Happy Holidays!

Just a quick note on the outside chance that anyone is reading this.  I’ll be ON VACATION next week.  My first tropical vacation, and I’m hoping to not think about anything beyond where to go, what to eat and drink, and whether I need more sunscreen.  Have a wonderful holiday week – Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

See you next year!


There are no limits to the power of the mind.  For chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia, the power of the mind can, unfortunately, be a detriment to the progress of finding a cure for or prevention of chronic pain.  Some doctors still regard fibromyalgia or other chronic pain conditions as psychological or psychosomatic (in the sense that people with chronic pain essentially bring it on themselves).  Yes, the power of the mind can be great enough to bring on pain symptoms.  Furthermore, the power of the mind can turn those pain symptoms into chronic symptoms.  In addition, the mind can be the catalyst for that vicious cycle – the mind triggers pain, the mind prolongs that pain into a chronic condition, the mind stops the body from moving, not moving increases the pain symptoms, and so on.  That is all possible.

The mind can also do the opposite.  Patients with chronic pain can train their minds to relieve pain symptoms.  Cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, any calming techniques, stress reduction, etc, can help relieve symptoms.  It can go either way.

It’s a question that has always irked me: Do I hurt because I’ve talked myself into it? Because I have been conditioned to feel this way?  Somehow the question feels like an accusation, as if I alone am responsible for being in pain, for being a burden on the healthcare system.  I can’t say for certain it’s nonsense, but there is enough evidence for physiological anomalies and degeneration in people with chronic pain to look past the purely psychological.

Finally, if it is true that chronic pain is an essentially psychological disorder (and it’s rare to hear that anymore), then the next question in my mind is: Can fibromyalgia be cured by happiness?  It sounds odd, but stress and depression are correlated to chronic pain.  Why isn’t happiness connected to wellness?  In all fairness, it should be, but I haven’t found a study telling people with fibromyalgia to simply… get happy.

As the guinea pig in this little research project, I can definitively say happiness does not eliminate chronic pain.  Unfortunately.  Happiness is a distractor, but not a cure.  I’m happy.  I’ve found a wonderful person I want to spend time with, who wants to spend time with me.  Sixteen years after divorce #2, three years of online dating, and approximately 43 first dates later, and happy.  For once.  But the pain marches on….

Food Fail #1,624,003

There is nothing better in the wintertime than Caribou hot chocolate.  It’s not just any hot chocolate; it’s Caribou dark hot chocolate with 2% milk and a shot of peppermint, lathered in fresh whipped cream.  It’s hot, creamy, luscious, and amazing.  The best comfort consumable in the world in sub zero temperatures.  Or when temps are in the teens.  Or twenties, or thirties, or up to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but below zero it’s the best.

At the same time there was no better Ben & Jerry’s ice cream than Chunky Monkey.  Banana flavored ice cream, chunks of dark chocolate, and walnuts.  I say “was no better” because the walnuts are no longer whole walnuts.  It’s still darn good ice cream, but it just lost its edge when they switched over to chopped walnuts.  It’s more like “Almost Chunky Monkey” now.

These two ultimate comfort foods have one thing in common.  I had them BOTH yesterday. Caribou at about 3:00, and I shared a Chunky Monkey at about 8:00.  At about 1:00 AM, my brain was wide awake, my eyes couldn’t stay open, my legs were twitching, and I was pretty close to ready to run screaming around the house.  I didn’t.  I stayed calm, strapped on my CPAP machine and managed to get to sleep.  And promptly had very bizarre dreams all night.  They weren’t chocolate dreams, but they were chocolate induced with my mind still buzzing away while my body went into a coma.

People all over the world wake up, sip coffee – the caffeine delivery device of humanity – all the live-long day and then still go to sleep at night.  I always have to be reminded that I’m not one of those people and the effect of a dark hot chocolate is greater than a regular cup of coffee.  The fallout today isn’t too bad, and my gosh that hot chocolate and ice cream were amazing, even if the night was uncomfortable and the sleep was…bizarre.  Still, point made, I’ll stay away from the lusciousness now until I forget again and add to my list of Food Fails.

New Page

Finally, there’s a new page on the main website under “The Gravity Conundrum” called “Non-Extreme Exercise: Yoga” which discusses yoga and some of the possible benefits and the benefits I’ve had from it.  I’ll be moving on to swimming soon, but I’m not going to leave yoga completely.  I am more and more convinced that for myself – because I apparently have the attention span of a flea – several different types of exercise would be most beneficial simply because I get bored or I start to dread the same thing over and over again.  With membership at the DAHLC, I’ll be able to get yoga and Crossfit type groups, as well as access to rowing machines, and swimming.  It’s going to be the variety method.  Wish me luck.

Strengthening and Flexibility

Strengthening and flexibility.  While it is possible to look at these as two different things, they are really integral to each other.  For example, when I started the yoga “intervention” (as the instructor calls it) sitting on the floor was a problem for me.  I can get onto the floor, I can get up off the floor, but sitting on the floor and breathing, or worse, sitting on the floor in specific poses  made my hips actually lock in place so I couldn’t stay seated, but I couldn’t straighten my legs either.  The result was rolling on the floor in pain.  Very counterproductive.  The solution was to prop my legs up while sitting because first of all, I wasn’t flexible enough to have my knees on the floor, and secondly, I wasn’t strong enough to hold them up.  The strain of holding my muscles in position because I didn’t have the flexibility to relax them was what was causing my hips to lock.   Within the weeks I’ve been doing yoga, I have both increased flexibility and strengthened those muscles so I no longer have to prop my legs.  As an added benefit, this has decreased my bilateral trochanteric bursitis enough that I no longer feel like I need the regular cortisol shots I’ve been getting.  While I’ve exercised the muscles, as suggested by a physical therapist who did not want me to get the shots, it was the combination of both strengthening and increasing flexibility that has settled this very chronic, very painful condition down to something very manageable.  While bursitis and fibromyalgia are two completely different conditions, management may not be so different.


Kinesiophobia is the fear of movement.  It’s not that simple, however.  What it really boils down to is a fear of the pain that movement can bring.  According to a study by Russek et al (see library) 72.9% of fibromyalgia patients are kinesiophobic.  The authors rightly understand the implications of kinesiophobia: the vicious cycle that perpetuates chronic pain, “…activity avoidance…leads to further physiological impairments such as decreased mobility, strength, and fitness; increased activity restriction reduces tolerance to activity and further compromises balance, leading to additional fear of movement.” While exploring the fear of movement in fibro patients, they also looked at functionality and determined that the people who participated in their study “report functional limitations typical of people over 75 years old.”  Their study focuses primarily on the psychological factors in this functional disability, pairing fibro with post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and how vertigo psychologically increases the possibility of kinesiophobia, all of which conditions are present in many fibro patients.

The authors admit that their study cannot show which came first, kinesiophobia or fibromyalgia, and that their study has serious limitations because none of the patients were examined in person – the studies were completed by patients on line.  However, the study demonstrates strongly the most important aspect of fibromyalgia management: movement.  But not just movement, being psychologically comfortable with movement.  It is important for people to understand that pain does NOT equal injury.  We are taught from an early age that pain does indeed equal injury.  If it hurts, we kiss the boo-boo, get a band-aide, see a doctor.  For people with fibromyalgia, pain does NOT equal injury.  As soon as a person with fibromyalgia understands that, the psychological barriers against physical functionality start to come down.  When the barriers start to come down, the possibility of movement increases, and more movement ultimately means less pain, and thus the vicious cycle starts to unravel.  The pain won’t go away… fibromyalgia is not a strictly psychological phenomenon.  However, the suffering patients feel with fibromyalgia can be eased.