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.

Fibro Athlete in a Hot Tub

I’m still madly in love with my hot tub. It’s a little trashy looking and it’s loud when it cycles on to clean itself, but the warm water is heavenly. I’m using it twice a day on average, but sometimes only once or sometimes thrice. The new plastic-y smell is dissipating, and I put some bath mats under the stairs to soak up excess water. I’m definitely noticing full-body improvement. When I go into muscle spasms, the hot water takes them away. I know that cold is supposed to be better for an acute injury, but since my spasms are chronic and I HATE cold, I’ll stick with what works—my hot tub.

Pain Relief in a Hot Tub

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’m Ready to Swim

I’m so ready for warmer weather, and it’s only December! Right now I feel like a lot of my aches and pains could be resolved by warmer weather and a swim in the Gulf. One of my huge hopes for the new year is that I’ll be able to turn my neck to the side enough to breathe while swimming. I love to swim, but it’s pretty much impossible to swim without having neck mobility. Some people have suggested that I get a snorkel, but I don’t like the air that comes through one. It always tastes like plastic. If I can’t turn my head this spring, though, I just might buy one. Water exercise can be a very healing thing for me, and I love how it takes some weight off my spine. Warm water would be ideal!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving was better than I hoped it would be… except for the tofu turkey. It tasted so bad! I didn’t baste it like the directions said to, but I did baste it once at the beginning with olive oil. It came out of the oven and felt (and tasted) like a perfectly round rubber band. The wild rice stuffing on the inside was good, but I’d already made my own vegan stuffing, so I wasn’t excited. The holiday was overall a success, though. I was able to play with my little cousins a lot, and even got on the tennis court with the older boy. I could pick up the younger one without sending my back into fits, and I only felt extremely sore at night after a full day of playing with them. Fibromyalgia is definitely unpredictable, but it allowed me a bit of a reprieve this holiday, and for that, I am thankful.

Does Fibromyalgia Keep You from Playing with Kids?

My young cousins will be here for Thanksgiving, and I feel frustrated that fibromyalgia may keep me from playing with them. I want to kick the soccer ball with the older boy and run after the little guy at the playground. But I worry about my back if I pick them up, and I worry that fibromyalgia issues will keep me from having fun with them. I hate to be a person who sits and watches. I like to be part of playing, not a spectator. I pumped up my soccer ball just in case!

Holiday Workout Plans

Does anybody have a post-Thanksgiving workout routine? I know some gyms stay open (mine is 24/7, 365), but the most fun workouts to me are those that involve family and friends. Last year, we did “56 on the 56,” which mean 56 squats, pushups, sit-ups, and box jumps on a friend’s 56th birthday, which was also Thanksgiving Day. This year, my back pain is going to keep me from doing anything so rigorous, but I’ll definitely wish I were out there, rain or shine.

Imprisoned by Pain and Spasms

I’m so, so ready to have a more normal, active life. My lower back has been tied up in spasms for almost two weeks, and every time they seem to abate, they quickly return with more force. Sometime in the midst of the back spasms, I got sick with cold/flu-like crap, and the coughing has made my lower back feel like it might explode. I’ve been on oral steroids for four days and have had tons of cough syrup, ibuprofen, and chiropractic treatments. I was finally able to walk a few blocks very slowly last night after barely making it out of bed for days. I hate fibromyalgia.

After exhausting what I consider the final physical cure frontier—changing to a vegan diet—I feel stuck in a C-list movie about how much the body can make life suck. I’m still a big advocate for veganism. Despite living in hell at this moment with excruciating back spasms and flu-like symptoms, the vegan diet’s benefits are still obvious. My skin looks better than it has in years. My sweat doesn’t stink much when I exercise (although I haven’t exercised in awhile). I have regular bathroom habits. My neck has improved, and I’m sleeping regularly. From a nutritional standpoint, I feel like a million dollars.

I’m not sure what the end game is with fibromyalgia. No soccer? Dammit, but ok. No tennis, another dammit, but ok. But the modifications and concessions keep coming, and it feels like I’m down to almost nothing that I actually can do.

Since my low back went to hell, I’ve found my true breaking point. I thought I’d found it before, but I guess that’s the thing about fibromyalgia—it breaks you down so many times that it’s hard to tell when you really hit bottom.

Back Spasm Hell

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.

Product Review: Tiger Balm Red Extra Strength

Smells good, feels good.
Smells good, feels good.

I love the way Tiger Balm smells, which is more than I can say for most topical analgesics. I also love the way it soothes my sore joints and muscles—a key component in the road to relief from fibromyalgia symptoms.

After dealing with pain for years, I’ve tried almost everything. CryoDerm is still my favorite topical for the really bad muscle issues, but I prefer Tiger Balm for a less medicine-y experience. Smell-wise, Tiger Balm makes me think of a health food store, and neither the inactive nor active ingredients sound lab-made or scary.

Like many topical pain relievers, Tiger Balm uses menthol 10% as an active ingredient. It also lists camphor 11%. I use the .63 ounce jar of ointment, but there are also Tiger Balm rubs and patches, as well as various formula strengths. I recently bought the Ultra ointment, but haven’t tried it yet.

The most accurate description that I can come up with for the Tiger Balm experience is “soothing.” Everything about it feels gentle, especially compared to other topicals that can leave you smelling like a doctor’s office. Tiger Balm has a variety of natural oils in it, which makes it easy to gently rub in during self-massage.

The hexagonal glass jar is small and easy to store, and it’s kind of cool to look at, too. Tiger Balm takes a few minutes to start working, but once it does, the effect slowly and steadily builds. It wears off fairly quickly like all topicals, but usually stays with me long enough so that I can fall asleep with less pain. I get better results on my neck spasms with CryoDerm, but Tiger Balm makes my sore legs—especially the quadriceps and knees—feel great. And since I’m a believer in staying with natural products whenever possible, I definitely appreciate its ingredients.