Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thera Cane

Hey, d'ya miss me?  Hee!  I've been busy with life and not blogging much the past couple weeks.  I guess that's a good thing, no?  Anyway, I am feeling guilty about leaving you all with that fat whale picture on my last post, so I'm going to give you something new to chew one: Myofascial pain and trigger points.  

If you're not familiar with these terms, you can read up about them here.  There is also plenty of great info available at various reputable websites and books.  I had been diagnosed with Chronic Myofascial Pain before I even knew what Fibromyalgia was, so after the FM diagnosis, I got a great book (photo and link at left) about both of these conditions within the same person.

About a month ago, I saw my Fibromyalgia doctor for a follow-up appointment.  While I was discussing certain new pains, we talked about my Myofascial pain, trigger points, referred pains, and how to go about treating it all.  He is a good listener and we discuss every last bullet point and question that I bring with me during each appointment.  
By the way, my dear Fibrofriends, I have a special notebook just for these appointments, and I if you don't, you should definitely invest in a dedicated one.  You can write your questions down as you think of them, bring them all with you, then jot down the doctor's responses and instructions on the next page.  This system saves a lot of sanity for us fibrofogged people!
Okay, getting back to the point, I showed him some of the diagrams in my book that showed certain trigger points and their referral patterns, and added that I suspected these could be the source of my recent pains and discomfort.  He didn't claim to be any sort of expert (neurology is his specialty), but he agreed that it was a definite possibility worth exploring further.

The book also references heavily the works of Travell and Simons as the source of all the diagrammed information on trigger points and pain referral patterns.  The sampling of diagrams in the book I had were extremely useful in untangling the mysteries of some of my daily pains, and I was interested in learning more.  I had known of another book that focused solely on the self treatment of myofascial trigger points, but never took the plunge to buy it.  I asked my doctor about it, to see if he thought it was worth getting.  He was very enthusiastic about it and pulled an old first edition of the book I'd mentioned right off his bookshelf.  So, afterwards, I went straight to a bookstore to leaf through this book and, eventually, I decided to go ahead and buy it.

The book I bought is The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition by Clair Davies (pictured at left).  This book is GREAT!  I have decided to sit down and carefully read it from beginning to end, but I have already skipped around to various relevant chapters many times to help treat my own pains, as well as a few of my husband's. 

In addition to the book, I also bought a couple of tools that are mentioned throughout the book to help already sore hands and arms from getting worse due to self-massage.  There are some spots on one's body that are just not comfortable to reach, much less apply pressure, and doing so with bare hands would likely do more damage than good.  I got the Knobble and a Thera Cane.  

The Knobble, which is a hard plastic little doodad that fits in a hand and has no corners or seams in it.  It looks a little like the nipple on a baby bottle, actually.  It went with me to my last two massage appointments and my therapist used it very effectively to put pressure on the knots in my shoulders.  She was thrilled to try it out and will be getting one of her own so she can use it on other clients.

The Thera Cane is a hard plastic small cane with rounded ends and several additional, strategically placed knobs that can be used in myriad ways to comfortably reach and massage all the muscles in one's body.  It comes with its own little booklet of various positions and techniques for common trouble areas.  The Thera Cane was actually suggested to me by that very same massage therapist several months ago, after she had tried it herself, but I wasn't quite ready for it then.  Now that I have it and understand more about the way trigger points behave and what kinds of pressure helps to relieve the pain they cause, I feel armed and ready for the world (at the moment).

I ordered a second book and Thera Cane because I was so enamored with the power they represent to me.  I am thinking of giving them away to someone I know who may need some non-drug pain relief.  

Now a warning: It was in the book and probably in the booklet, but of course I had to go and find out the hard way about this one.  When you get these tools and start using them, don't go overboard and use them too much on the very first day.  I figured all that myofascial release massage I've been getting done the past couple years must have warmed me up for using these things on myself.  Ha!

I had a knot in my left shoulder/neck area that was bugging me and the first chance I had, I grabbed that Thera Cane and applied the pressure on that trigger point spot.  It felt good to press on it without having my hands hurt from the work.  The leverage of the cane's shape definitely made it easier to work that muscle.  It also made it easy for me to overdo it, I think.  The next day, I was immobilized due to intense pain in that very same area, spreading to a larger area involving my back, neck, and left arm.  I was useless that day.  Luckily, it was a Sunday and I had nothing important planned.

The good new, though, is that the following day I was much better, with only residual pain.  I was able to go to the office and work a full day with only moderate pain, getting milder.  The pain was much more vague, no longer concentrated in that knot.  It seems I had dissipated it.  Eventually, I forgot all about the pain that I treated.  My cane is ready at my bedside, but I already haven't been using it much.  I use it when I need to.

It was a great investment and I'm happy to share my story with you all.  It is my hope that you can experience some relief using the knowledge that I have shared here.  As always, I'd love to hear from you about this.  Please feel free to comment.    

Note: Nobody is paying me to endorse any of these products.  I believe in people sharing their experiences for free.  Honest opinions are the only ones that count.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Don't Offer Me Any Donuts, Please

Apparently, the persisting tightness of my pants is not all in my imagination.  My last weigh-in this morning confirms what I feared - I'm slowly becoming... a whale.  

No, not a cute, baby whale.  A big, fat, blubbery, ugly one.

Okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but at 5' 4.5", I'm not tall enough to pull off a 150+ lb. weight.  I've never been this heavy in all my life.  I'm thoroughly disgusted with the weight gain especially because I know that I will have an even tougher time losing it, now that I have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Myofascial Pain preventing me from doing any meaningful exercise.  I can do some walking and some stretching, but that's about it.  Even after a walk, I've had to collapse from exhaustion upon my return home. 

All you super heroes reading this probably think I'm pathetic.  I might agree, but there's always that illness keeping me from blaming myself completely.  Perhaps that's the problem I need to address.  Although I can confidently blame Fibro for my pain and fatigue most times, I don't know that I can blame it completely for my fatness.  I've caught myself eating or overeating to try to distract myself from my symptoms, or to give myself some enjoyment in a painfully frustrating day.  It's not a bad thing to try to make myself feel happier, but turning to food - especially sweets and "bad" foods - is not a smart thing to do.  Frankly, I'm surprised I could let something like this get the best of me for so long.  Why did I wait to have this epiphany until now? 

Staying on the wagons I've laid out has proven to be much easier said (or written, rather) than actually done.  My flares are frequent and I never seem to know how I'm going to feel at any given minute.  I may wake up okay, then be fighting tears by evening - or vice versa.  I have skipped so many of my morning stretches, my strength-building exercises, and haven't done any regular walking or other aerobic activity, as I had planned.  What's more, I've been skipping all the Calorie Count logging I thought I would be doing to help me monitor my intake.  A little ice cream here, a couple beers there - and suddenly, I'm busting out of my jeans.

When I saw that horrid number on my scale this morning, I was going to keep this weight thing my dirty, little secret.  I decided it would be far too embarrassing to tell anyone about this.  I even considered removing that ladybug ticker from the bottom of this blog.  But after thinking a bit about it, I decided this isn't the worst thing to be guilty of.  Anyone with Fibromyalgia will certainly understand, as I'm sure the illness creates this problem for many of us as we struggle to survive the pain and fatigue and stress of life.  I knew someone out there would know all too well how this happens, and perhaps offer me some support.

I'd like to rise above this thing  I'd like to take this challenge and turn it into an opportunity to feel good about myself, instead of continuing to pity myself about how awful things are.  Sure, I might fail, but I'm not going to know if I succeed unless I try.  I'm going to try to do better and hopefully, once I can see any sort of progress, the momentum of success will help me to keep going.

That said, please do me a favor and don't offer me any donuts.  I love food, especially desserts, but my allowance for these kinds of foods needs to be drastically reduced.  Want to take a short walk with me?  Care for some healthy veggies instead of that hamburger?  Forgive me if I pass on your famous, homemade whatever.  Believe me: I really do want to have it, but I've got to take care of my body before it gives out on both of us.  I don't expect you all to change your behavior for me - I know you mean well.  I'll just have to resist temptations a little better and be braver about risking flares for the greater good.