’m usually pretty controlled since I’m used to fibromyalgia. No amount of squeezing the muscle and trying to stretch it was working, and I was terrified that something was happening to my body that could not be undone. My neck’s been spasming for 3 ½ years. My back’s been bad since October 2013. And now my lower leg?
The excruciating pain finally subsided and the muscle unwound a bit after two of us nearly squeezed it to death. I couldn’t straighten my knee or dorsiflex my ankle, and I had to crawl to the bathroom. Every time I tried to do anything but keep the leg bent and guarded, the spasm would start again. I’ve never experienced pain like that—not even when I was kicked in the face and broke my nose and cracked my jaw. I knew I wouldn’t die from a leg spasm, but it was the kind of pain that makes me wish it would kill me swiftly.
Fibromyalgia is a cruel game of trial and error. I’ve got the diet thing down pretty well, although there’s always room for tinkering with specific foods. I thought I was getting plenty of nutrition since I eat only fresh meats and vegetables and fruits, but now I’m considering magnesium deficiency as a possible spasm cause (or contributing factor).
Has anybody else tried magnesium supplements? As soon as I was able to get out of the house, I carefully loaded myself into my SUV and drove to the local co-op for organic bananas (potassium) and magnesium supplements. I noticed a decline in muscular tightness within two hours of taking the first magnesium pill. I’m hoping that a buildup of magnesium will finally stop the recurrent spasming in my body.
I’d love to hear from anybody with magnesium supplement experience. As always, y’all can private message me on Facebook or leave a comment here.
After hitting an all-time low of muscle spasms and pain, I’m feeling optimistic and seeing major progress, no drugs required. I’d heard about warm-water therapy and had even helped my patients utilize it when I worked in a clinic with a pool a few years ago, but I thought it was out of reach for me. We can’t afford an in-ground spa (estimate $27,000!), and the natural water around here only reaches 80-85 degrees in the summer. We started pricing hot tubs, and they, too were expensive. Then we found a local company with no-frills hot tubs and great service, and we took the leap and made the purchase.
I’m not sure if this is true in other states, but where I live in Florida, if you have a valid prescription for warm water therapy, you don’t have to pay sales tax on a hot tub. When you’re spending a couple thousand dollars, the lack of sales tax really means something. I’ve also heard that we can claim the hot tub on federal taxes as a medical device, but we’ll see about the possible truth in that once tax time arrives.
The hot tub is a lifesaver. We were able to fit it on our screened porch, so we don’t have to swat mosquitos while trying to relax. I keep the water between 101-102 degrees, and sometimes I use it three times per day. It’s a simple setup—two low bucket seats and one long bench—and it’s perfect. We got a small set of steps to make getting in and out easier, and we put a bathmat under the steps to soak up extra water.
The miracle is the warm water. When we first bought the hot tub, my back was killing me, my neck was hurting, and my knees were aching. The warm water didn’t cure me over night, but it was soothing, and the cumulative effect is incredible. I had to take muscle relaxers and steroids to get me through the worst times, but the hot tub has helped me stay drug-free for the past two months, except for occasional ibuprofen.
I’ve heard that heat bothers some people with fibromyalgia, but for me, cold is the worst. When I sink down in the hot tub, I feel instant relief, and even though it sometimes only lasts a few minutes after getting out of the water, other times it helps for hours and even all day.
At night, my new routine has been to use the hot tub a few hours after dinner, then stretch my muscles on the carpeted bedroom floor. I’m seeing improvements in flexibility, pain, and anxiety. I even started running again two weeks ago—something I’d worried had been taken away from me forever after the latest bout of back and knee pain. I’m increasing the amount of weight I do each week at the gym, and I’m even returning to some high-intensity activities like jumping. I’m nowhere near 100%, but the hot tub is helping me feel closer to normal. I’d hit the point of not being able to do anything I wanted or needed to do, and the feeling of hopelessness is an awful thing. The hot tub wasn’t cheap, but it’s already paid for itself a million times.
I feel like a prisoner to my body today. I woke up around 1:30 this morning to terrible lower back spasms. I could barely get out of bed and had to shuffle painfully to the bathroom.
I’d had a slightly sore back yesterday, but fibromyalgia keeps me sore most days, so I didn’t pay much attention to it. I did a very light workout at the gym—no injury or noticeable aggravation there—but a few hours later, when I should’ve been sleeping peacefully, my back felt like someone held it in a vice grip.
Work was pretty miserable today, although my back loosened up a little bit from walking around. Ironically, I worked with students on proper body mechanics and safe patient transfer techniques. It was quite a feat, considering I couldn’t put my shoes on this morning. Fibromyalgia has definitely forced me to be good at verbally explaining things without being able to physically demonstrate. Some days, my body just won’t cooperate with my words.
I napped this afternoon—a rarity for me—on my back with my knees on a pillow and a heating pad under my lower back. I was breaking all kinds of technical rules, like don’t ever put a heating pad under your body and use ice, not heat, on new injuries, but I didn’t care. My heating pad was microwavable and never got very hot, and I’m not comfortable lying on my stomach because of my stupid ongoing neck problems. Heat just seemed like it would be more soothing than ice, and it was. I’ve been able to walk around semi-human-like, which is a big improvement over this morning’s walking posture.
In keeping with my natural/vegan/organic plan to fight fibromyalgia, I ate a raw veggie sandwich for lunch and am currently snacking on popcorn sprinkled with nutritional yeast. Apple cider vinegar and ice water are mixed in my coffee cup. I don’t believe that proper nutrition can cure everything, but I definitely don’t believe that poor nutrition cures anything.
I’d planned to run today, and am working hard to keep my attitude as positive as possible as I gingerly walk around the house. My knee is finally much improved, my neck is taking a break from its usual painful routine, but now my back is out. Some days, fibromyalgia really sucks.